Wollongong World War II Digger Keith Davis couldn’t keep up with the city’s 1.5kilometre Anzac Day march, so his family inserted him in somewhere around the midway mark, his granddaughter Melanie Pilon at his side.
The pair marched with an RSL group for a while, but soon fell behind and continued on, just the two of them.
‘‘We’ve been going to the march for as long as I can remember,’’ Ms Pilon said.
‘‘I have two little girls now. [Mr Davis] wanted to do it this year so they could watch him. Because he’s pretty stubborn he didn’t want to get in the car.’’
For thousands in the Illawarra, the 99th anniversary of the Anzac landing at Gallipoli began in darkness, with a hurried few minutes spent getting dressed before heading to the nearest dawn service.
At Austinmer, Oceana Parade was alive with silhouettes of people en route to the cenotaph at the beach.
There was a teenager, George Cheadle, who lived on this street once.
His name is written on the south-facing side of the cenotaph - the sparsely lettered side, reserved for the four men from Austinmer who died in World War I.
Cheadle was a carpenter and was 21 years old when he was killed in France, only eight weeks before the war ended.
On Friday his descendants, including his great nephew Rob Cheadle, met at the memorial, as is their tradition.
With a crowd of about 1000, the family turned when prompted to the east and looked out to sea, as if those were the waters off Gallipoli.
‘‘When you’re looking at the ocean you can just picture what it would have been like coming ashore [at Gallipoli],’’ Rob Cheadle afterwards told the Mercury.
‘‘Some of those guys would have been 16 or 17. You look around at the kids here and think, ‘that could have been them being shot at, not knowing what was going to happen when they landed’.’’
The Austinmer service included an address by Major-General Hori Howard, who read aloud the four names on the cenotaph - Cheadle’s, John Curran, John Lett and William Hill.
The Major-General said April 25 was chosen by veterans themselves as a fitting date for commemoration.
‘‘I believe this is why it continues and grows,’’ he said.
‘‘There was no way that the people of this country were going to wait for the government to create a day to remember their dead. They did it themselves.’’
In a closing address, Tony Starling, president of the Austinmer-Thirroul RSL Sub-branch, recited a poignant poem.
‘‘The men who loved these sands dream on,’’ went the final lines.
‘‘The blessed peace for which they fought is theirs. In this tree-ringed, green, lovely spot.’’
The blue dawn light was all gone when the service ended. The rain - threatening throughout - had mostly held off.
With the formalities concluded, everyday noises sounded from the crowd again.
‘‘See ya,’’ someone said, simply.
Onlookers dispersed to breakfasts at RSL clubs and to Wollongong for the 10am march.
Here, thousands lined Church Street and Burelli Street as the marching men and women neared.
War widows wore their husbands’ medals. Some marched; some sat under a roadside marquee, catching up.
‘‘My granddaughter has started coming with me [to the Anzac march] and I’m very proud, said Coralie Wilson of Unanderra.
Margaret Atkinson led the way for her husband Bill, who served 12 years in the Royal Navy.
Aged in their 80s, the pair wouldn’t miss the annual tradition.
‘‘It’s very moving,’’ Mr Atkinson said.
‘‘I always end up with tears.’’