'Extremely emotional service': the Anzac legend marches on at dawn

THE sound of thousands of feet - people coming from all directions in the dark to enter Robertson Park for the dawn service - broke the early morning silence on Friday.

A record crowd of around 1,000 honoured the Anzac memory.

With barely an audible whisper heard among the crowd mayor of Orange John Davis led the service assisted by Pastor Bruce Bennett who delivered the prayers.

In the darkness Orange residents from parents with babies and toddlers to the elderly who had to be helped into the park, stood silently as the Orange Male Voice Choir delivered a poignant performance of the traditional hymn Abide With Me.

Also breaking the silence was the sound of piper Don Peck, and bugler Derek Johns who later returned to play for the main service at 11am.

David Norris was among many people who stood alone and silent during the ceremony, which he has attended for the last few years.

"It is about respect and acknowledging the human suffering and I think education of our schoolchildren is playing a big part"

“I think why so many Australians and particularly young ones are coming out to honour the memory of those who fought and died, is because of this growing realisation war is not to be glorified - it is about respect and acknowledging the human suffering and I think education of our schoolchildren is playing a big part,” he said.

Morrie Dally who sang with the choir has watched as the numbers for the dawn service have grown in Orange over the last few years.

“It is an extremely emotional service,” he said.

Vice president of the RSL Chris Colvin said yesterday’s crowd was a far cry from the days as a young boy he attended the dawn service.

“I can remember standing here with my grandfather and there were just a handful of people who had come down to join in with the RSL.

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Member for Orange Andrew Gee who attended all three services yesterday, said the response to the dawn service was extraordinary.

“I have never seen such a big crowd and actually of all the places I have visited on Anzac Day in the past I believe Orange to have one of the biggest turnouts with crowds at the dawn service and the main service - there is just such a community spirit here about Anzac Day,” he said.

Special guest of the RSL for Friday’s services was Captain Greg Laxton who is based at Garden Island with the Australian navy.

“We have a program where we like to send our officers out to various locations across the nation for Anzac Day, so I am really pleased to be here and be part of the commemorations,” he said.

Cr Davis said he was “blown away” by the size of yesterday’s dawn service crowd and even though the number of marchers to the ceremony, 104, was down on previous years due to the passage of time and those ex-service personnel who have passed away, he said the big crowd was testament to the significance the community now places on all Anzac Day services.

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