TAMWORTH residents turned out in force at the crack of dawn to pay their respects to serving and ex-serving men and women on Wednesday.
About 5000 people crowded around the memorial gates of Anzac Park in what was a poignant and touching dawn service.
Dressed in winter woolies, the chilly morning service marked the start of a day of commemorations across the region.
Led by Tamworth RSL sub-branch chairman Bob Chapman, the day also marked the Centenary of the Battle of Villers-Bretonneux.
"However there were still seven cruel months until the armistice was called and ended the hostilities of World War I," he said.
"We gather here on this bleak hour, on this day every year to honour the heroism, the tenacity and the resilience of those young men and women whose units were sent to fight our wars and thus keep us free.
"Let us also remember freedom is not free, because somebody not with us today paid for it.
"Let us all reflect, honour and praise and most importantly remember the contributions and selfless service provided by the servicemen and women to Australia in times of war."
Anne Lane of the Tamworth RSL Subbranch read out an emotional poem of a conversation between a digger and a young boy who lost his father at war.
Tamworth school children and military representatives placed wreaths on the historic gates.
A special nod was also given to women of the military who for the first time would lead Anzac March proceedings.
Mr Chapman spoke of the valuable contribution women made to the nation’s military history and continued to make today.
"This Year the Returned and Services League are taking the opportunity to remind all Australians to also reflect on the contribution of our servicewomen," Mr Chapman said.
"From the oldest to the very youngest that have served.
"Throughout our armed forces' 112 year history, women have made valuable contributions to enhance our defence force's capability and that was from the Boer War right through to today in Afganistan.”
Let us also remember freedom is not free, because somebody not with us today paid for it.- Bob Chapman, RSL president
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