A wartime romance at Clandon Park

A First World War autograph book

During the First World War our house was a military hospital. Two autograph books belonging to nurses who worked here, survived the recent fire. These moving books contain pages of messages, drawings and photographs by the patients and staff. A third autograph book from this period of Clandon’s history had made its way to Australia.

James Creech was a blacksmith from New South Wales. His war was not an easy one, joining up in 1915 he was part of the 3rd Battalion, an ANZAC. He first served at Gallipoli but had to be evacuated after becoming seriously ill. He recovered in England, and then re-joined his battalion participating in the Battle of the Somme where he suffered a gunshot wound. After another recovery he again returned to the 3rd Battalion, this time fighting at Passchendaele.
 
He fought on until April 15 1918, when he came under artillery fire whilst leading a patrol. Lying on the ground, James put his arm out to comfort an inexperienced soldier unused to heavy fire. An artillery shell burst killing all those present except James. He suffered serious shrapnel wounds to his arm which ended his war. James arrived at Clandon Park on April 25 1918, where he met a nurse named Norah Ellender.
 
Norah’s sketch, called Not Prescribed, was actually made before she met James, but it became incredibly personal and autobiographical. The title of the drawing hints that relationships between nurses and patients were not unusual, but that perhaps they were frowned upon.
Norah's drawing titled Not Prescribed
Norah's drawing titled Not Prescribed

The rules seemed to have been thoroughly ignored, and Norah’s descendants are not surprised. A strong woman with a big heart, she wasn’t the type to let rules stand in the way of love. After a whirlwind romance James and Norah were married in September. With priority for a return to Australia the couple were able set sail aboard the first ‘bride ship’, RMS Osterley.
 
They settled in Sydney and this great romance lasted another 20 years until 1939. Sadly, the shrapnel in James’ arm caused septicaemia and he passed away at the age of 47.
 
James and Norah’s 12 grandchildren still live in Australia. We’re incredibly grateful to Ian Humphrey for getting in touch with us to share his grandparent's wonderful story. They grew up with Clandon Park being a fairy-tale place where that story started. 
 
We’re so proud that this powerful story has its roots at Clandon, and thrilled that 100 years later Norah and James’s loved ones were inspired to tell us about it.