Thousands of Southlanders yesterday braved what was in parts the worst Anzac Day weather in years to remember and honour the fallen.
Strong crowds gathered at services throughout the region before moving on to RSA clubs to warm up with a hot drink, breakfast and in many cases, a few cheeky beers.
Veterans and the family and friends of ex-servicemen and women remembered and shared stories, helping the Anzac memory to live on.
Among those attending services were large numbers of children and young people, their attendance recognised and welcomed by the region's RSAs.
Riverton RSA president Grant Ussher said the number of young people helped swell numbers at the Riverton service to about 130 people. It was the biggest the town had seen for several years, he said.
"It's driven by the young people and they respect it," he said.
Hundreds gathered in Invercargill, where emergency service personnel and ex-servicemen were among those laying poppies at the foot of the cenotaph, followed by the public.
Continuing the growing involvement of the younger generation, Invercargill pippins, brownies and girl guides visited the Eastern Cemetery and laid poppies on the graves of ex-servicemen.
Invercargill Deputy Mayor Darren Ludlow, who spoke at the New Zealand Expeditionary Force Invercargill clubrooms, said it was encouraging to see the younger generation at the services.
"It's really encouraging to see these stories aren't lost ... through a new generation," he said.
The rain threatened in Gore, but did not fall. With hundreds in attendance, Gore RSA president David Kingsford said it was one of the biggest crowds he had seen.
There was a "field of remembrance" for the first time this year, with a cross representing each soldier from the district who had fallen.
"Next year we hope people will adopt a cross, maybe put a photo of someone they want to remember on it," he said.
Crowd numbers elsewhere were also high, with about 200 attending the service at Stewart Island, and 100 each at both Edendale and Wyndham.
Hundreds also attended in Te Anau, which included wreath laying and a parade.
Bluff bore the brunt of the wet dawn weather and RSA vice president Lindsay Key said he was pleased it did not deter those who attended. It had been one of the worst weather mornings on an Anzac Day in recent years, he said.
The Reverend Ivan Smith, JP, told about 200 people at the Ohai service the Anzac experience had helped New Zealand become a pioneering nation with a humanitarian perspective.
More than 100 people gathered at Tisbury where Awarua RSA vice president Allan Kingi-Fraser, whose father served with the 28th Maori Battalion, said he would have a beer to remember him and the others who had died.
"It's a big day for us. For all of us."
Clutha District Mayor Bryan Cadogan, speaking at the service in Tapanui, said it was thanks to the efforts and sacrifices of forebears that New Zealanders could enjoy freedom.
"We can celebrate the individuals we are, and express an opinion, and be the human beings we want to be.
"That's only possible because of our forebears," he said.
In Drummond about 40 people gathered, with school pupils reciting poetry, and piper Ann Robbie, performing as community groups laid wreaths.
Lorneville RSA president Fiona Forrest said about 200 people attended the Anzac service at the Wallacetown Hall.
- The Southland Times