The best attended Anzac Day since the 1960’s, apart from the massive celebrations for 2015’s centenary.
That was the opinion of Tamworth RSL sub-branch president Bob Chapman, as he reflected on a near perfect day of remembrance and celebration in Tamworth on Tuesday.
For Mr Chapman the dawn service continues to remain the most poignant symbol of one of Australia’s most special days, and this years service at Anzac Park didn’t disappoint.
“I am always in awe of the dawn service,” Mr Chapman said.
“Just the tranquility at that time of the morning, it is a really peaceful time of the day, and the silence, even though it was perfectly broken up by the Kookaburras, is wonderful.”
“We had somewhere between 8000 and 10,000 in 2015, and I thought we would have had close to 4000 on Tuesday – those two are the biggest I have seen in my time, I would think since the 1960s.”
The Vietnam veteran believes that there could be a few different reasons for the recent resurgence in attendances all over the country to Anzac Day services.
“People seem to be more aware of the commitment that returned and serving service men and women have given, and want to say thanks – it is great,” Mr Chapman said.
Following the dawn service many ex-servicemen and women attended breakfasts at the RSL and Wests Diggers, before Bourke and Peel street bristled with crowds to see the passing parade, and the demography of the crowd gave the president even further reason to smile.
“I thought that there were up to about 8000 people on the streets,” Mr Chapman said.
“We put the younger ex-servicemen and women up the front this year to give them a bit of the spotlight, but there was also lots of young faces in the crowd as well – it has really become a family affair when it used to be almost male only back in the day.
“We have to embrace families because that is how service and ex-service people survive, with strong spouses and families behind them.”
There was barely a spare seat in the house following the march either, as hundreds filed through the doors of the town hall for the Anzac Day main service, where retired Major General Iain Spence gave a rousing guest address.
“It was a great sight to see the Australian Defence Force basic training and flying school students filling up a large section of the seats upstairs for the service,” Mr Chapman said.
“When they all stood and saluted at the Last Post it was a spectacular scene.”
“The whole day was fabulous, there was no major dramas which is a real concern these days.
“We were pretty chuffed.”