Edith Cavell, the daughter of an English minister, was born in 1865. After spending 5 years in Brussels working as a nanny, she returned to London in 1895 to train as a nurse.
In 1907, she set up her own training school for nurses in Brussels. She was home visiting her mother in England in 1914 when war was declared but decided to return to Belgium. When that country fell to the Germans, her clinic and training school were taken over by the Red Cross. Some of her nurses chose to leave for Britain, but Edith Cavell remained, treating Allied and German soldiers alike.
As a member of the Red Cross, she should have remained neutral, but she actively helped over 175 British and Allied soldiers – or men of military age – to escape to neutral territory. This was to be her downfall.
Arrested by the Germans in August 1915, she confessed to helping the Allies. A military trial followed. Although the Germans had the law on their side by sentencing her to death, their decision outraged the world. Despite appeals from the American and Spanish embassies, she was executed by firing squad on the morning of October 12th, 1915.
Just before she was taken out to be shot, Edith Cavell made this statement. Standing as I do, in view of God and eternity, I realise that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.
After the war, Edith Cavell’s body was returned to England and she is buried in her hometown of Norwich. Memorials to her memory were created around the world, including a statue erected close to Trafalgar Square in London, and a mountain in Jasper National Park being named in her honour.
Released in 1939, the year the Second World War began, the film Nurse Edith Cavell recalled her actions for a new generation.
Please link to this website for more information on Edith Cavell’s remarkable life and upcoming celebrations scheduled for the First World War remembrances in 2014.