Huge crowds turned out for yesterday's Anzac Day services across Hawke's Bay with some veterans describing the numbers as among the largest they had seen.
At the dawn service in Napier, staged at the Sound Shell, the colonnade area was packed as were nearby footpaths and a large stretch of the closed-off northern end of Marine Parade.
"I looked out from on the stage and it was huge - it was a great day and a great tribute," Napier RSA manager and Master of Ceremonies Craig Williams said.
One police officer said it was the biggest gathering he had seen for the dawn service and the figures being spoken of were around the 6000 mark.
They also gathered in their thousands for the dawn service at the Hastings Cenotaph Memorial in the Civic Square with several retired military dignitaries sharing their often touching stories, with blessings conducted and dozens of wreaths laid.
Guest speaker, Hastings District councillor and member of the 7 Battalion Regimental Association, John Roil, spoke of how as a youngster he saw photos of two great-uncles who went to war, and who he never got to meet.
There was a three-aircraft flyover and a police escort later led the parade to the new Clubs Hastings where another big crowd had gathered.
RSA padre the Reverend Warren Fortune led a prayer blessing new illuminated wall poppies and a startling bronze statue created by Army Gunner Matt Gauldie as a memorial to the fallen, the wounded and their families and friends.
It was officially unveiled by Clubs Hastings RSA president Trevor Hardie.
One of the guest speakers at the Napier dawn service, Royal New Zealand Navy Commodore David Proctor, paused briefly before his address and looked toward the sea.
"We see the awesome sunrises of the Bay - and we remember the Gallipoli sunrise."
He spoke of the mateship and comradeship of the services, and how they were strongly embraced today by families and communities - which was evident looking out across the faces in the crowd.
All ages were represented.
Toddlers, some in pushchairs, children, teenagers, young and old - and the poppies were widely worn.
Commodore Proctor told of the sacrifices made 100 years ago at Gallipoli, and touched on the fact that it is the 100th year since the New Zealand Expeditionary Force arrived on the Western Front in Europe - another component of a war which would take the lives of 18,000 Kiwis.
New Zealand Army Colonel Ian MacDonald told of how while at Gallipoli for last year's centennial commemorations he saw for himself the harshness of the conditions - "where they lived, fought and died".
He also spoke of the remarkable bond that war had woven between the people of New Zealand and the people of Turkey - one at war and now at peace.
As Colonel MacDonald spoke the glow on the horizon drew out the silhouette of the waka which sailed in close to shore and at the conclusion of the services carried out a traditional salute - opening and closing the sails and blowing of the pukaea/conch.
Mark Gregg, visiting from Australia, described the service and the glowing sunrise over the sea as "something I will never forget - it was just lump in the throat stuff, it really was".
Napier woman Stacey Bailey was attending the dawn service for the first time with youngsters Jack Bentin, 8, and 4-year-old Emerson.
"It was very moving - very special," she said.
Young Jack said he had attended the previous year's service with some of his friends and said he knew the story of Anzac and the poppy.
"It was great," he said.
Napier mayor Bill Dalton, who attended and spoke at four services during the day, said the big crowds, and especially the large numbers of young people, was heartening.
"Anzac Day is always a great occasion and this year has been amazing - absolutely fantastic," he said.
For Anna Brown, the Third Secretary of the Australian Embassy, it was her first time in New Zealand for an Anzac service.
"And it is a real honour to be here in Napier for it," she said.
She spoke of how New Zealanders and Australians needed to reflect on how fortunate they were and that they could stand safe and free, through the sacrifices made.
"We owe to those who fought, endured, suffered and died for our countries - they gave us the Anzac spirit."
There was also a good turnout for the Havelock North Cenotaph service which was co-ordinated by Squadron Leader Michael Wills and which saw an inspired address by Susannah Hansen from Woodford House.
Large numbers also turned out for the Lone Pine Memorial Dawn Service in Taradale as well as the mid-morning service at the Memorial Clock Tower.
"It could not have been better," Taradale RSA president and Vietnam veteran Peter Grant said.
He spoke at the Lone Pine service and said the sight of the clear sunrise emerging was "sheer magic".
The only issue was the large number of people who headed for the site, and he said that next year it was likely there would be a closing of nearby roads during the 25-minute service.
The mid-morning service at the Memorial Clock also drew large numbers, and Mr Grant said the Anzac spirit was being boosted year by year through growing awareness.
Also the increased interaction with schools, and accordingly two of the addresses were read by Tamatea High School principal Robin Fabish and Taradale High School principal Stephen Hensman.
And Mr Grant said he was heartened to be approached by two ex-Vietnam veterans who said they had never been to an RSA because of some ill-feeling over the Vietnam conflict - but that had now changed.
"Now they want to join - that is great."
For two Napier veterans it was again a time to salute with pride.
Navy veteran Stan Douglas said he was thrilled to see the large numbers of people "especially the young ones" who turned out.
"A grand day."
Former 485NZ Squadron Spitfire pilot Max Collett was also delighted to see so many young faces and after laying a wreath described the day simply as "a very great occasion".