Edith Cavell as Others Saw Her

She was 5’ 3”, slightly-built and slender, with swept-back dark hair (which later turned grey), dark eyebrows, nose slightly tilted, high-chiselled cheekbones.

She was described by one of the boys under her care as a ‘martinet’, but was much loved, a ‘very strict person who demands obedience from others’.[1]

‘Orderly, methodical and of kindly and gentle disposition – a very suitable candidate for training as a hospital nurse’ Matron at the Fountain Hospital, Miss Blackburn [2]

‘She had plenty of capability for her work when she chooses to exert herself, but she was not very much in earnest, not at all punctual and not a nurse who can altogether be depended upon’. From Matron Eva Luckes’ final assessment of Edith Cavell[3]

Her clear grey eyes were direct and searching in their gaze. Her voice was low, agreeable and cultured, her French fluent … I formed the impression (which never left me) that everything around her, the atmosphere of her room, the neatness of her attire, her attitude and poise, the words she used, all conveyed her characteristic efficiency, thoroughness serenity and kindness’.  Recollection of her first encounter with Edith Cavell by one of Edith Cavell’s first trainee nurses[4]

‘Rather withdrawn, uninterested in superficial friendships, but thoughtful, pleasant and sympathetic to all her patients’.  Edith Cavell’s deputy in Brussels[5].

‘Those who knew [Edith Cavell] never ceased to speak of her kindness, her consideration and her amazing patience … utterly, unbelievably unselfish, with an almost fanatical sense of duty. She expected the same from all those who worked with her.’ (This may account for some feeling that she was ‘cold, distant and aloof in her manner’) [6]

[1] Rowland Ryder (1975), Edith Cavell, Hamish Hamilton, p 22
[2] reference for Edith Cavell,  April 1896 quoted in Jonathan Evans Edith Cavell (19xx) Royal  London Hospital, p 9
[3] September 1898 –  quoted in Jonathan Evans op cit p 13/14
[4] October 1907 – Clara Bohme quoted in Jonathan Evans op cit p 22
[5] Sister Wilkins  In Diana Souhami, Edith Cavell, Quercus, 2010  p 131
[6] Noel Boston, The Dutiful Edith Cavell, Norwich Cathedral, 1976, pp 8-9.