7 September 2018
‘I think it’s very satisfactory work, nursing. I felt it was from the beginning, because somehow, what you are doing, if you are going to succeed at all in it, that person will be cured. I learnt to do a certain amount of dispensing, it was quite interesting in a way, in fact it was very interesting. I realised that dispensing had a certain amount of danger attached to it.’
Agatha Christie, 1974.
Agatha Christie worked as a Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse at Torquay for the duration of the war. It was during this time she gained her intricate knowledge of poisons in the hospital dispensary and possibly found the inspiration for her most famous creation, Hercule Poirot.
Agatha married Archie Christie, a young and handsome aviator, in 1912. After a whirlwind affair, they were married on Christmas Eve 1914. Days later, Archie returned to France where he was now stationed with the Royal Flying Corps, leaving Agatha to her war work at the Red Cross VAD hospital in Torquay.
Christie was born in Torquay, Devon as Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller on 15th September 1890. An adored youngest daughter, Agatha taught herself to read by the age of five. He mother Clara did not believe that girls should attend school and so Agatha received a mixed education from her father and other members of the household. Thereafter followed a happy and creative childhood, marred only by the premature death of her father in 1901. As she grew older, Agatha and her mother spent time in France and later Egypt.It was early in 1915 that Agatha attended a local fundraiser, an event which may have gone on to have influenced her later writings and produce one of the icons of British crime literature. A local family named Potts-Chatto laid on a soiree at their large house in Torquay, the Daisons, in aid of raising money for the Belgian refugees in their midst. A newly-wed Mrs Christie played the piano for the entertainment of everyone in attendance, including one Jacques Joseph Hamoir, a Belgian gendarme wounded fighting in the front lines and ordered to retire to England with his son Lucian and, later, his wife and daughter. There is the possibility that Agatha would recall her meeting with the retired Belgian policeman in the few years between the fundraiser in Torquay and the writing of her first Hercule Poirot novel ‘The Mysterious Affair at Styles’ in 1920. Whether or not Hamoir was the inspiration for the famed Belgian detective will remain a mystery
In any event, Agatha’s first novel was well-received, making especially good use of her intimate knowledge of poisons, acquired after a transfer to a position as a trainee dispensing chemist in 1916. Agatha Christie went on to become a prolific and highly successful writer of crime fiction, eventually publishing over thirty novels featuring the adventures of Hercule Poirot alone.
Agatha Christie.com, 2017. Christie’s Life. [online] Available at: http://www.agathachristie.com/about-christie [Accessed on 08/11/2017]
Thompson, L., 2007. Agatha Christie: An English Mystery. London: Headline Review
Gill, G., 1999. Agatha Christie: The Woman and Her Mysteries. London: Robson Books.
Clapp, A., 1914. Reception register, Belgian refugees received at Exeter, 1914. [handwritten register] Devon Remembers First World War Collection. 9036Z. Exeter: Devon Heritage Centre.
Clapp, M., 2016. Belgian Refugee Interviews: Michael Clapp Interview. Interviewed by Mary Stephenson. [digital audio file] Exeter, September 15th 2016.
Christie, A. 1974. Oral History Interview. 16th October. Imperial War Museum Collections. Available from: https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/80000490 [Accessed on 18/04/2018]
Circa 1915. Agatha Christie in her VAD uniform. The Christie Archive Trust
N.D. Jacques Joseph Hamoir and Colleague. [online] Belgian Refugees 14-18 Project. Available from: http://www.belgianrefugees14-18.be/index.php/getuigenissen/testimonies/36-jacques-joseph-hamoir-agatha-christie-s-inspiratiebron-voor-hercules-poirot [Accessed on 08/03/2018]