Eighty-seven-year-old banner bearer Frank Hinchliffe was among those who rose before dawn to mark Anzac Day at Parramatta today.
The Greystanes resident and City of Parramatta Sub-branch member marched from 4am beside Brian Dudley, the second-half of the banner party, with banner held high.
Soon after 4am, a commander called ‘‘Parramatta, right, left’’ as Hinchliffe’s and the polished boots of thousands more hit the asphalt as the platoons began their march towards Prince Alfred Park.
The parade wove through Parramatta from the RSL club at Macquarie Street, down Marsden Street and past the police station, where four officers stood in silence to pay their respects.
It continued along Phillip Street and past the newly-conserved George Street gatehouse before arriving at the cenotaph in darkness with the call: ‘‘Parramatta, stand at ease.’’
Guest of honour, lieutenant colonel Robert Lording, commanding officer of the first 15th Royal NSW Lancers, spoke about the ‘‘baptism of fire’’ suffered by Australian and New Zealand soldiers at Gallipoli 99 years ago, and of the continuing sacrifice made by serving men and women since.
‘‘Anzac Day is a day to remember all men and women of our defence forces, regardless of the time and place that they’ve served,’’ Lording said.
All wars in which Australia has fought were fought for ‘‘the cause of a better world’’, he said.
ANZAC youth ambassador Shakthy Kopathidias read a prayer for the nation and all who serve in the armed forces before the wreath laying ceremony.
A minute’s silence was observed before a bugler played The Last Post and pipers played The Lament.
Both the Australian and New Zealand national anthems were sung before a closing address by Parramatta RSL Sub-branch president Colin Smith.
After the service, hundreds filed back to the club for a hot breakfast and a yarn. A club staff member said the kitchen counted out about 500 meals.
Parramatta lord mayor John Chedid, who spoke to the Sun outside the club after the service, said it was a joy to see men and women who had served honoured by such a large turnout.
‘‘It was just great to see such a huge crowd come out. Every year it seems to be getting bigger and bigger,’’ Cr Chedid said.
‘‘What’s really encouraging is to see so many young ones. It makes me very, very proud as the lord mayor of this city.’’
Lieutenant commander Ted Seymour of HMAS Parramatta, the lead platoon in the march, said 23 members of the unit took part before taking a bus to the CBD for the 9am march.
‘‘Most of the time we’re deployed, but we just happened to be ashore this year,’’ Commander Seymour said.
Current serviceman David Hutton, 33, of North Parramatta, attended the march with his children.
‘‘Parramatta RSL did a brilliant job this year, the crowds were spectacular and the attendance was great, really well organised. It was probably one of the best ones I’ve been to,’’ he said.
The father of two, who served in East Timor, said it was important for children to acknowledge and be a part of Anzac Day commemorations: ‘‘The next generation."
His son, eight-year-old Cooper Farnsworth, said taking part in the march and hearing the bagpipes were his favourite part of the event.