Edith Cavell Memorial

Edith Cavell Memorial

Memorial to a True Heroine


I doubt that it was intentional, but the location of the Memorial to Edith Cavell seems appropriate somehow, standing just yards away from St Martin-in-the-Fields. At the same time as Dick Sheppard was keeping the doors open for troops returning from the WWI battlefields, Nurse Edith Cavell was helping Allied troops escape from occupied Belgium.

One of the most celebrated female figures of the war, Edith Cavell was born on 4th Dec 1865 in Swardeston, a small village near Norwich in Norfolk.
At the age of 20 she started her nursing career at The London Hospital (now the Royal London Hospital) and then went on to become assistant matron at the Shoreditch Infirmary.
In 1907 she moved to Belgium where she became matron of the Berkendael Institute in Brussels.

War broke out in 1914 and by the end of the year the Germans were in control of neutral Belgium after the Allies had retreated west.
During her time at the Institute Edith Cavell nursed casualties from both sides of the conflict, but also sheltered British, French and Belgian troops before helping them escape to Holland. Her efforts didn’t go unnoticed by the occupiers, and along with several others, she was arrested and tried by a court-martial where she confessed to the charges. She was shot at dawn on the 12th October 1915.

No doubt the firing squad was used as a deterrent to anyone else thinking of doing the same, but in actual fact it had the opposite effect, as large numbers of volunteers signed up to join the British army as a consequence.

After the war her body was exhumed and brought back to Westminster Abbey for a state funeral, before her journey to Norwich Cathedral and final resting place. She was re-buried on 19th May 1919.

The memorial, designed by Sir George Frampton (who wouldn’t accept a fee for his work), was unveiled in 1920.
It shows Edith in her nurse’s uniform with the final words she made to the chaplain the night before her execution


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