Melbourne dawn crowds honour Anzacs

In the darkness of Melbourne’s dawn service, the silence of the 45,000-strong crowd spoke volumes.

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There to honour the sacrifices of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, thousands filled the forecourt of the Shine of Remembrance and spilled out onto the lawns of the Botanic Gardens.

And despite the vast crowd, the silence was deafening.

Master of ceremonies Peter Meehan spoke of the service and sacrifice of those who lost their lives in battles far and wide.

“Today we remember courage and unity and think about self worth and decency in the face of fear,” Mr Meehan told the crowd.

The Australian, New Zealand and British flags flew at half mast during the service but rose as the Last Post was played and shots rang out.

Rugged up in jackets and beanies, some wrapped in doona covers, the chilly conditions didn’t stop even the very young or very old from attending the service.

Dignitaries including Premier Daniel Andrews, federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Victoria Police chief commissioner Graham Ashton were part of the official party and among the first to lay a poppy in the inner sanctum within the shrine.

At the end of the ceremony, bagpiper Private Benjamin Casey played a lament from the upper balcony before the crowds made their way into the shrine.

Shrine chief executive Dean Lee said Anzac Day raised many questions for Australians about identity and purpose.

“Especially at a time when we still have troops engaged in active conflict I think it’s important that it’s recognised and respected,” he told reporters.

He said it was good to see strong attendances again in 2016 following last year’s centenary commemoration.

The crowd later fuelled up at the annual Gunfire Breakfast before lining up along St Kilda Road hoping to watch the Anzac Day parade.