Crowds not deterred by rain on Sydney's Anzac Day parade

Veterans and crowds braved constant rain in Sydney for Friday morning’s Anzac Day march through the city.

About 15,000 veterans and relatives took part in this year's march, or about 3000 fewer than the previous year, according to estimates for the RSL.

Those from recent conflicts such as Iraq and Afghanistan and peacekeeping missions including East Timor and the Solomons had the honour of leading the march as clock bells, bagpipes and drums coincided at 9am.

Forty Australians have been killed in Afghanistan.

“These young men and women deserve our thanks and our recognition,” RSL NSW president Don Rowe said.

Crowd numbers, by some estimates, were down on a rainy day but marchers were greeted with long and enthusiastic applause by rows of onlookers, three-deep, lining both sides of George Street, which was, in many places, impassable.

"It’s a little down but they’re still a good row or so deep," said retired Warrant Officer Henry Chisholm, a 32-year veteran of Malaya and Vietnam, who has missed only one march since his retirement in 1992.

The number of World War II veterans marching decreased again this year and many units were down to their last one or two survivors. An increasing number rode in the back of jeeps. Some blew kisses.

Retired first-class gunner, Christiaan Prins, 93, was waiting for old friends and soldiers outside the usual spot on George Street.

He fought every day of the war. He started in London and made his way to Australia when the HNLMS Abraham Crijnssen, a Dutch minesweeper, retreated and was then commissioned by the Australian Navy.

He eventually settled in Australia after serving for a time with an international radio signals operation.

“We were spying on the Japs from an old cottage in Craigieburn,” he said.

“None of them are here today yet,” he said. But that did not worry him. “I’ve got out and had a very good life. [Today] is about the people who died before me.”

Inner-city pubs are now hosting reunions.

Les Graham gathered for the 26th consecutive remembrance of mates from the 1 Field Squadron.

It’s been nearly 45 years since they got back from Vietnam and a few years less since, as a veteran of that controversial war, he has felt welcome.

"We were bullet proof," Mr Graham said, recalling his feelings of being called up at 21. "Then we got to the airport ... ,"  added his fellow unit member, Lowton Fox.

Elsewhere outside the city, crowds gathered for a traditional Anzac Day game of two-up.

At Dick’s Hotel in Balmain nearly 100 people were packed around a wooden ring by noon. There were cries of “$50 on tails” and no shortage of people to take bets.

Earlier, a crowd estimated by organisers to have been the largest in years attended an Anzac Day dawn service in Sydney’s Martin Place.

Veterans and serving defence personnel joined dignitaries, including NSW Governor Marie Bashir, NSW Premier Mike Baird, federal Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, federal Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek and NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson, for the service.

Consuls-general from Turkey, New Zealand, Canada and France also attended as well as heads of the state’s emergency services.

 

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