Descendants of Māori soldiers who fought at Gallipoli arrive for special ceremony

Gallipoli officials are expecting record attendance numbers at this year's dawn service after COVID-19 hampered the last few commemorations.

But arriving early at Anzac Cove for a ceremony at the pā site of the Māori contingent was a special group of New Zealanders.

Hand-in-hand with the New Zealand Defence Force, 26 descendants of the Māori contingent were spurred up the steep hillside of Gallipoli by the spirit of the ANZACs.

It was worth every step. They arrived at the Māori pā where their ancestors readied for battle in 1915.

This was a moment most here have waited a lifetime for. Everyone felt it. During WWI 477 men arrived at Gallipoli as part of the contingent and by the time of the evacuation only 60 remained.

Some had been killed, others were in hospital writing the story their whānau would tell more than a hundred years on.

"He got wounded here, told the nurse that he was a Māori prince from Rotorua, had a castle, and took her home as a war bride, his nurse," one said.

The painful stories though were all too often lost to the trauma of war.

"We never heard stories of what happened, never, but he always went to Anzac, and we all trudged along as children," Yvonne Edwards said.

So this year Edwards trudged the ultimate tribute to her koro, from Rotorua to Gallipoli with her comrades.

Last Anzac Day Minister for Veterans Meka Whaitiri asked for an information panel to be installed here at the site as well as for the access of it to be improved with signs pointing the way.

Turkey agreed, honouring the campsite of their once-enemies in an extraordinary gesture of friendship.

"In spite of everything, the links that were forged at the time have endured and the relationship between New Zealand and Turkey has only ever got stronger," Defence Minister Andrew Little said.

It's a relationship treasured beyond the dawn of just one day, as is the memory of our soldiers.

But as Anzac Day approaches, poppies fill the fields again - on heads and on hearts.

The sacrifice of our men will be felt there forever.