born December 4 1865 – executed October 12 1915
Edith Cavell was the first of four children of the vicar of Swardeston. She worked as a governess in the east of England and Brussels. Aged 30 she returned to care for her sick father and then enrolled as a trainee nurse, wanting to do ‘something useful for people’. After nursing for ten years in the poorest parts of London and Manchester, in 1907 she moved to Brussels to create the first Belgian professional nurse training school.
In Norfolk in July 1914 on holiday with her widowed mother, she chose to return to Brussels to support her nurses as war was imminent. Under the German occupation she secretly hid British and French soldiers, often wounded, in her clinique and helped them to freedom in Holland. [Four are shown here: Sergeant Fred Meachin and Colonel Dudley Boger, Cheshire Regiment, Private Billy Mapes and Sergeant Jesse Tunmore, Royal Norfolk Regiment ]. She and all involved knew they risked being shot for this.
Why is she remembered?
In nine months Edith took in over 200 soldiers. Eventually she and her network were betrayed. Thirty five were arrested, interrogated and tried by a German military court. She and a colleague were shot at dawn on October 12 1915.
Her high standards, her courage and her love for those in need, even at the risk of her own life, grew out of her strong Christian faith. On May 15 1919 she was buried at the east end of Norwich Cathedral after a national memorial service in Westminster Abbey
This statue and its location
This statue was created by Henry Pegram. Funded by public subscription, it was unveiled by Queen Alexandra on October 12 1918. The huge numbers who attended are visible in the photograph. Five Cavell Rest Homes for Nurses were opened from 1917 in her memory, all funded by public subscription, The sixth was opened in October 1918 in premises now occupied by the Maids Head Hotel across the street.
Remembering Edith Cavell appropriately today
In her cell on the night before her execution her friend, Revd. Stirling Gahan, said to Edith Cavell:
‘We shall always remember you as a heroine and as a martyr’.
Edith Cavell replied: ‘Don’t think of me like that – think of me only as a nurse who tried to do her duty’.
She continued: ‘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.’
The Bishop of Norwich and Norwich Cathedral The Maids Head Hotel
Cavell Court Nursing Home, Cringleford Norwich High School for Girls
The board is also in memory of Sylvia (a brave nurse).
See more on Edith Cavell and the sites associated with her in Norwich, Swardeston and Brussels and on the sponsors of this board at www.edithcavell.org.uk/2018