Thousands turn out to ANZAC services in London   27 Apr 2018

Charlotte Everett

Image by Peter Livingstone; article by Charlotte Everett


“I’m of the generation who grew up with elders from the Second World War, who were concerned that when they passed, whether these ceremonies would continue. And I just know that those men, all now deceased, would be absolutely thrilled with the turnout and the support that we are seeing here this morning.”

These were the opening words of the Right Honourable Trevor Mallard, delivering his ANZAC address at the dawn service held in London on Wednesday.

How impressed would this generation be, not only by the sheer turnout of thousands to London’s Hyde Park Corner, but strengthened by the fact that unlike at home, Aussies and Kiwis attending the  London dawn service did not have the day off – many would have set out not long after 2am, travelling in on night buses – and would be facing a long day at work afterwards.

It’s somewhat poignant that 100 years have passed since the final year of the First World War, and here we gather, on the other side of the world, to honour the service of those who travelled to the other side of the world themselves, but who had effectively offered up their lives for the freedom that we enjoy today. The ANZACs – unlike their British counterparts – were almost entirely volunteers, and while some were fighting with the conviction “For King, for country, for empire” – others were simply young lads with a keen sense of adventure. Although this adventurous spirit endures for young Aussies and Kiwis today, the excitement and freedom that awaits us here in 2018, is a very different reality to the horror faced by those young men at Gallipoli and on the Western Front.

The London dawn service as always was attended by a host of VIPs, notably this year by Prince Harry and his soon-to-be wife, Meghan Markle – both wearing New Zealand RSA poppies. The Prince and his fiancé were welcomed to the New Zealand Memorial (where this year’s service was held), and each greeted with a hongi from Te Ataraiti Waretini of Ngati Ranana, London Maori club. London-based New Zealander Jayson Norris led the singing of the hymn “Abide With Me”, and also sang the New Zealand national anthem. The laying of wreaths at both the New Zealand and Australian memorials was led by Prince Harry – a former Army officer of 10 years himself – who chose a wreath of red roses, with a personal note attached: “For all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in pursuit of our freedom. Thank you. Harry”.

The dawn service concluded with both a song and spine-tingling haka by Ngati Ranana – performed to the VIPs, including the Prince and Ms. Markle. New Zealand’s High Commissioner to the UK, Sir Jerry Mateparae – who was standing with the VIPs – responded with a powerful haka himself, in unison with Ngati Ranana.

Later in the morning, a further short ANZAC service and wreath-laying took place at the Cenotaph on Whitehall. Prince Harry laid another wreath, with wreaths also laid by the Australian and New Zealand High Commissioners, Heads of the New Zealand and Australian Defence Staffs, various Armed Services and ex-Service organisations, as well as representatives of the British Government – including Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson.

The final official event in London’s ANZAC Day commemorations, was the Service of Commemoration and Thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey. In a surprise and unexpected appearance – especially after the birth of his third child only 2 days previous – Prince William joined his brother and Ms. Markle at the Abbey, having requested a seat the day before.

 In his Address, the Dean of Westminster, The Very Reverend Dr. John Hall, commented that he hopes that the service that will take place in the Abbey later in the year (on November 11, to mark the end of the First World War), will be attended by people from all countries involved in that war, whatever “side” they were on – symbolising the reconciliation of old enemies. Indeed, the annual ANZAC service that takes place in Westminster Abbey itself represents the reconciliation of old enemies, with Turkey always playing and active and inclusive role in the service. This year was no different. The Dean urged us to ask ourselves: have we as a people, as a world, made any real progress towards peace? He said if the answer to that question is “yes”, then this upcoming centenary will really be one worth celebrating.

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