In NSW, Dawn Services are held at community war memorials around the State. People are encouraged to attend commemorative events in their local area. To find a service in your area visit the RSLNSW website
The official State Dawn Service is held at the Cenotaph in Martin Place. The Catafalque Party and Band march on at 4:15am, the ceremony commences at 4.30am which is believed to have been the approximate time at which the first Australians waded ashore at Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915.
The Service is very popular and large crowds are expected.
For the safety of all patrons, security staff may conduct bag checks upon general public attending the Anzac Day Dawn Service at the Cenotaph.
Accessible viewing area
For accessibility guests attending the Dawn Service, two accessible viewing areas will be provided. One of these areas will be in close proximity to the Cenotaph. The other viewing area is also located within Martin Place, near Pitt Street will a line of view to a large viewing screen. Due to the limited space available at these sites guests with disability and additional mobility support requirements are encouraged to register.
If you wish to register for any of the accessible viewing areas or require any further access details please contact , Yasmin Favretti Event Access and Inclusion, Department of Premier and Cabinet on 9228 3806, 0438 296 655 or email Yasmin.Favretti@dpc.nsw.gov.au
With extra early-morning train and bus services running, public transport is the best way to get to the Sydney Dawn Service at Martin Place. Visit transportnsw.info or call 131 500 to plan your trip.
Travel on public transport to and from Anzac Day services is free to members and ex-members of the Australian Defence Force in uniform or wearing their medals. This entitlement also applies to their accompanying carers and family members, as well as widows and widowers of veterans who are carrying accreditation letter from the RSL or present a war widow’s gold card.
History of the Dawn Service
Winding their way home after an Anzac Eve function in the early hours of Anzac Day 1927, five members of the Australian Legion of Ex-Service Clubs observed an elderly woman laying a sheaf of flowers on the Cenotaph. One of them asked the woman if she would allow them to join her in her tribute and they all bowed their heads in silent prayer.
At a subsequent meeting of the Legion, it was decided that a Wreath Laying Ceremony would take place at the Sydney Cenotaph at Dawn every Anzac Day.
Very little publicity was accorded that first simple ceremony, however in 1928, about 150 people were present. The following year 1929, an open invitation brought 250 and prayers by Dean Talbot and bugle calls were added.
In 1930, representatives of the Federal and State Governments and more than 1000 people attended. The State Governor of the day, Sir Phillip Game, began what was to become almost a Vice Regal duty when he attended in 1931. Another first that year was the provision of special trams, trains and buses, which greatly increased the public participation.
The Service continued to grow and in 1933 representatives of the Battalions of the 3rd Brigade, who were the first troops to land on the shore at Gallipoli, 9th Bn. (Qld), 10th Bn. (SA), 11th Bn (WA), 12th Bn (Tas), were invited to attend. That year the attendance was more than 8000.
In 1935, the 20th Anniversary of ANZAC, the Service was one of the biggest to that time when 10,000 attended. In 1939 with the threat of another war imminent, 20,000 were there. During the WWII years large gatherings were not encouraged, but the Dawn Service was still carried on.
From 1946 and into the 1960s the numbers continued to grow as people sought to honour the dead of that terrible conflict.
The St John Ambulance Brigade has always attended the Dawn Service, dealing with any emergencies arising. The Sydney Male Choir has been attending since 1930, the same year in which radio broadcasts from Martin Place began. Mr Frank Grose, known by all as ‘Uncle Frank’, was the announcer for 39 years. He was succeeded on his retirement in 1969 by Mr Howard Craven, who continued to broadcast the service until his retirement in 1995. Several Trumpeters have performed over the years, but none as long as Mr Adam Martin who served for 19 years. The Lakemba Caledonian Pipe Band has also served since 1930.
Since 1986, when the Royal Australian Navy celebrated their 75th Anniversary, the Sydney Dawn Service has been placed on the agenda of the Tri-Services Ceremonial Committee and each year in rotation, one of the Defence Forces provides a Band and Guard that has added to the solemnity of the service.
Naturally, as founders and organisers of the Service, the Clubs and members of the Australian Legion of Ex-Service Clubs have been strong supporters. The Returned Nurses, War Widows, Legacy and the RSL are always well represented, as are Federal, State and Civic leaders. The State Governor is the Patron in Chief of the Legion during their term of office.
In 2001 the ANZAC Day Dawn Service Trust Inc was formed to continue to organise this ceremony.