BEGA dawn service emcee Bruce Crane said he has had misgivings in recent times as Anzac Day “seems to be becoming an industry”.
However, he was heartened on Friday to discover that may not necessarily be the case as one of the largest crowds ever seen gathered for the 6am Bega dawn service.
An estimated 150-plus people gathered at Bega’s Memorial Gates to pay their respects to service men and women, past and present, on a day that is arguably the most important to our national identity.
“I’ve never seen as many people as this here at this service - it’s heartening to see,” he said before leading the crowd in the Australian National Anthem.
Bega RSL sub-branch president Barry Stoney was also impressed with the turnout.
“I’ve been coming to the dawn service for as long as I’ve lived here as this is the largest crowd I’ve seen – and that includes back when the war was on,” Mr Stoney said.
A parade group of Australian Defence Force Academy cadets formed up alongside local ex-servicemen and women in the brisk pre-dawn darkness.
The catafalque party comprised members of the 4 Combat Engineers Squadron 5 Engineers Regiment out of Holsworthy led by Lance Corporal Gordon.
Mr Crane, an RSL sub-branch member and Bega Legacy representative, ran proceedings, which included a prayer by Pastor Ross Taylor, the Anzac Day dedication read by Sergeant Russell Bennett and the Last Post and Reveille – played over the speakers in lieu of a bugler.
Mr Stoney gave the speech, remarking on what life would have been like in the Valley 100 years ago before war broke out and the peaceful idyll of dairy farmers and timber cutters was shattered.
“The Great War rolled on with countless acts of courage, sacrifice – and foolishness,” he said.
“A large proportion of those men and women returned with wounds and horrible memories, but not too long later Australia was called on again.
“We remember all those wars and hope our young people will never have to be involved,” he said.
Among the crowd were Canberra visitors Rowan, Zyanya and Keelan Holloway, their family formerly of Bega and still with relatives here.
Also in attendance were Colonel Michael Rozzoli and Parade Commander Warrick Otton, as well as Ann Lowe and her son and ADFA cadet Jonathon Lowe.
Ms Lowe was wearing the medals of her father Keith Palfery, who served in WW2.