War veterans living in Armidale were glad to return to a public Anzac Day service in 2021 after an enforced private memorial event last year in the company of immediate family or, in many cases, alone at home, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A large contingent of veterans marched to Central Park on Sunday, and many more attended both the dawn and main service, including the town's remaining World War II veterans.
John Williams, Thelma McCarthy, Ron Vickress, John Laffan, Alister Pankhurst, John Bentley, and Rita Henderson were all recognised for their service during WWII, as was the late Claire Bell-Mitchell, who passed away last year at the age of 100.
All the veterans the Express spoke with said the Anzac Day service played an important part in their lives in terms of companionship.
All believed it was important to keep alive the memory of those who made supreme sacrifices for their country.
Thelma McCarthy was a female wireless telegrapher in WWII, and her father served in WWI in the 1st Light Horse Brigade. She believes public Anzac Day services play a crucial role in preventing the devastating impact of war on our community from fading.
"I can remember celebrating Anzac Day from the age of four," Mrs McCarthy said
Guest speaker Major Andrew May addressed those gathered at the memorial fountain in Armidale's Central Park and spoke of how the service has changed since it began 105 years ago.
"In the years following the First World War, the day became one of sombre reflection and a national day of mourning," Major May said.
"The day is not a day of triumphal festivity but is one of remembrance.
"Yet this day is a day of celebration too. We celebrate the valour and sacrifice of those who gave their all in the service of our country and the efforts of those at home who supported their loved ones far afield.
"Anzac Day has changed in many ways. It is no longer just a commemoration of the events of April 25, 1915, but a remembrance of all Australians, male and female, who have served our country in times of war and peace in all conflicts.
"It is a day of solemn commemoration but also a day of reverent celebration."
More than 1000 attended the dawn service, and 1500 paid their respects at the main service in Central Park in Armidale this year.
Across New England, hundreds gathered at services in and around Guyra, Glen Innes, Inverell, Uralla, and Tenterfield.
At the Australian War Memorial, more than 6500 gathered for the Anzac Day Dawn Service and National Ceremony.
Memorial Director Mr Matt Anderson said this year's commemorative events were a powerful reminder of the continued dedication of the Australian people to the annual traditions of Anzac Day.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content: