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Thousands of pilgrims attend Gallipoli dawn service

Published: 3:34PM Thursday April 25, 2013 Source: ONE News / AAP

Thousands of New Zealanders and Australians have gathered at Anzac Cove in Gallipoli for the annual dawn service today.

Wrapped in blankets, just over 5000 people turned out to pay their respects on the same Turkish hillsides where half a million men toiled to gain a foothold in 1915.

The service, which began with a traditional Maori Karanga, included speeches by a number of New Zealand and Australian representatives.

In his speech, Defence Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman paid tribute to all of the soldiers who fought bravely on both sides at the battle.

"We remember the soldiers from the many other countries who fought bravely on both sides here, and now lie together beside their Anzac and Turkish brethren.

"There is no other poignant and evocative place for any New Zealander or Australian to be present than before dawn on Anzac Day on the Gallipoli Peninsula," he said.

Coleman added that Gallipoli is a "crucial strand" in the story of New Zealand.

"It's a place you've never been to before, but at the same time it's a place you've grown up with. It's a place of great sadness, but a place of great pride. It's a place for which New Zealanders distills and leaves clear all the qualities which we hold dear in our national character," he said.

Coleman also paid tribute to the men and women currently working in the Defence Force.

"Today, we also remember those servicemen and women who have given their lives for our countries in other conflicts far from home, including most recently in Afghanistan.

"We pay tribute to the service personnel around the world who continue to serve us proudly and their families who also bear the cost of that commitment," he said.


Following Coleman's speech, the Australian Minister for Veterans Affairs described the battle in Gallipoli as a "calamity".

"Our Turkish adversaries, underestimated at first and defending their homeland, were the victors here on the peninsula," Warren Snowdon said as the sun rose above the cliffs that proved too steep for the attackers.

An official crowd of 5200, mainly Australians and New Zealanders, was down almost 15% on last year as people waited to see if they would be able to attend the 2015 centenary commemorations.

Snowdon initially thanked the Turks for continuing to care for those left behind almost 100 years ago.

He described the dysentery, the lice, the smell of death and the extremes of weather.

It was difficult to imagine, let alone understand, the enormity of the suffering, loss and sacrifice, Snowdon said.

"Yet although it was so dreadful, it has become central to our nation's story.

"A hallmark in defining our nationhood and what we see as important in terms of mateship, service, sacrifice, courage and commitment."

Some 44,000 Allied soldiers died during the campaign, including 8709 Australians and 2721 New Zealanders. Almost 87,000 Turks lost their lives.

Roland McEwin, 79, wore a suit and a tie to attend the dawn service at Anzac Cove.

It is a relatively rare sight with many younger pilgrims wearing hoodies emblazoned with the name of their tour group. Others were simply rugged up against the cold.

"I feel as though I'm a bit of an upper-class type of person being dressed like this after seeing the others," McEwin told AAP.

The 79-year-old South Australian wanted to visit Gallipoli before he got too old and frail.

"It's always been my desire to visit some of the forebears," he said.

The Anzacs were meant to land on a wide shore with an easy approach inland, one kilometre south of the sheer 60-metre cliffs the diggers actually faced after drifting north.