Australia, New Zealand and Commonwealth mark century since guns fell silent

Photo of the Australian War Memorial, of crowds at Armistice centenary commemorations in Canberra
Photo of the Australian War Memorial, of crowds at Armistice centenary commemorations in Canberra

People have fallen silent across Australia, New Zealand and Commonwealth nations to commemorate the centenary of the Armistice.

Services of remembrance were held from Sydney to Singapore on Sunday as tens of thousands of people paused to reflect on the innumerable lives given to a conflict on the other side of the world a century ago.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaking at Armistice centenary commemorations in Canberra

Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaking at Armistice centenary commemorations in Canberra

Some 12,000 people, including veterans and serving soldiers, gathered for a national ceremony of remembrance at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, where Prime Minister Scott Morrison led a minute’s silence at 11am (midnight Saturday GMT).

“It is easy from the vantage point of a century to lose sight of the sacrifices made in our name,” he said in a commemorative address.

“Those who fought in the Great War had the same normal flaws and frailties as any other Australian of any other generation.

“Yet their selflessness at the darkest of times has set them apart for eternity in our nation’s consciousness.”

In Sydney, crowds gathered at the Anzac Memorial, an extension of which was unveiled by the Duke of Sussex during his recent trip with Meghan.

There was also a service at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne, albeit amid tight security following Thursday’s terror attack in the city centre.

Some 331,000 Australians served overseas during the First World War, the vast majority of whom fought on the Western Front alongside British soldiers and their allies.

Over 60,000 died in the conflict, more than two-thirds on the battlefields of Europe.

Earlier, large crowds attended the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park in Wellington for New Zealand’s main remembrance ceremony, where a two-minute silence was observed at 11am (10pm GMT Saturday).

The sound of a 100-gun salute rang out over Wellington Harbour as the moment of reflection came to an end and white poppies fell from the cenotaph.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy, the Queen’s representative in the country, addressed crowds that included elderly veterans proudly sporting their medals.

The ceremony also featured a creative performance, He Wawa Warak: Roaring Chorus which evoked the “energy, noise and complex emotion of the moment when war finally gave way to peace”.

“This Armistice day, as we reflect on the human toll of war, we are reminded to value the living and to hold fast to hope,” Ms Ardern said.

“In a world where conflict remains all-too-prevalent we look to how we can achieve a better future.”

Nearly 100,000 served in New Zealand units overseas during the First World War, with around a fifth never returning home.

In Singapore, the British High Commission held a service at the Kranji War Cemetery, resting place for 3,692 casualties from both world wars.

A special bell was rung to mark the Armistice centenary, while sailors from HMS Argyll, which is currently visiting Singapore, attended the service, along with Gurkha bagpipe players.

In Malaysia wreaths were laid at the cenotaph at the National Monument in Kuala Lumpur during a service organised by the British High Commission.

Remembrance ceremonies were also held on a number of South Pacific Islands.

In Fiji a ceremony was held at the National War Memorial in Veiuto led by President Jioji Konrote, while in Tonga the centenary was marked at the the Cenotaph in Nuku’alofa.

There was also a service at the Coastwatchers’ Memorial in Honiara, the capital city of the Solomon Islands.