All of us are familiar with the story of Florence Nightingale. “The Lady of the Lamp”and the bravery shown by her during the Crimean War, but how many of us know of the bravery of Edith Cavell?
Edith Louisa Cavell was born in Swardeston, Norfolk on December 4th 1865. When she was seventeen she became a pupil teacher at a school in Laurel Court which is in the precincts of Peterborough Cathedral.
She became interested in hospitals while travelling in Bavaria and began her nurse’s training in London in 1895. In 1906 she moved to Brussels to help train Belgian nurses. When World War 1 broke out in 1914 Edith was in charge of a clinic which she immediately converted into a hospital for wounded soldiers. She showed no discrimination, treating British, Belgian, French and German soldiers. She also helped allied soldiers, once they had recovered from their wounds, to escape over the border into Holland where they were able to rejoin their armies.
In 1915 Edith Cavell was betrayed to German authorities by a Belgian traitor and was imprisoned. Despite pleas for leniency and mercy by the British, American and Spanish governments she was executed by a German firing squad on October 12th, 1915.
Shortly before her death Edith Cavell was counseled by a British chaplain and is reported to have said during that interview “I have seen death so often that it is not strange or fearful to me, Standing as I do in the view of God and eternity, I realise that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness to anyone.
Edith Cavell was a far better and braver woman than I could ever hope to be and deserves far more recognition than she has received so far. There is a statue erected in her memory in Saint Martin’s Place in London and she has a mountain named in her honour in Canada.