Edith Cavell

Edith Cavell


Remember Nurse Cavell (1915)

Verse 1: We have praised Joan of Arc, the soldier lass of France, How she stirred defeated troops to make a fresh advance, But our British hearts are moved By a tale we long will tell Of how she faced the foemen’s guns Our martyred Nurse Cavell!

Chorus: Remember how she gladly nursed your pals boys! Remember how she striv’d to make them well, Don’t forget how patiently she suffered, And remember how she bore the prison cell! Remember how she bravely gave her life boys; Remember when you’re facing shot and shell, she was made of British stuff, So are you and that’s enough the Bull Dog’s loose Remember Nurse Cavell

Verse 2: Oh! Our brave heroic girls who nurse our wounded men, Let their praises ring afar, the tale repeat again, Hostile prisons could not break German threats could never quell, The stalwart heart that knew no fear, Our martyred Nurse Cavell!

Edith Cavell

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Edith Louisa Cavell (4 December 1865 – 12 October 1915) was a British nurse and humanitarian. She is celebrated for helping some 200 Allied soldiers escape from German-occupied Belgium during World War I. Her subsequent execution received significant sympathetic press coverage worldwide.

She is well-known for her statement that "patriotism is not enough." Her strong Anglican beliefs propelled her to help all those who needed it, both German and Allied soldiers. She was quoted as saying, "I can’t stop while there are lives to be saved".[1] Cavell was also an influential pioneer of modern nursing in Belgium

Early life and career

Edith Cavell (pronounced /ˈkævəl/; rhymes with ‘gravel’) was born in Swardeston, a village near Norwich, where her father, the Reverend Frederick Cavell, was priest for 45 years.[2] After a period as a governess, including for a family in Brussels 1900 -1905, she trained as a nurse at the Royal London Hospital under Matron Eva Luckes. In 1907, Cavell was recruited by Dr. Antoine Depage to be matron of a newly-established nursing school by the name of L’École Belge d’Infirmières Diplômées on the Rue de la Culture in Brussels.[1] By 1910, "Miss Cavell ‘felt that the profession of nursing had gained sufficient foothold in Belgium to warrant the publishing of a professional journal,’ and therefore launched the nursing journal, L’infirmiere.[1] A year later, she was a training nurse for three hospitals, 24 schools, and 13 kindergartens in Belgium.[3]

When World War I broke out, she was visiting her widowed mother in Norfolk. She returned to Brussels where her clinic and nursing school were taken over by the Red Cross.[4]

World War I and execution

In the autumn of 1914, after the German occupation of Brussels, Cavell began sheltering British soldiers and funnelling them out of occupied Belgium to neutral Holland.[4] In the following months, an underground organisation developed, allowing her to guide some 200 Allied soldiers to safety, which placed Cavell in violation of German military law.[5][6] German authorities became increasingly suspicious of the nurse’s actions, which were reinforced by Cavell’s own disregard and outspokenness.[5]

She was arrested on 3 August, 1915 and charged with harbouring Allied soldiers. She was held in St Gilles prison for 10 weeks, the last two in solitary confinement,[5] and court-martialled.

The British government said they could do nothing to help her. Sir Horace Rowland of the Foreign Office said, "I am afraid that it is likely to go hard with Miss Cavell; I am afraid we are powerless." The sentiment was echoed by Lord Robert Cecil, Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs. "Any representation by us", he advised, "will do her more harm than good." The United States, which had not yet joined the war, did not agree. Hugh S. Gibson, First Secretary of the American legation at Brussels, made clear to the German government that executing Cavell would further harm their nation’s already damaged reputation. Later, he wrote:

We reminded him (Baron von der Lancken) of the burning of Louvain and the sinking of the Lusitania, and told him that this murder would stir all civilized countries with horror and disgust. Count Harrach broke in at this with the remark that he would rather see Miss Cavell shot than have harm come to one of the humblest German soldiers, and his only regret was that they had not ‘three or four English old women to shoot.’

The German civil governor, Baron von der Lancken, is known to have stated that Cavell should be pardoned because of her complete honesty and because she had helped save so many lives, German as well as Allied. However, the German military acted quickly to execute Cavell to deny higher authorities the opportunity to consider clemency.[7][8]

She was not arrested for espionage as many were led to believe, but for treason.[9] Of the 27 put on trial, Cavell and four others were condemned to death, among them Philippe Baucq, an architect in his thirties who was also instrumental in the escapes.

When in custody, Cavell was asked questions in French, with transcripts made in German.

This process gave the inquisitor the opportunity to misinterpret her answers.

Although she may have been misrepresented, she made no attempt to defend herself. Cavell was provided with a defender approved by the German military governor.

A previous defender, who was chosen for Cavell by her assistant, Elizabeth Wilkins,[5] was ultimately denied by the governor.[8]

The night before her execution, she told the Reverend Stirling Gahan, the Anglican chaplain who had been allowed to see her and to give her Holy Communion, "Patriotism is not enough, I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone."[10]

These words are inscribed on her statue in St Martin’s Place, near Trafalgar Square in London.

Her final words to the German Lutheran prison chaplain, Paul Le Seur, were recorded as, "Ask Father Gahan to tell my loved ones later on that my soul, as I believe, is safe, and that I am glad to die for my country."

Despite efforts by American minister Brand Whitlock and the Marquis de Villalobar, the Spanish minister to Belgium, on Cavell’s behalf, on 11 October, Baron Von Der Lancken allowed the execution to proceed.[6]

Sixteen men, composed of two firing squads, carried out her sentence along with four Belgian men[3] at Tir National[5] shooting range [11] in Schaerbeek, at 6 am on 12 October, 1915. There are conflicting reports of the details of Cavell’s execution.

However, according to the eyewitness account of the Reverend Le Seur, who attended Cavell in her final hours, eight soldiers fired at Cavell while the other eight executed Philippe Baucq.[9]

There is also a dispute over the sentencing imposed under German Military Code. Supposedly, the death penalty equivalent to the offence committed by Cavell, was not officially declared until a few hours after her death. [12]

With instructions from the Spanish minister, Belgian women immediately buried her body next to St. Gilles Prison.[6]

After the war, her body was taken to England for a memorial service at Westminster Abbey and again transferred to Norwich, to finally be laid to rest at Life’s Green.[4]

Role in World War I propaganda

In the months and years following Cavell’s death, countless newspaper articles, pamphlets, images, and books publicised her story.

She became an iconic propaganda figure for military recruitment in Britain to help increase favourable American sentiment towards the Allies.

Cavell was a popular icon due to her sex, her nursing profession, and her apparently heroic approach to death.[12]

Her execution was represented as an act of German barbarism and moral depravity. The many biographies that surfaced of the late Cavell, in reality were only fictional versions.[5]

News reports shortly following Cavell’s execution were found to be true only in part.[5] Even the American Journal of Nursing repeated the fictional account of Cavell’s execution in which she fainted and fell due to her refusal to wear a blindfold in front of the firing squad.[5]

Supposedly, while she lay unconscious, the German commanding officer shot her dead with a revolver.[6]

Along with the invasion of Belgium, and the sinking of the Lusitania, Cavell’s execution was widely publicised in both Britain and America by Wellington House, the British War Propaganda Bureau.[13]

During World War I, the French shot a number of women, including two German nurses who aided German prisoners of war to escape.

The German government did nothing to publicise that incident.

When asked why not, the German officer in charge of war propaganda replied, "What? Protest?

The French had a perfect right to shoot them!"[14]

Because of the British government’s decision to use her story as propaganda, Cavell became the most prominent British female casualty of World War I.[15]

The combination of heroic appeal and a resonant atrocity-story narrative made Cavell’s case one of the most effective in British propaganda of World War I.[13]
[edit] Two representations of Edith Cavell

"Cavell was not a particularly well-known figure outside the field of nursing prior to the Great War".[5]

This allowed for the creation of two different depictions of her in British propaganda.

British propaganda ignored anything that did not fit this image, including the suggestion that Cavell, during her interrogation, had given information that incriminated others.

In November 1915, the British Foreign Office issued a denial that Cavell had implicated anyone else in her testimony.[15]

"The first representation was the distorted but highly emotive portrayal of her as the girlish innocent victim of a ruthless enemy with no sense of honour in its dealings with frail women".[8]

This depicted Edith Cavell as innocent of espionage, which was most commonly used in various forms of British propaganda, such as postcards and newspaper illustrations during the war. [8]

"The British Press presented her story in such a way as to capture the public imagination and fuel the masculine desire for vengeance on the battlefield".[8]

These important images implied that men must enlist in the armed forces immediately in order to stop the murder of innocent British females.

The second representation of Cavell during World War I described her as a serious, reserved, brave, and patriotic woman who devoted her life to nursing and died to save others.

This portrayal has been illustrated in numerous biographical sources, from personal first-hand experiences of the Red Cross nurse. Pastor Le Seur, the German army chaplain, recalled at the time of her execution, "I do not believe that Miss Cavell wanted to be a martyr…but she was ready to die for her country… Miss Cavell was a very brave woman and a faithful Christian".[5

Another account from British chaplain, the Reverend Mr Gahan, remembers Cavell’s words, "I have no fear or shrinking; I have seen death so often it is not strange, or fearful to me!"[6

In this interpretation, "her gender made her remarkable enough to be remembered as an individual on a scale that, had she been a man, she would not have been".[8]


Memorial to Edith Cavell outside Norwich Cathedral

A marble statue of Edith Cavell in nurse’s uniform backed by a large granite column, surmounted by a figure representing Humanity

Memorial to Edith Cavell at St. Martin’s Place, London

Following her death, many memorials were created around the world to remember Cavell.

One of the first was the one unveiled in October 1918 by Queen Alexandra on the grounds of Norwich Cathedral, near a home for nurses which also bore her name.

On May 19, 1919, her body was interred near the memorial.[16]

Other honours include:


* a stone memorial, including a statue of Cavell, adjacent to Trafalgar Square in London
* a memorial in Peterborough Cathedral,[17] Peterborough, England
* a marble and stone memorial near The Shrine in Melbourne, Australia
* an inscription on a war memorial, naming the 35 people executed by the German army outside the jail in which they were killed
* a dedication on the war memorial on the grounds of Sacred Trinity Church, Salford, Greater Manchester

Medical facilities:

* Edith Cavell Hospital, in Peterborough, where she received part of her education
* the Edith Cavell Hospital in the Brussels borough of Uccle (Ukkel), Belgium
* a wing of Homerton Hospital, Hackney, UK
* a wing of Toronto Western Hospital, Canada
* Cavell Building, Quinte Children’s Treatment Centre, Belleville, Ontario, Canada
* University of East Anglia, Norwich, named its School of Nursing and Midwifery centre, the Edith Cavell building,[18] when it opened in 2006.


* Edith Cavell Drive Steeple Bumpstead, UK
* Cavell Avenue, Twin Cities, Minnesota
* Cavell Street, running next to the London Hospital in Whitechapel, where Cavell trained
* Cavell Street, West Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
* Rue Edith Cavell, a street in Brussels, Belgium
* Avenue Edith-Cavell, in Nice, France
* Rua Edith Cavell, a street in Lisbon, Portugal
* Cavell Drive in Winnipeg, Manitoba
* Cavell Avenue in Guelph, Ontario
* Edith Cavell Boulevard, a road in Port Stanley, Ontario, Canada
* Cavell Avenue, in Trenton, New Jersey
* a street in Hillbrow, Johannesburg, South Africa
* a street in Port Louis, Mauritius
* Cavell Avenue in The Danforth neighbourhood of Toronto, Ontario, Canada
* Avenue Miss Cavell,St-Maur-Des-Fosses,France


* Edith Cavell Regional School of Nursing, in Belleville, Ontario, Canada
* Edith Cavell School, Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada
* Edith Cavell Elementary School, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
* a school in St. Catharines, Ontario
* a middle school in Windsor, Ontario, which closed in 1987
* an elementary school in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, which was later renamed to S.F. Howe
* a school in Bedford, England
* Wymondham College in Norfolk, England, has a boarding block named after her.
* a building at the University of Queensland, Australia
* Cavell House, the fourth, blue house of St Aidan’s Anglican Girls’ School, Brisbane, Australia


* Cavell Gardens, Inverness, Scotland
* Mount Edith Cavell, a peak in the Canadian Rockies, named in 1916
* Cavell Corona, a geological feature on Venus
* a bridge in Queenstown, New Zealand
* The Edith Cavell Trust was established by the New South Wales Nurses’ Association which provides scholarships to nurses in New South Wales
* The Edith Cavell Nursing Scholarship Fund, a philanthropy of the Dallas County Medical Society Alliance Foundation providing scholarships to exceptional nursing students in Dallas, Texas and the surrounding area
* a guest house in Clevedon, Somerset (Cavell House) where she spent some of her childhood
* a variety of rose first bred in 1917 is named after her.[19]
* a YWCA camp in Lexington, Michigan
* Edith became a popular name for French and Belgian girls after her execution. The French chanteuse Édith Piaf, born two months after Cavell was executed, was the best known of these.
* Radio Cavell 1350am. Broadcasting to the staff and patients on The Royal Oldham Hospital! Charity Radio.

See also

* Gabrielle Petit a Belgian nurse executed by the German army for spying for Britain in 1916.
* Andrée de Jongh a Belgian nurse who in World War II helped POWs escape, being inspired by Edith Cavell

# en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edith_Cavell

Posted by RinkRatz on 2009-10-03 23:31:07

Tagged: , Edith , Cavell , Nurse , heroine , hero , Norwich , Swardestone , Rev , Frederick , Royal , London , Hospital , Dr , Antoine , Depage , Matron , Eva , Luckes , Brussels , Re , de , la , Culture , German , occupied , World , War , 1 , One , First , Allied , soldiers , Red , Cross , Baron , von , der , Lancken , Louvain , Lusitanie , Count , Harrach , Lord , Cecil , Hugh , Gibson , Philippe , Baucq , Lutheran , prison , chaplain , Paul , Le , Seur , St , Martins , Place , Elizabeth , Wilkins , executed , propaganda , Westminster , Abbey , Roberts , Chelmsford , Cathedral

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Edith Cavell

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