Edith Cavell's memorial in St Martin's Place, London (Photo: Centenary News)

100 Years Ago Today: Nurse Edith Cavell executed in occupied Belgium

Posted on centenarynews.com on 12 October 2015
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Edith Cavell, a British nurse working in occupied Belgium during the First World War, was executed by the Germans on October 12th 1915.

She was was tried by a court martial, together with Belgian and French resistance members, for helping Allied soldiers escape to the neutral Netherlands.

Edith Cavell is remembered as a pioneer of nursing; for her care of all the wounded, regardless of nationality; and her last words: 'Patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness for anyone.'

After the battles of 1914, many wounded soldiers remained behind throughout northern France and in the Ardennes in field hospitals. Other had lost contact with their units.

Edith Cavell admitted her role in sheltering around 200 soldiers and Belgian men of military age.

She was condemned to death and despite appeals for clemency by American and Spanish diplomats, shot by a firing squad in Brussels at dawn on October 12th 1915.

The death sentences on two other women, Countess Jeanne de Belleville and a French teacher Louise Thuliez, were subsequently commuted to life imprisonment.

(Image: © Collectie In Flanders Fields Museum Ieper)

Edith Cavell's execution sparked a storm of protest. In the UK, she was depicted as a martyr on postcards, posters, and stamps, and also in magazines and newspapers. Crowds of volunteers signed up to fight Germany.

The New York Times wrote a few days after her death: ‘Germany has placed herself in such a situation that the entire world, horror-stricken, will no longer believe that her cause can triumph.’

Edith Cavell's body was brought back to Britain after the First World War and reburied at Norwich Cathedral in May 1919 after a funeral service at Westminster Abbey.

The railway carriage which carried Edith Cavell on her final journey is on display outside The Forum in Norwich until October 17th.

More about Edith Cavell's life, work & legacy can be found here.

Sources: Visitflanders;  Belgian Edith Cavell Commemoration Group; Cavell Nurses Trust; The Forum Norwich

Images courtesy of In Flanders Fields Museum Ieper (propaganda poster); Centenary News (Edith Cavell memorial)

Posted by: Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News