Among the rain-sodden crowd at the Sydney Anzac Day march, a woman in a yellow raincoat held a hand-written sign for the passing diggers.
“We love our freedom,” it read.
Beside her a man held another sign that added: “Thank you”.
Ninety-nine years on from the terrible Gallipoli landings, Anzac Day is being embraced by new generations of Australians, resulting in huge turnouts at ceremonies across the country and overseas.
And as older diggers fade from the ranks of marchers, younger servicemen and women are taking their place.
Iraq veteran Benjamin Lesley Gillman was among the many veterans of recent conflicts encouraged to march at the front of the Sydney march.
“What I just did then is one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life,” the 29-year-old said.
Rodrick Stewart, a 78-year-old Vietnam veteran, was watching the march and was heartened by the growing crowds attending Anzac events.
“It’s very encouraging,” he said.
“You think you actually did some good.”
Across the nation and in places of significance around the world people stopped on Anzac Day to remember extraordinary sacrifices made by brave young Australians and their allies nearly 100 years ago.
At Gallipoli in Turkey, a smaller than expected crowd of 4400 mostly Australian and New Zealand pilgrims gathered to mark the 99th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing, a year before 10,500 will squeeze on to the site for the centenary.
Veterans Affairs Minister Michael Ronaldson told the quiet, reverential gathering that those soldiers who landed at Anzac Cove 99 years ago were, by their own admission, ordinary men.
“They did not seek glory, nor did they want their actions to be glorified,” he said.
“That these ordinary men, however, did extraordinary things is beyond doubt.”
In France, on the World War I Western Front battleground at Villers-Bretonneux, a crowd of 4500 Australians, Kiwis and French locals watched the dawn service.
London-based Australians Jessica Farlow, 23, Jess Rainsford, 19, and Tom Mills, 24, were among those honouring the Anzac tradition.
“It’s sort of like a rite of passage for people of our generation,” Ms Farlow said.
In Thailand, at the jungle site of the World War II Death Railway, 1200 people, including three Australian former prisoners of war, now in their 90s, marked Anzac Day.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were surprise arrivals among the 37,000 people who attended the Canberra dawn service at the Australian War Memorial.
Prince William and Kate were also present for the national Anzac Day ceremony later in the morning, planting a pine sapling grown from seeds gathered at Gallipoli.
Later generations of war dead were honoured as well: in Hobart, a photo of Victoria Cross recipient Cameron Baird, killed in Afghanistan last year, adorned the official Anzac Day program and a permanent memorial to Cpl Baird is planned in his Tasmanian home town of Burnie.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the looming Anzac centenary should give Australians fresh cause to ponder the example set by their forebears.
World War I had a profound impact on Australia, with 417,000 Australians enlisted.
Of those, 62,000 never came home while a further 152,000 were wounded.
“We should be a nation of memory, not just of memorials, for these are our foundation stories,” Mr Abbott said in a speech.
Norma Holmes, 75, came to watch her relative, World War II veteran Keith Roberts, in the Sydney march.
Big public turnouts for Anzac Day were not always the case, Ms Holmes said.
“When I was growing up, it wasn’t mentioned,” she said.
In the crowd beside her, Kate Cohen was attending her first Anzac Day.
“I felt a connection with it and wanted to be a part of it,” she said.