Edith Cavell

As the anniversary of the death of Edith Cavell approaches, Village Stories takes a look back at how a woman from a small Norfolk village became one of the most celebrated and commemorated individuals of the First World War.

Nurse Edith Cavell By Jenkins, Rene [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Nurse Edith Cavell By Jenkins, Rene [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons and IWM

It was whilst visiting her mother in England, trained nurse and amateur artist Edith Cavell, that war broke out. Having gone to Belgium in 1890, Edith decided to return once again, with a view to help injured soldiers. Her Red Cross hospital welcomed thousands of wounded soldiers of British, French and German nationality. All were cared for, no matter which side they were fighting for.

But Edith was no ordinary nurse. She also worked with a group to help hide Allied soldiers so that they might escape from Belgium, which came under the control of German forces in 1914. With her assistance, many soldiers were able to escape to Holland. Her secret uncovered, she was arrested by the Germans in July 1915 and kept in solitary confinement. Edith admitted to helping the soldiers escape, and as a result, was sentenced to death as punishment.

At 7am on the 12th October 2015, Edith was shot by firing squad.

Her death sparked outrage in Britain. The propaganda machines of the Allies were quick to utilise her death as means of encouraging men to recruit and a way of engaging the public.

Edith Cavell Brussels IWM

Nurse Edith Cavell with a Group of Student Nurses – IWM Non Commerical License

Today, her work to help not only the Allied men, but those serving in the German Army, continues to be celebrated.

The Borough of Twickenham Local History Society (BOTLHS) will hold a talk on 5th October 2015, looking back at the life of Edith Cavell. For more information, click here.

Commemorations are due to take place across the UK and further afield.