Brett and Toni Sillis were already bound for Gallipoli this year when they found out they’d been successful in securing ballot tickets to the centenary commemorations in 2015.
So the married couple from Camden, south-west of Sydney, will return to Turkey again in 12 months’ time – but without the extended family that’s in tow now.
Three generations of Toni’s family will attend Friday’s dawn service at North Beach: her 17-year-old daughter Grace and mother June Abbott are here.
Brett’s brother Darren is also in Gallipoli.
Their great-uncle, George Kent, landed at Anzac Cove on April 25, 1915 before subsequently being wounded.
He was patched up, as Darren puts it, only to die a year later fighting in France.
He’s now buried in a small Canadian military cemetery there.
The Australian family flew via Rome to Istanbul before making the five-hour drive to the Gallipoli peninsula.
They’ll join an expected crowd of up to 6000 pilgrims who’ll camp out overnight ahead of Friday’s dawn service.
Brett on Wednesday was surprised at the peacefulness of the Gallipoli peninsula.
“It’s hard to believe all this went on 99 years ago,” he said standing beneath the now infamous cliffs looking out to the Aegean Sea.
June, from the Gold Coast, found the experience overwhelming at first.
“You get overcome when you come here and see all those graves,” she said.
Toni, like many first-time visitors, was deeply moved by how young many of the fallen soldiers were.
“I’ve got a 17-year-old daughter and you see in the memorial boys that were 17,” she said.
“Grace has mates that come over to our place and I can’t imagine them coming off a boat. The mums back home …”
Toni doesn’t finish the sentence but instead turns to watch a young Turkish soldier rehearsing ahead of Friday’s service.