News World New generation of Anzacs remembered
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New generation of Anzacs remembered

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More than 30,000 people are expected at the dawn service at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, an event where attendance has grown steadily in recent years.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will attend the main Anzac Day ceremony in Canberra later – the first time members of the British royal family have been present for the commemorations in the national capital for 44 years.

Around the nation the story of growing interest in Anzac Day is the same, with crowd numbers increasing at services and marches in capital cities.

“It’s getting bigger and bigger in every state,” RSL national secretary John King said.

“The last couple of years there has been a marked increase in people attending.”

In Sydney, up to 200,000 people are expected to turn out to watch the march, which will be led by some of the nation’s youngest war veterans: soldiers returned from duty in Afghanistan.

In Melbourne, too, Australia’s most recent returned servicemen will be a focus, with Afghanistan veteran Colonel Mark Jennings to address some 70,000 people expected at the Shrine of Remembrance.

This year is the 99th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing by Australian and New Zealand forces in World War I, and about 6000 people have camped out for the dawn service at the Turkish battleground.

But Anzac Day will also be remembered in services at Villers-Bretonneux in France – the scene of horrendous Australian casualties in the Great War, and at services in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, where Anzac troops served during World War II.

Veterans and those who fell in the Vietnam War will be honoured in services in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and at the scene of the 1966 Battle of Long Tan in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province.

While 2014 marks the first year that large numbers of Australian troops are not serving overseas – after the 2013 withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan – many service men and women will mark the day while on foreign postings.

About 400 soldiers remain in Afghanistan, where dawn services will be held at military bases in Kabul and Kandahar.

Overseeing Australian army operations in Afghanistan and other dangerous places, Lieutenant General Ash Power knows first-hand the ongoing, devastating consequences of war.

In his time as Chief of Joint Operations, 18 Australian soldiers have died in Afghanistan with many others wounded.

His grandfather Hab Power fought on the Western Front in World War I and General Power said Anzac Day was a time to honour diggers past and present.

“If you look back to attrition warfare, the trench warfare of the First World War, thank heavens we’ve moved a long way from that,” General Power told AAP on Thursday.

“But it’s still traumatic, and each of these people we lose is a human being.

“Each of them have mums and dads, brothers and sisters, some have their own kids and the loss is significant for each of those families.

“Thankfully the scale has changed but it is a time to not only remember those remarkable generations of the two world wars but to remember the ultimate sacrifice made by so many up to today.”

This is the first Anzac Day since Australia started pulling out of Afghanistan, where 40 Australian solders have died since 2001.

But General Power said the Australian Defence Force would remain busy and Australians continued to risk their lives every day in minor operations at places such as Golan Heights, the Sinai Peninsula and South Sudan.

General Power has also overseen the ADF’s role in the search for the missing plane MH370, a task he will resume after Anzac Day.

He admitted he wasn’t optimistic that an end to the search was in sight.

“The Indian Ocean is huge and if someone’s done this deliberately to try and hide it, it’s probably the best place on the surface of the earth to do it,” he said.

“It’s really remote and very difficult. There’s not much going for us but we’ll continue to work at it for a little while yet.”

Foreign minister Julie Bishop will also attend Friday’s ceremony in France.

AAP

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