People share their personal war stories as they hunker down for the long night.

It's okay for grown men to cry at Gallipoli. The place does it to you.

And overnight on the famous battlefield ahead of the centenary commemoration dawn service, it seemed that nobody was immune.

Many hours before, the Anzac pilgrims got off coaches from Istanbul, Canakkale, and Eceabat and walked in wearing light fleeces, clutching rugs, chattering excitedly.

They patiently negotiated airport-style security before packing into the Anzac Commemorative Site stadia.

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As the sun went down, they shared their personal war and family stories.

Huge crowds at the Anzac Cove. Photo / Alan Gibson
Huge crowds at the Anzac Cove. Photo / Alan Gibson

By 11pm, rows had succumbed to sleep. Tucked up in smuggled-in sleeping bags, rugs and ground sheets, they resembled the soldiers that littered the World War I trenches a century ago.

But the organisers soon turned on the bright lights and urged people to give sleepers a "dig in the ribs", which brought a cheer from the crowd.

Yawns were stifled, cheeky hip-flasks were shared among strangers as they sat amid a sea of flags bearing red and white stars.

A crescent moon like the white one on the red Turkish flag shimmered off the clear waters of the Aegean Sea.

Documentaries beamed on big screens and live performances on stage kept the crowd entertained.

More than 10,000 New Zealanders and Australians sat in reverence on the shores of the Gallipoli peninsula today, for the formal ceremony to honour the soldiers who fought and fell there a century ago. A vast sea of pilgrims from both nations gathered at the Anzac Commemorative Site to mark the 100th anniversary of the bloody Gallipoli landings. New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, his Australian counterpart Tony Abbott, Prince Charles and Prince Harry were among those in attendance.
Mark Darin (left) and his father Wally, 84, at Gallipoli. Photo / Kurt Bayer
Mark Darin (left) and his father Wally, 84, at Gallipoli. Photo / Kurt Bayer

Proud pilgrims with ancestors' medals pinned on Kathmandu jackets queued for kebabs. Well-armed local Jandarma wandered the crowds.

There was a reserved buzz about the place. It was a long night. People avoided knowing the time.

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By 4am, the crowd became more hushed. An eerie air of anticipation fell.

Neighbours chatted. When people were asked why they had made the trip, their eyes would well up.

People surround the Anzac Cross on Mt Maunsell, 400m above the Wairarapa village of Tinui. The cross was NZ's first Anzac memorial. Photo / Mark Mitchell
People surround the Anzac Cross on Mt Maunsell, 400m above the Wairarapa village of Tinui. The cross was NZ's first Anzac memorial. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Walter "Wally" Darin, 84, came here to stand where his father did a century ago.

England-born professional soldier Walter Daniel Drain landed at Gallipoli on April 26, 1915, with the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) 4th Infantry Brigade.

A signalman in headquarters company, he fought the Ottomans in close quarters at Quinn's Post and Hill 971 before being wounded with shrapnel in the back of the knee and invalided home.

His son Wally won a place in the ballot to attend the centenary commemorations but he nearly didn't make it.

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Brian Schofield, a 94-year-old WWII veteran, flanked by nurses Sandra Hewlett (left) and Karol Marshall at the Auckland War Memorial Museum. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Brian Schofield, a 94-year-old WWII veteran, flanked by nurses Sandra Hewlett (left) and Karol Marshall at the Auckland War Memorial Museum. Photo / Jason Oxenham

The Aucklander was hospitalised with suspected bronchitis last week and doctors didn't think he could make the arduous round-the-world journey.

But on Monday, his son, Mark Darin, 51, picked him up from Auckland Hospital and they went straight to the airport.

"There was no way I wasn't going to make it," Wally Darin said. "I wanted to stand on the same ground my dad did 100 years ago."

Zava Bunker, 2, places a poppy at Wanganui's memorial. Photo / Stuart Munro
Zava Bunker, 2, places a poppy at Wanganui's memorial. Photo / Stuart Munro

Sat in a grandstand overlooking Anzac Cove, surrounded by fellow pilgrims, in the darkness, he was glad he made it.

"It's a bloody privilege to be here. I feel honoured to be able to come here and be with my dad ... " He broke down, hugged by his son.

It's okay for grown men to cry here, I tell him, choking up.

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"We're just a bunch of sooks," he said, laughing, regathering himself, and looking into the darkness.

The Soldiers' Memorial, Waikumete Cemetery. Photo / Michael Craig
The Soldiers' Memorial, Waikumete Cemetery. Photo / Michael Craig