Anzac Day services replaced by home vigils

Traditional crowds at Anzac Day services were replaced with candlelit vigils in driveways and neighbours gathering to hear buglers play The Last Post.

Turkey Anzac Day
Turkey Anzac Day

Traditional crowds at dawn services for the Anzac Day memorial holiday in Australia were replaced with candlelit vigils in driveways and neighbours gathering to listen to buglers play The Last Post.

Restrictions on crowds and social distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic meant that the usual packed dawn services in cities and towns across the country were not held on Saturday.

The holiday, also celebrated in New Zealand, marks the anniversary of New Zealand and Australian soldiers, known as Anzacs, landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915.

Virus Outbreak Turkey Anzac Day
Employees of a local tourism company pay their respects at the Anzac Cove beach memorial in Turkey’s Gallipoli peninsula, the site of the First World War landing of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps on April 25 1915 (Emrah Gurel/AP)

More than 10,000 soldiers from the two countries were killed during the First World War campaign in what is now Turkey, although Anzac Day honours those killed in all wars.

Visiting the site in Canakkale, north-western Turkey, has become a pilgrimage for many Australians and New Zealanders to remember their fallen compatriots but the annual dawn service and other commemorative ceremonies were cancelled this year to stem the spread of Covid-19.

Early on Saturday, three employees of a local tourism company placed red flowers at the Anzac Cove memorial in Canakkale.

Virus Outbreak New Zealand Anzac Day
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stands on the driveway of Premier House at dawn, with her father, Ross Ardern, left, and partner Clarke Gayford (Ross Giblin/Dominion Post/AP)

In the Australian capital, Canberra, Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke at a crowd-free commemorative service held inside the Australian War Memorial. A didgeridoo sounded the beginning of the service.

In the Sydney suburb of Wahroonga, eight-year-old trumpeter Lewis Ketteridge and French horn player Grace Colville, 16, were among a dozen brass players playing The Last Post from their driveways at dawn before 40 residents observed a minute’s silence.

“Strangely, it made it more moving that people were still willing to commemorate Anzac Day instead of just letting it go by,” said resident Catherine Colville.

She said the community carefully maintained social distancing as they placed candles, pictures of serving ancestors and wreaths of native leaves and flowers under an Australian flag hanging on a tree.

Marches and gatherings were cancelled for only the third time – the last time in 1942 and previously during the devastating Spanish flu outbreak of 1918.

Virus Outbreak New Zealand Anzac Day
Neighbours watch as Tom Glover plays the bagpipes to commemorate Anzac Day in a suburb of Christchurch, New Zealand (Mark Baker/AP)

In New Zealand, where even tighter crowd restrictions are in place, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stood at dawn on the driveway of Premier House, the leader’s official residence, for a ceremony.

Thousands around New Zealand participated in the “Stand at Dawn” initiative, and in one Christchurch suburb, bagpiper Tom Glover greeted the families that gathered at each driveway with a rendition of Amazing Grace.

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