Coronavirus: Special Anzac service planned to commemorate personnel despite COVID-19 'war'

A special virtual Anzac dawn service will show that even during the "war" on COVID-19, Kiwis appreciate New Zealand's service personnel, the RSA says.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting restrictions placed on New Zealanders, the Returned and Services Association (RSA) decided in March to cancel the annual Anzac Day dawn services normally held to honour past and present service personnel.

However, in their place, the Stand At Dawn virtual service will be held on the morning of April 25, with Kiwis encouraged to walk to their gates and commemorate those who have served. Speeches from a string of speakers and a rendition of The Last Post will be broadcast at 6am on RNZ.

"They might stand there carrying a candle or a torch or a poppy. This is just a way we can continue to remember through this difficult time," RSA President BJ Clark told The AM Show.

"You can imagine, rather than a morning dawn service, if you stand at your gate and you look down your street, left and right and across the road, if you see New Zealanders out there remembering those that have served, I think, short of an actual dawn service, it will be a wonderful thing."

He said while members respected and understood the decision not to go ahead with the normal services, there was a "great deal of disappointment they will not be attending dawn service with their mates".

However, Clark said this year's service will still be something to be proud of.

"Whilst it is not the same as a normal dawn service, it will be something people will remember. We will remember that even facing this adversity, we were still at our gate remembering all those that have served and are still serving."

"The service personnel have faced adversity before. This is just a different war. This is a war where the whole nation has got to band together and be responsible."

The Stand At Dawn website also has activities for people to do on Anzac Day, including make-a-poppy ideas and letterbox decorations.

Anzac Day marks the anniversary of New Zealand and Australian soldiers landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915 during World War I. Among the tens of thousands killed during the Gallipoli campaign were about 8500 Australians and 2779 New Zealanders. About a sixth of the Kiwis killed landed on the peninsula. 

Services held at Gallipoli organised by New Zealand and Australia have also been cancelled