Edith Cavell's memorial in Central London

Thousands call for nurse Edith Cavell to be commemorated on UK Centenary coin

Posted on centenarynews.com on 13 January 2014
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Thousands of people have signed a petition calling for the nurse, Edith Cavell, to be remembered on a £2 coin being minted in the UK to mark the Centenary of the First World War.

A Labour Party councillor in Sheffield, Sioned-Mair Richards, has started the online petition to the British government, attacking the decision to use an image of Field Marshal Lord Kitchener on the first in a series of commemorative coins.

As Britain's War Minister at the start of the conflict, Kitchener raised a huge new volunteer army in preparation for a long campaign.

 Ms Richards says: "Lord Kitchener represents all that I have always loathed about the First World War - the jingoism, the sheer waste of men, the 'Lions led by Donkeys' mentality.

"And then I thought of Edith Cavell, a heroine of my early childhood. The nurse who was executed for giving succour to all wounded soldiers regardless of nationalityThe woman who is celebrated for saving the lives of soldiers in Brussels from all sides without distinction."

Edith Cavell, a British nurse working in occupied Belgium, was sentenced to death by a German court martial for helping around 200 Allied soldiers to escape.

Despite international appeals for clemency, she was shot by a firing squad on 12th October 1915. Her last words are inscribed on her memorial near Trafalgar Square in Central London (pictured below):

                   

In her petition, Ms Richards says of Edith Cavell: "She did not want to be remembered as a martyr or a heroine but simply as 'a nurse who tried to do her duty'. 

"In the year in which we commemorate the First World War she should be honoured by her country as a woman who was one of the best."

Almost 30,000 people have so far signed the petition to the UK Treasury on the website, Change.org.

The Royal Mint has faced criticism on social media since announcing in December 2013 that Lord Kitchener -- and his famous recruiting slogan "Your Country Needs You" -- will appear on the first of a series of coins marking the Centenary. 

Some suggested it was jingoistic and a glorification of war.

But the Mint described the coin as a fitting tribute, remembering one of the most significant moments in British history with a design recalling "the spirit, and with hindsight, the poignancy, of the rush to enlist encouraged by Lord Kitchener."

Future designs

In a statement, it said future designs would include other figures connected with the war.

"It is important to understand that this coin does not stand alone, but is part of a longer programme of coins that will commemorate the First World War.

"Over the course of the next four years, we will announce further circulating and non-circulating coins which will mark the centenary of the journey from Outbreak to Armistice.

"These coins will tell the stories of the armed forces, individuals, key battles and cultural and technological developments of that period, before finishing with a poignant reflection on the armistice and the ongoing legacy of the war."

Designs for coins are considered by an independent panel of  specialists, known as the Royal Mint Advisory Committee. It makes a recommendation to the Chancellor of the Exchequer (the UK's Finance Minister) after what's described as a "rigorous planning and design selection process." 

To read a research paper about Edith Cavell by Hugo Lueders, click here.

Sources: Change.org website, Royal Mint

Images: Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News

Posted by: Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News