Residents light candles to decorate driveways for the Anzac Day dawn service in the Ingleburn suburb of Sydney.
Residents light candles to decorate driveways for the Anzac Day dawn service in the Ingleburn suburb of Sydney.
Picture Credit: AFP

Traditional crowds at dawn services for the Anzac Day memorial holiday in Australia were replaced with candlelit vigils in driveways and neighbors gathering to listen to buglers play "The Last Post." Restrictions on crowds and social distancing due to the coronavirus meant that the usual packed dawn services in cities and towns across the country were not held on Saturday.

The holiday, also celebrated in New Zealand, marks the anniversary of New Zealand and Australian soldiers, known as Anzacs, landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915.

More than 10,000 soldiers from the two countries were killed during that World War I campaign in what's now Turkey, although Anzac Day honors those killed in all wars.

In the national capital Canberra, Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke at a crowd-free commemorative service held inside the Australian War Memorial. A didgeridoo sounded the beginning of the service.

In the Sydney suburb of Wahroonga, trumpeter Lewis Ketteridge, 8, and French horn player Grace Colville, 16, were among a dozen brass players playing "The Last Post" from their driveways at dawn before 40 residents observed a minute's silence.

"Strangely, it made it more moving that people were still willing to commemorate Anzac Day instead of just letting it go by," said resident Catherine Colville.

She said the community carefully maintained social distancing as they placed candles, pictures of serving ancestors and wreaths of native leaves and flowers under an Australian flag hanging on a tree.

Marches and gatherings were canceled for only the third time - the last time in 1942 and previously during the devastating Spanish flu outbreak of 1918.

In New Zealand, where even tighter crowd restrictions are in place, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stood at dawn on the driveway of Premier House, the leader's official residence, for a ceremony.

Thousands around New Zealand participated in the "Stand at Dawn" initiative, and in one Christchurch suburb, bagpiper Tom Glove greeted the families that gathered at each driveway with a rendition of "Amazing Grace."

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