THE crowd at Newcastle's Anzac Day Dawn Service was smaller than usual due to difficulties in staging the event during COVID-19, but this didn't take away from the sense of solemnity in honouring those who served and those who made the ultimate sacrifice in war.
About 250 people were invited to attend the intimate 5am service at Fort Scratchley on Sunday, which was also broadcast on NBN and 1233 ABC Newcastle.
It concluded with a four-gun salute, to commemorate all who have served and fallen in defence of Australia; as well as the navy, the army, the airforce and all their service men and women.
City of Newcastle RSL Sub-Branch vice president Ken Fayle lit the Anzac flame, around which guests later laid floral tributes, from the flame in the Warrior's Chapel in Christ Church Cathedral.
"I think we're keeping faith with the public, to do nothing would have been dreadful," Mr Fayle told Master of Ceremonies Paul Lobb.
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"I know it's not the 50,000 people, it's not down at Nobbys, but regulations being what they were, this is as good as it gets today so let's enjoy it."
Mr Fayle said Australians were lucky to be able to commemorate Anzac Day.
"In many many countries they wouldn't let us, it's a symbol of our democracy, it's to be really respected for what the people have done that have gone before us that we can gather together like this and I hope we can do it forever more."
The crowd watched wartime vision and was asked, as they sat overlooking Nobbys Beach, to remember Gallipoli on the first Anzac Day, "for a while it too was quiet, then all hell was unleashed".
"History was made that day, as were heroes," the voiceover said.
"Heroes who until such a short time before had shod horses, worked in banks, on farms down mines, in offices, heroes who did not think of themselves as such.
"Gallipoli seared itself into our national psyche.
"When the telegrams started to arrive with the ever increasing casualty lists it became all too apparent that war was not a great adventure."
Lord Mayor of Newcastle, Councillor Nuatali Nelmes, said as well as remembering the Anzacs of World War I, the day was also about "other significant dates where Australian and allied forces fought so gallantly in the protection of democracy".
Councillor Nelmes said 2021 marked the 80th anniversary of the first major battle of World War II, in North Africa, and 70 years since United Nations forces including Australians established blocking positions on a key route to Seoul to stop the Chinese People's Volunteer Army from marching on the capital.
Councillor Nelmes said her family would be remembering her husband's great grandfather, Reginald Arthur Nelmes, who served in the 18th Battalion in World War I and died aged 35 on Hill 60.
"Like so many Novocastrian families, ours was profoundly affected by WWI and service to Australia has a deep meaning to us," she said.
"The freedom we all enjoy today was hard won by the many brave souls who have gone before us, many of whom paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we may live in peace. We know that peace, democracy and the freedoms we enjoy are too precious to sacrifice and that so many gave so much to protect those ideals.
"In 2021 hundreds of young men and women of the Australian Defence Force are stationed in areas of unrest around the world, working to bring about peace. We thank them for their incredible service."
Councillor Nelmes also thanked border and customs officers, the Australian Federal Police and NSW Police and paid "special tribute" to health professionals and support staff "continuing to work tirelessly to protect us from harm, just as our doctors and nurses did in times of war".
President of Newcastle Legacy Group Gary Gent read In Flanders Fields and passed the Anzac Flame to Merewether High student George McNamara, who accepted the flame on behalf of the youth of Newcastle. George read the poem We Shall Keep The Faith.
Mr Lobb read the Ode of Remembrance, which Wharepouri McCully echoed in Maori.
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