Canberra pauses to mark Anzac Day

ON Anzac Day eve Victoria Cross winner Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith made the observation that the current generation of Australians were as respectful and passionate as ever about honouring the sacrifices made by our servicemen and women.

Anyone fortunate enough to attend the dawn service at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra this morning would be hard pressed to disagree.

On a typically chilly Canberra morning more than 30,000 people packed the parade grounds of the war memorial to pay their respects to diggers past and present.

In a first for the war memorial photos of Australian soldiers, accompanied by the names of iconic battlefields from more than a century of conflicts, were projected onto the AWM building from midnight right up until the dawn service.

The images provided a powerful backdrop as Cpl Roberts-Smith read out the personal accounts of Australians who had fought in Afghanistan.

It might be almost 100 years since the Anzacs came ashore at Gallipoli, but the values forged on that battlefield were evident in many of the letters he read.

"The old fighting for Queen and country garbage goes out the window. You do it for your mates," one read.

Leith Arundel also read excerpts from letters and diaries of Australians who experienced firsthand war in all its facets.     

Later this morning Cpl Roberts-Smith, this year's AWN Anzac Day ambassador, will march with the children of his fallen mates Sergeant Matthew Locke and Sergeant Blaine Diddams, both of whom were killed in Afghanistan

AWM director Brendan Nelson said  the crowd at the Canberra dawn service was well up on last year.

"We are delighted with the attendances. ANZAC Day is Australia's most significant national occasion, marking the anniversary of the landing on Gallipoli in April 1915," Dr Nelson said.

"But this anniversary also encourages all Australians to reflect upon the ongoing sacrifices that brave Australian men and women continue to make on our behalf."

Similar dawn services were held around the country this morning, with large crowds also reported in the other capital cities.


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