Archive number: 2330
Date interviewed: 08 June, 2000
You are listening to the interview audio
NB. This transcript is of an interview filmed for the television series, Australians at War in 1999-2000. It was incorporated into the Archive in 2008.
Can you tell us your name and your age and where you were born?
My name is Queenie Sunderland. I was born in Annerley Road, Beckenham, Kent, a suburb of London on the 2nd January 1897.
Do you remember where you were when the war broke out?
Yes. I was living in Salisbury with my mother, just my mother and I. I had two brothers. One was still at school in Winchester and the eldest one was at Guildford near London.
And when war broke out, I was working for Spears and Pond on Salisbury Station. The night war was declared, all the local Territorials [militia] were called up. They got into uniform and they all marched into Salisbury. Salisbury has always been a military centre. But the Territorials were camped in the cathedral
close for the first night. Well, they were all sent across to France and I can’t remember how long, but it was only a very short time before the Canadian troops were the first to arrive on Salisbury Plain and the trained soldiers had already been moved to France.
How did you feel about it?
It was all very exciting.
Suddenly everybody was a hero because you got into uniform. The only civilians that were left eventually were the medically unfit or those who were doing important war service. But after the Canadians came we had the Americans and then we had the Australians.
What did you think of Australia before you met anybody?
Growing up as a young person in England, did you have any view of what Australia was like? Did you ever think about the place?
As a schoolgirl, I always said, any country I would like to go to, it would be Australia. Yeah. Peculiar thing, but I always had it mind that I would like to visit Australia.
So you were just saying, I was talking to you about the image you had of Australia when you were young, growing up in England. Did you know anything about Australia?
No, only just a passing geography lesson.
You said that you always had it in your mind that you wanted to come to Australia, what was it that about Australia that you thought you might want to live there?
Because it was so big, and it was
a young country. England was so old, I thought, it would be new conditions, much more new conditions in Australia.
So the war had started and the soldiers were starting to arrive on Salisbury Plain.
Well, you see, as I worked for Spears and Pond they were the caterers for the London South Western Railway, they had the refreshment rooms
at the railway stations. Well, when the troops came and all the new camps were there, any contingent that was ordered to France, they all came through Salisbury Station and they had their last meal at Salisbury Station. It was provided by my company. And they – my job was to find the officer in
charge of the troop train and get him to sign the chit [receipt] as to whether he was satisfied with the meal. All he had to do was, yes or no, and sign his name. And that went on perhaps for a couple of days, we worked through the night. I’d been up working up ‘til two o’clock in the morning on two trains, looking for the officer in charge of the train. The Australians were terrible. I’d ask them, “Could you direct me to the officer in charge of the train?”
“You see that major standing over there, you go and ask them.” “Excuse me sir, would you sign this chit?” “Sorry, I’m not in charge of this train.” They’d send me to the wrong man every time if I asked. Great laugh though. It was all taken in good part of course.
So lots of people obviously went through that station? So how was it that you came to meet Ted?
All the troops that went to France came through Salisbury Station, every nationality
because we had so many big camps on Salisbury Plain and we all had to do voluntary war work in our spare time. Well, my mother was in charge of a YMCA [Young Men Christians’ Association] hut at Lark Hill. And when I had notice to do voluntary service, I was admitted to the YMCA hut as a
helper in the post office, and I used to work on Lark Hill every weekend. Well, every weekend I was free, there were no troop trains.
Being in England, did the Empire expect the dominions to come to England’s aid?
I think so, but they just
came. That’s all we heard. The Canadians are coming and Americans are coming and that sort of thing. I’ve no idea what was the mood behind it, we were just notified they were coming. Yeah, it was on Salisbury Station I met my husband.
Tell us about that.
It was very, very cold November day. My
assistant and I had to go, we used, all our work came from head office in London. We were on the Ireland platform and we had to go to the main London platform where there was a box and all our work was put in that, and we’d do that and then send it back up to London. Well, I and my assistant went round after a London, well, a London train was due in. We got round to the booking office and the wind was cutting, it was
terrible. There was a big Australian standing by the gates to go on the platform. The London train had just pulled in so we all had to wait until the passengers came through. So I said to my assistant, “Come on, let’s stand behind that big Australian.” Which we did. It was quite effective too. He was a big man, he had a big military overcoat on. Well, after the passengers had gone
through, my assistant went on round to the box and the ticket collector called me over and he said, “Miss Soaf, you haven’t met Gunner Sunderland have you?” I said, “No.” He said, “He’s new in the RTO office, the Regimental Transport Office.” So we were formally introduced and that was the start of it all. First time I went out with him, he took me to an Aussie Rules football match.
What did you make of that?
I enjoyed it. It was all new to me. I met him, I went out with him in November 1917 and we were married, September 1918, ten months later. And during that time, it was absolutely miraculous, every time he was put on draft for France, something
turned up and he couldn’t go, or he didn’t go. He was on draft for France three weeks before our marriage but he went to the dental officer who was a friend of his and told him his trouble. He said, “Bring your toothbrush in the morning, I’ll get you off that draft.” which happened. When we came back from our honeymoon, he was due to go to France on Wednesday. I said goodbye to him, I didn’t know if I’d ever
see him again. He said, “On Wednesday I will send you a telegram and let you know I’ve really gone this time.” The telegram came; I said to my mother, I said, “I can’t open this.” She said, “Queen, you are a soldier’s wife now, you open that telegram yourself.” I opened it. ‘Expect me Friday, three months, 1914 leave.’
Incredible. And his leave was up the day that we sailed for Australia after the war. He never went back to camp, left everything there; he didn’t want to go back.
Too many years of war, time to get out, he was dying to get out after the war?
He was very badly gassed at the Battle of the Somme and
he had been in hospital – our wedding was delayed because he was in hospital for four months. It all broke out in carbuncles, from the top of his head to his feet. Even I wasn’t allowed to see him because he could only wear a gown because of the dressings. That lasted for four months. Well, then periodically through his life, until he was fifty-six he would get these carbuncles. The
poison was still in his system.
So it affected his health from then on?
No, he seemed to cope with them, but in the finish, he went to a doctor, who made a serum from the discharge, and then reinjected it, and he never had
another one after. That was when he was fifty-six, that was the last time. But he was eighty-four when he died and he had his mentality.
Tell me about the wedding day.
Well, when we decided to get married, Ted spoke to my mother about it. She said, “Well Ted, you’re going to marry the most useless girl you could have chosen.” Because I’d never had to do anything. My grandfather was in very comfortable circumstances,
he kept her in style. The job I had on Salisbury Station. I had my own bedroom and a maid came and kept that clean, made my bed. Only had to go to the dining room for my meals, so I had nothing to do. Anyway, Ted asked me, “Would you mind not being a bride?” because it was very hard to get clothes and bridal outfits, that sort of thing. But you could hire it,
and two girls that lived in our street, Barbara, she was only married two weeks and her husband was killed. The other girl, Vera, she was only married a week and her husband was killed. And that started a sort of a, I don’t know what the word is, a superstition with the boys,
if you had the full wedding regalia, there was trouble. So I was married in a navy and white turnout and because I was a Christadelphian by religion, we didn’t have a licence for marriage, so we had to be married in the registry office. Well, you had to walk, even if I’d been a bride I would have had to walk three blocks because you weren’t allowed to ride in the car.
And we walked the three blocks and back, and because of rationing, my uncle who was a bacon confectioner, he had a government grant, he closed his shop for the day and used his quota for my wedding breakfast. My wedding cake was made with plum jam because there was no sugar and that didn’t keep.
We sent some to Australia but it was bad when it got there.
What did it taste like with plum jam?
There were twenty-two of us there and every man was in uniform. Australians and English and one sailor.
So what was it about the Australians that the English girls fell for,
because quite a few of them got married to English ladies?
Yes, well, most of the Englishmen they were overseas. I grew up in an Australian camp, you might say. I was in the Australians each weekend, and giving them meals through the week on the station. How I
was – I went in 1915 so I was eighteen, I was eighteen, nineteen and twenty. Three and a half years I was there before we sailed for Australia.
When you married you had to make a decision whether to stay in Britain?
We made that decision before we were married. Ted said, “If you are unhappy at the thought of
leaving England, people and all your friends, I will stay in England.” Well, he had been away – he had been a farmer. He only knew farming, he hadn’t been trained for anything else and to work on a farm in England you’d only get a mere pittance, money was very poor. I didn’t know what to do about it. You think about it.
I thought, no, I can’t leave everybody and go. Well, then my mother had a letter from my eldest brother who was in Mesopotamia to say he would be on the next draft for home. He’d been away five years too. Well, Mum was absolutely over joyed. I thought, this is the answer. Ted’s mother would be exactly the same to know he was coming home. So I went to Ted and I said,
“We’ll go to Australia.” I told him why and that’s how I came to Australia.
Was it a hard decision to make?
Once I made it, that was it. Because one thing, I was deeply in love and Ted was very much so with me. We had a wonderful time together.
I trusted him completely. I had to because a friend of mine said to me, “Have you ever seen Ted’s pay book?” I said, “No, I wouldn’t think of asking him.” Well, she, “You’ve got all the particulars on the front page, you can find out whether he’s a married man or not.” So I used to go down, he was in the camp in Warminster and I used to go down and stay with the people there used to
let rooms for the girls to come for the weekend. Well, I had a room down there. And I said to him, “Would you mind if I saw your pay book?” “No, not at all” he said. He unbuttoned his suit and gave me the pay book. There was 162 Gunner E.A. Sunderland. Next of kin. Mrs E. Sunderland. Relationship blank.
Well, the both of us nearly collapsed. He said, “I had no idea that had not been filled in.” He said, “It’s my mother, I can assure you it’s my mother, it’s not my wife.” He was frantic. So, we were going to announce our engagement, and my people, lots of my relatives were very doubtful about marrying an Australian because I didn’t know enough about him.
So I said to Ted we will not be engaged, no, he said, “I will write home and I’ll get them to write to you, not to me.” I said, “Well, when I get that letter, I’ll wear your ring, not before.” Well, his brother’s wife wrote me and welcomed me to the family, the Sunderland family, had a lovely letter, so that smoothed all that out,
but it was quite a problem for a while. I will tell you, it was a blow when I saw that pay book. I still had to trust him.
But he was telling the truth.
Oh, yes, he was a very honest man.
Lots didn’t. There were a lot of wives that were …
Well, on the ship coming out, I was on the Austinleigh. Well, we both were, because Ted being an ANZAC [Australian and New Zealand Army Corps], he was allowed to travel with his wife on the same ship,
and I palled up with a very nice girl, she was quite an intelligent girl, there was a mixed bag I can tell you. There was three hundred wives, and two hundred babies and they were a very mixed lot. But this, her name was Margaret Thomas, we spent a lot of time together, and when we got to Sydney, there was a strike on with, on the wharf, and the servicemen were called to help bring the baggage
up from the hold. And of course Ted went too, and Margaret said, “Well S and T are close together, would you bring mine up?” He said, “Yes, of course I will.” So he went away. And Margaret went to the first sitting for lunch, we were second. While she was away Ted came back and he was looking so concerned. He said, “I don’t know how to tell, I’ve got Margaret’s luggage
and it’s addressed to number 7, The Domain.” I said, “What’s wrong with that?” He said, “The Domain is an open park, no houses there.” He said, “What do we do? Do we tell her or not?” I said, “No, no don’t tell her. Let her get off the ship first because there are sure to be other abandoned wives.” Which there were and they already had a hostel established, but she was such a lovely person,
I thought it was a dreadful thing to do. I never heard any more of her.
So most of those …
But then, of course a lot of the girls were foolish. One girl said to me, and she had a little baby, she said, “How long did you know your husband before you married him?” I said, “Just over twelve months, ten months we went out together.” She said, “Ten months?” I said, “Yes.” And I said, “What about you?”
She said, “Oh, we were only three weeks.” She said, “I don’t know where he is.” And I said, “And you’ve got that little baby?” And she said, “Yes. I found a letter that my husband had had from his father with an address on it.” So she wrote to the father and he said, “Come on out and I’ll find him for you.” So that was a lot, I’d say a lot of the
girls they had, the Australians had more money, the Tommies [English soldiers] they only had a shilling a day and the Australians were more generous.
Charmed the ladies, charmed the ladies with their dashing ways?
Do you think the war changed the way people met and fell in love?
Well, it seems to have done. I don’t think the same depth of affection exists today. I really don’t. They divorce and this partner business, I don’t think that’s real. When I made my commitment, it
was forever and Ted was the same.
There’s an interesting story you tell about when the soldiers saw the Southern Cross for the first time. Tell us that whole story.
Well, every night there was on the noticeboard, they’d put up the speed of the ship, the next port we’d get to and anything
that would be interesting to see on the way. And it was on the board that the Southern Cross would be visible at 4 AM the following morning as we came through the Red Sea. And suddenly this cheer went up, they were hugging each other, and I said to Ted, “What’s the meaning of this Southern Cross?” He said, “It’s a group of stars that you can only see in the southern hemisphere
and when the boys see that they will know that they are really going home and the war is over.” “Well,” I said, “Will you be up in the morning?” He said, “Sure will.” So I just put on dressing gown and slippers and I went up to the, there were only half a dozen women up on deck. But all the boys were there and they all cheered and hugged and talked about Australia,
it was really home. It was very moving. Lots of them had tears in their eyes. They hadn’t seen it for five years.
It would have been very emotional.
It was emotional, yes.
What were your first impressions about landing in Australia?
I hadn’t formed any idea because I had no idea what it was like. You see, Ted had been away five years from the property. I knew I was going onto a farm, but I had an idea it would be more like an English farm, biggest mistake I
could have made. And we went; we stayed one night in Sydney. Ted had a sister living at Rockdale, Bay Street, Rockdale she lived, and his brother and their sister came and met us. Well, I can see her now, they’re all big people and I’m down there, and she’s running down the wharf calling out,
“Ted, Ted!” When the greetings were over she said to him, “Where’s your wife?” He puts his arm round me, he says, “This is Queen my wife.” She said, “Oh, I thought she was one of the children.” That was my welcome to Australia. The brother, Fred, said, “Come on, it’s time we were going.” So we marched out. Well, things weren’t too bad, we had a,
Fred had hired a car and they drove me all round Sydney, we even went to Bear Island. Let me have a look at Sydney because we were going to Dubbo, three hundred miles away. And went back and had dinner, and the sister, Ettie her name was, she said, “You’re not saying very much.” Well, Ted was asking his brother all about the old place and the people that he had
left behind, were they still there and all that sort of – and I said, “Well, Ted wants to talk about the people he hasn’t seen for five years.” Well then I had a problem at the back of my mind. There were two bedrooms. Each bedroom had a double bed. When it came to bedtime the two men slept together and I had to sleep with this awful woman.
After that I felt, my first night in Australia with a bleak woman who I knew didn’t like me. Anyway, I was tired, I’d been travelling a long time and we let that pass and we went to Dubbo the next day by train. We got there are six o’clock at night and as we came into Dubbo Station, the engine driver gave the
cock-a-doodle-do on the whistle and that was to welcome Ted and me back to Dubbo. And there was a tall man opened our compartment door and he made a fuss of Ted. I didn’t know whether he was a relative or a friend or what, but he was a friend and he was one of the few men who had a car in Dubbo, a taxi. Well, our farm was fourteen miles out of Dubbo so he drove us out.
Well, when we got there, it was just a big, a two room building. A big living room and a kitchen. Well, all the relatives, because he had five, four sisters and a brother and his mother, and his neighbours were all there, and we walked in, and Ted met his mother first of all and I spoke to her too. But she was seventy-six.
It was like meeting my grandmother; it wasn’t like a mother-in-law at all. I’d no qualms whatsoever, she was just another lady to me. Anyway they all gathered around Ted, hugging and kissing him and gradually I was on the outside. There was a Chesterfield behind me, I sat down on that. There was an open door onto the verandah there, I got up and walked outside. I thought, ‘What on earth
am I doing here? Absolutely alone. I know nobody in this country but Ted and he’s with his people.’ But he missed me and he came out to me and brought me back in again. But it was very tough settling down. For the first three weeks, I’ll admit, I did a lot of weeping. He came home one afternoon for another part for his
ute [utility truck] on a stumpjump plough, ploughing up new ground. He said, “Come on out and plough with me, you can sit on behind.” So I went. He said, “Cry all you want to. The horses are grand, we’ll get a good crop and I’ll take you home.” But after that I settled down. The trouble was I had never had to do anything
and his brother and sister-in-law who had stayed on the farm, Fred wasn’t released for the army because he was providing food. They wouldn’t have let him enlist. So his brother and sister-in-law looked after grandma on the farm while Ted was away. And we didn’t know if the farm – it was eight hundred and ninety-seven acres,
would be able to support two families. Fred and his family, Ted and me. If that had been the case, and they couldn’t, and it wasn’t good enough, we were going to Gippsland to some people that Ted knew who had said when you come back from the war, there will always be a job here for you. But the
brother and sister-in-law both died and we had to stay on the farm.
Interviewee: Queenie Sunderland Archive ID 2330 Tape 336
Just to get a feeling how difficult it was to come back and resettle like even for Ted after the war, was it difficult to adjust back into normal life?
In Australia? Oh very difficult. Very difficult. Because I had to learn to make the butter, bread, soap,
pickles, jams, clothes, the lot! I learnt to do it all in no time. But it was hard work. I think, I found it very hard because I’d had such an easy time in England. It was the extreme contrast to everything, and we only lived, when I first went there,
there were three buildings. The first building was the living room and the kitchen, you went in a door there, a short garden path and there was a two roomed hut I called it, only two room. Well Fred and his wife lived in that, and they had a sitting room. Next to that was another hut, which was just two bedrooms, Grandma had that one, Ted and I had that one. But they were only
made from saplings, sticks in between. A lot of them dried out and fallen out you could see daylight through it. No ceiling to the roof just corrugated iron roof, wooden shutter for your window. I accepted it all for love! Ted was marvellous, he was
wonderful, he was very, very patient. There was no bathroom; there was no water laid on to the house. You had a wooden washstand with a basin and a big jug. You had your wash in the morning before you left your bedroom. Well this particular morning I can’t remember what it was about, I was in a huff with Ted and I thought, ‘I can’t be bothered, I won’t
answer him.’ I didn’t answer him, he said something else to me. I still didn’t answer. Away he went, I thought, ‘I’m a bit awful.’ I didn’t move. I just sat on the edge of the bed. Few minutes later he came back, he had a clean towel thrown over his shoulder, a chipped enamel bowl with warm water in his hand, and a cake of strong disinfectant soap,
new cake of soap. He said, “Darling, you forgot to wash your ears this morning, please do it now.” That taught me a lesson. That was the last time we ever had any disagreement. We never had an argument for the rest of our days. Never raised our voices to each other, Daphne can tell you that. If we got to the point where we
couldn’t agree, Ted would say, ‘Leave it.’ and that was it.
Did Ted ever talk about the war?
Not very often, no. There were a few tales, he told us one that was in France, he was very fond of his commanding officer and he had just been shot, the officer. And he called out, “Get a stretcher quick, and get me to the
station.” So the gunners left their gun, got a stretcher from the medical corps, put him on it to get him to the dressing station, and he said, “For God sakes hurry!” the colonel did, but he died before they got there. And that death, is the one that he told me two or three times about, he never forgot it.
He was a nice fellow and they couldn’t save him.
It’s true that a lot of the soldiers never really talk about the war.
No, he didn’t want to, he used to get distressed and I never questioned him. It used to bother him. He did meet Fred Simpson [she means John Simpson Kirkpatrick] at Gallipoli; he helped him put a man who’d lost his leg onto the donkey.
But that was the only time, he said that’s all I just helped him on there, was no conversation or anything, he didn’t see him again. But other than that, he didn’t tell me very much about it at all.
So what did you take that to mean? Did you just leave it….
Of course Ted was a cricketer too, and we were the first people on the farm in the district to have a radio, in 1930. It was just a little box,
with just an ordinary light switch, you could only get [radio station] 2FC, you had three batteries, two dry ones and then the box. Well the first night there was a lot of crackling and Ted had gone to Dubbo that day and we had a bush telephone, you wouldn’t know what a bush telephone is.
But we were a 302K, our number. Dash-dot-dash was our signal. That was the way the bell rang that was our call. Well he rang to tell me to get two of the men, to get two of the tallest saplings they could find, put one at the house, one over on the wheat heads, and connect them with copper wire before he came home from town because he was bringing a new radio home.
Well they got this fixed up and made a couple of shelves across the corner to stand on, from butter boxes, and the first night, we did get some of the cricket but it wasn’t very good. And Ted rearranged the batteries and fixed it up the next night. It was [Sir Donald] Bradman’s first tour of England [famous Australian cricketer], so we had to sit up.
Well by eight o’clock every post around the house had a horse tied to it. Farmers had heard Ted Sunderland’s got a radio and he can get the cricket. And so they all came, we hadn’t room for them all; we sat on butter boxes and tomato cases. They came to hear the cricket. Well the local schoolteacher and his wife were there too,
they were my friends at the time. At about ten o’clock someone said, “What about boiling the billy?” so Nora and I went out to the kitchen and boiled the billy for them, and took in cake tins with scones and cakes and all was kept at full.
They must have eaten you out of house and home!
They did! Well at midnight,
somebody had the bright idea for another cup of tea, but there was nothing to give them. I said to Nora, “What am I going to do, the quickest cake that I know is a sponge, Victorian sandwich.” Well after you get four eggs, we had to beat it with a dinner fork because there was no electricity, no mix-masters, you beat the yolks and then you beat the whites and mix them.
Anyway I made the cake and it was a beauty. In a long slab and I cut it in half. I said to Nora, “I don’t think I’ll put jam in there, it’s just as easy to do a filling.” So I got the jar down and made a vanilla and butter filling. And put a generous, because they are big men with big appetites, gave a generous topping to it.
Nora made the tea so I took the cake in, I was so proud of this cake at two o’clock at the morning. Well they took one bite, and out of that door they went holding their mouths, I’d iced that cake with carb. soda instead of icing sugar.
Even the dogs wouldn’t eat it. I was so tired I’d been working all day, I had to, I had two children and an old lady and four men permanently. That was my work everyday.
But when you came, I’m just getting back to how you saw yourself, do you always see yourself as an English person or did you ever become…
No I became Aussie as soon as I could, I’ve been Aussie ever since.
How do you describe the difference, what’s the difference?
Oh I don’t know the English are more, they’re more inclined to a negative outlook than a positive, and I’m a very positive person. And I was determined I’d
make a success, because Ted was good to me, and I made it that way.
Anzac Days, did Ted ever go to any Anzac Days, after the war?
Yes he used to go to the local one in Dubbo, but he came to Sydney for the 1935.
He was given a free rail ticket for himself and the family to come to Sydney.
But early after the war, when the war had just finished, did he go then or not? Was anyone interested in Anzac Day, like sort of in the years after you’d come back.
No. He didn’t go; he didn’t go regularly to the marches.
Did he meet with any of the veterans, any of his old mates from the war?
Oh we had several come to visit us on the farm after the war, that he had known.
The other thing is, we were talking about the Empire …
… give them chocolates and cigarettes. I only served on one train, I couldn’t take it, they were still in their bloodstained uniforms and hadn’t been shaved, it was dreadful to see them. I just wasn’t strong enough to do that. But they all came through Salisbury Station on the way to different hospitals around the country. That was during the Battle of the
Somme, was the worse time.
Was that when you saw the war as it really was?
Yes, it was awful, I couldn’t take it.
Did your view of what the war was about change as it went along, you know when you started out?
Did the war change your attitude to what the war was about?
No, it was just something you had to live through, because we had so many shortages, meat, we only had once a week, like beef or mutton. We used to have a bullock’s heart which was awful, ham
and horsemeat. Horsemeat was the best of the lot because it was more like corned beef only it’s very coarse. Bit like eating … bread was always twenty-four hours old, and a lot of it was made with potato flour. And they weren’t allowed to sell it until it was twenty-four hours old. And often you’d see a little green mouldy streak, and of course we only had,
one ounce of butter, teaspoon of butter for a week, and a teaspoon of margarine. Well the margarine was awful, it affected my skin. I came out in great big flaky blotches and the doctors said it was due to the bad margarine, so he got permission for me to have two teaspoons of butter a week.
I’m just wondering about what the Empire meant to you, ‘cause when the war begun Australia was pretty much a part of the British Empire. So what did Empire mean to you being in England at the time?
Well we wanted to win the war. Everything was to win the war. Defeat the Germans.
And so what did Empire mean to you?
Only to be proud of your nation and your heritage, proud to be British. But of course when I came to Australia I was just a Pommy [English] bride.
But that changed didn’t it?
I’ve often wondered, it’s a peculiar thing, but the couples up in our area used to be Jo and Dorrie, and Ted and Beattie, and Belle and Mannie, but it was always Ted and Mrs Sunderland. They never got round to calling me Queenie. And I never noticed it.
They might say Mrs Ted sometimes. But why, because I was the only English person in that little community, and I was, I know I was different to them, might have given them some sort of a complex sometimes!
Was there any animosity with the Australian women for you English girls taking away their husbands?
No, the trouble with our family was there was a very nice girl in the district that they were sure, Ted had been very friendly with her in his young days. And they thought when he came back
he would be sure to marry May Curry. But he brought a wife back instead, and I was a bit of an interloper I suppose. I held my own just the same. I soon made friends, I had a lot of friends here, still have, and I’ve kept in contact with them.
Queenie, when you were in England and the war had started and the Australians were at Gallipoli did you ever hear anything about it in the newspapers, did you ever hear of the Gallipoli campaign while you were in England?
No I’d never heard of Gallipoli.
We knew that [Lord of the Admiralty] Winston Churchill planned it, and that it had been a big mistake. And we just felt sorry that it all happened so tragically. We had no idea that they would ever come to England because, Gallipoli men went to France from Gallipoli before they came to England.
And so that was never reported much in the papers, so you had no idea of
anything about the Australian stories about ….
We didn’t get daily papers, only a bulletin. A white sheet – the white paper they used to call it. When Ted was on leave just after we were married, there was a printer I suppose you would call him, he had a shop and a shop window, and on the window he had a huge map of the front, the
Western Front. And all the troops with the different flags the position they were in. Everyday, Ted would go down and look at that map. There was always a crowd there, and he would go and look at the map and see whether we had advanced or gaining ground anywhere. And one night we’d heard there’d been a, we’d made
big advance so he said, “I have to go down and have another look.” Well when we got there there was a huge crowd in the window, and Ted was a big fellow, and I stood by the side of him, and I was just about to say, “You go and have a look and tell me.” but he reached out to grab my hand to pull me through the crowd, and he got
the hand of a little old man with a white beard, wasn’t me at all! There’s this poor little fellow! ‘What are you doing to me?’ Anyway it was a happy time because it was just before the Armistice; everything was going well so the little old man didn’t mind.
What did you do on the Armistice? How did you hear of it?
Oh the day of the Armistice. The troops, Salisbury was surrounded by camps and the troops all marched, played in their bands, the music was ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’, and they were marching on Salisbury. The shopkeepers closed their shops and we all got, you couldn’t move in the streets throughout the whole city. And
fireworks were going off, everybody was shaking each others hands, and the bands kept playing all the time. It was a real moment of rejoicing. I didn’t think we were ever going to get through the crowd to get back home again it was so busy.
So what did the
war achieve in the end, what did that Great War turn out to do, did it achieve anything? For you it did lots of things, it changed your whole life…..the war itself. When you think about it was it worth it?
Well I just thought it was one of those things that had to be.
When I was a child, we used to play, ‘the Germans are coming’. It had been a threat for years, and then when the Kaiser Wilhelm started things moving we knew there was going to be trouble. And
George V married Mary Tech, that was another thorn in the flesh.
So the war was inevitable?
Yes I think so, I really think so. My eldest brother he enlisted second week of the war, and he wrote and told my mother that he thought he might
join the army, and she wrote back and said no don’t do that yet, wait and see what’s going to happen it’s only the second week. But he was already in uniform. But my youngest brother, two weeks before he was eighteen, he was still only seventeen, he was called up, conscripted, and he was a very young seventeen year old. He hadn’t had good health and
he looked so small in uniform, it was pathetic with a lot of those boys it was really pathetic to see them. But they just had to go. The assistant manager in the office where I worked, they said they would not call up married men. So he made haste and got married. Next thing married men were called up and I got his job!
Does Anzac Day mean anything to you?
Oh we celebrate every year don’t we Daph! My grandson
and his family, they always come to me and bring me the rosemary. Yes we’ve never missed an Anzac Day. And Ted’s favourite badge was the one he always called the donkey badge, the Gallipoli badge, he didn’t wear the returned serviceman badge he always wore the donkey badge. It had his name inscribed at the bottom of it, Ted’s name. The Gallipoli men all had
these medals with their name, those, that’s how you knew if a man had really been to Gallipoli because he would have a donkey badge. And then they gave him, quite a large medallion, in a case as well, with the dates of the battle at Gallipoli and his
service and his name and rank.
How did Ted feel about being part of the original Gallipoli veterans?
He was more soldier than farmer. Don’t you think so Daph?
What do you mean by that?
Well he enlisted again in the Second World War.
He always kept in touch with somebody in the army. He would come down from London by train, and then he had to walk to an extension platform that went to the camps. And the stationmaster’s clerk
hopped across the rails to our office and told us, “Keep quiet but Lord Kitchener is coming on the next train. If you go to the overhead bridge and look through the glass window you’ll see him get out of the train and walk down.” Which my assistant and I did. He was about six foot four. He wasn’t a massive man but he was, every inch a soldier, and
he was just talking to a group of officers. The place was crowded. Nobody knew, he just got out of his carriage and walked out and went out onto the Wilford train. But I was always glad I had that view of him because his was the most compelling poster during the war. Everywhere you went there was these great big posters of Kitchener in uniform. ‘Your Country Needs You’, his finger pointing and it pointed
straight at you when you looked at it. It really did. It was a marvellous poster. And he was a wonderful general and of course he was drowned when the Hampshire went down.