An online chat room is one of the last places you would expect to find Dubbo’s oldest surviving ex-resident Queenie Sunderland.
But last night Queenie went online to share her unique experiences with Australian servicemen and women as part of an Anzac Day tribute.
Throughout April, leading up to Anzac Day, AOL Australia is hosting a commemorative Anzac Day program in conjunction with Legacy.
The program teams the remarkable woman with Lieutenant General Peter Cosgrove and popular grunge band Skunkhour.
Queenie Sunderland came to Dubbo as an English war bride in 1919.
She is as well known to Dubbo people as her views on computers. Going ‘online’ is definitely a first for her and another experience to add to her long list of life experiences.
“Nasty things computers, they steal away men’s brains” is a line in her poem Three Centuries written on the occasion of her 103rd birthday on January 2 last year.
Yet last night Queenie relented to help future generations understand the past.
“I am impressed with what computers achieve and the information available on the internet; I just have enough in my head already and don’t want it pushed out by this enormous amount of information and new technology,” she laughed.
As Australia’s last surviving English war bride, Queenie is as close as many peolpe today can get to an Anzac. She met Gunner Ted Sunderland, Regimental Number 162 of the 1st Battery, 1st Brigade, 1st AIF on Salisbury Railway Station in 1917.
“He was what I call an ‘original Gallipoli Anzac’ who landed at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915.”
For her 100th birthday Queenie wrote Bride of an Anzac, a wonderful account of her life.
It details meeting and marrying Ted Sunderland of ‘Pine Farm’, Dubbo in the period between the landing at Gallipoli and the Battle of The Somme, their marriage in England, her voyage on the ‘Osterley’ to Australia, life on the farm and the move to Sydney – a wonderful social history and a glimpse for the reader into a vital period of Australia’s climb to nationhood.
When appearing on A Current Affair on her 103rd birthday in 2000, mention was made of the book.
As a result of the interview publishing company Garry Allen Pty Ltd picked up the rights to Bride of an Anzac.
“I wrote another three chapters last year and added many of the photographs I had taken myself during the years,” Queenie said.
The book continues to sell well and is available in all book shops across Australia.
“There is even talk of a reprint,” Queenie added.
Since turning 100, Queenie has reached celebrity status.
“I am continuously amazed by the interest shown in me,” she said.
“Just recently I have even been included in the Celebrity Hall of Fame at the Australian War Memorial. Every day is so full of new experiences there is no time to think about ‘getting old’.”
Although born in England in 1897, Queenie has spent all but 19-years of the first century since Federation in Australia. She considers herself a
dinky-di Australian and never regretted marrying Ted and coming to live in Australia.
“Australia has been good to me and I would especially like to thank
Legacy as they have looked after me well. With the wars so long ago, people tend to forget what the organisation has done and continues to do for the widows and families of servicemen.”
DR Brett Wayn, Managing Director, AOL Australia said that ANZAC Day is an important day in the Australian calendar and AOL Australia is proud to have worked with Legacy in the development of this year’s ANZAC Day area.
“We believe the online medium can play an important role in helping Australians learn more about the ANZAC tradition as well as giving them the opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings through message boards and live online chats with Australians who have experienced events first-hand.”
So for Queenie going ‘online’ is definitely another ‘first’. “I haven’t
had any experience at all with the Internet, but it is never to late to learn,” she said.
“I am happy to share my stories. We shouldn’t glorify war, but neither should we forget what the men fought for.
“That Ted survived, when so many of his mates were left behind on the battlefields of WW1, I thank the Lord who has protected me and guided me
through my long life.
“Maybe I have been left behind so that I could in a small way contribute
to the collective memory of a Nation in its first global first baptism of fire since Federation and show how the young Australians who were sent to fight a battle of which they had little knowledge, other than to protect their shores from the enemy invader and who gave their lives as a consequence, will not be forgotten.
This article first appeared in Hangzhou Night Net.