The Anzac Day march is getting harder for New Zealand World War II veteran Ben Russell, but one look at the crowds makes it extra satisfying.
Mr Russell, who served in the Royal Navy, was one of just eight World War II veterans who joined the march of veterans at the Auckland Anzac Day service, which was watched by an estimated 10,000 people.
Mr Russell, an 88-year-old Scot who has lived in New Zealand for 65 years, says he “put my age up” to join the navy.
He served in the Atlantic fleet, including during the Normandy landings near the end of the war.
“We used to march from a lot further away, but we’re all getting tired. We don’t march as much now,” Mr Russell said.
“But it’s nice to see all the people come out. I feel we should do this, remember the ones that died for this country.”
Watching proudly as the crowds applauded the veterans at the end of the service was his daughter Louise, who attended for the first time.
“I thought it was wonderful, very emotional to see my dad, especially with all his medals.”
Mangere man Robert Broughton was holding a picture of his grandfather Hohepa Arano, also known as Joe Allen, who served in the Maori Battalion before being injured in Italy.
“I’m very proud to hold my grandfather and to be here to honour him,” he said.
“My grandfather fought for us, for freedom. I’m very proud of my grandfather. If it wasn’t for him and all the others, we wouldn’t be here now.”
The story was the same around the country, as thousands turned out to remember those who served New Zealand on the battlefield on the 99th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing in Turkey.
Thousands also gathered in Wellington in front of the cenotaph, possibly for the last time as next year’s ceremony will be at a new National War Memorial Park in front of the National War Memorial Carillon.
Among those there was St Kilda AFL player Sam Gilbert, whose team is in town for an Anzac Day match against Brisbane.
Gilbert, who will miss the Anzac Day game against Brisbane in Wellington, stood silently with thousands of Kiwis including Prime Minister John Key to honour the two nations’ war heroes.
“To hear when the guns fire, it sends shivers down your spine. It’s great to be a part of it.”