Crowds flock to cenotaph for dawn service

By Rowan Forster

Huge crowds flocked to Pakenham’s cenotaph on Anzac Day morning to pay their respects to the fallen.

Main Street was brought to a standstill on Wednesday as hundreds braved the cold to show their support for the nation’s veterans.

After the solemn service, a mixture of children, parents, past soldiers and ancestors queued to lay poppies and wreathes in commemoration.

Pakenham RSL president Garry Elliot estimates crowd numbers surpassed 1,500 for the dawn service.

He said it was once again a very special day.

“This day is one that will never be forgotten,” he said.

“The action by the Australian and New Zealand soldiers more than 100 years ago forced our ideals and values as a nation.

“We remember to look after the sisters, brothers and families of those soldiers, left behind.”

During the commemorations, Reverend Ann Simons took the microphone to share her experience mourning at the infamous Anzac Cove.

She became quite emotional when recalling the scene.

“The impact of seeing row upon row of white crosses is something I will never forget,” Rev Simons said.

“(There were) thousands of lives, taken far too soon.

“It was our first major contribution to the world in a war as a nation, and it will never be forgotten.”

Organisers were particularly humbled by the prevalence of young men and women in the crowd – signifying the tradition will comfortably live on in years to come.

Author Michael Madden, of Berwick, also attended the service to speak about Australia’s recipients of the illustrious Victoria Cross award.

He emphasised the humanity involved in the war.

“They were put in the situation, they had to make a decision and they acted,” he said.

As expected, the crowd of 1,500 strong fell into silence when the Last Post was played.

For Lucas Britter, 6, it was his first Anzac Day dawn service – but certainly not the last.

“It feels like the right thing to do,” he said.

Dawn services were held and widely attended across the Cardinia Shire.

A service at Bunjil Place recorded a whopping 2,000 plus attendance.

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