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Edith Cavell : The experienced nurse could not stop saving lives, even at the cost of her own.
Edith Cavell

The execution of nurse Edith Cavell (1865-1915), an Englishwoman working in a Red Cross hospital in Brussels during the Great War, was one of a number of scandals that did nothing to help the German Empire justify their claim to be the superior civilisation of Europe.

IN 1907 Edith Cavell, a forty-two-year-old nurse and former governess, moved to Brussels to help Dr Antoine Depage establish a training school for nurses. Within four years, she had three hospitals and over thirty schools under her care, and had founded a new medical journal.

Soon after the Great War broke out in 1914, Cavell began using her position to smuggle over seventy soldiers and a hundred civilians out through Holland to safety in England. But she was betrayed to the authorities, and arrested on August 3rd 1915.

After ten weeks in prison, Cavell was court-martialled despite being a civilian, convicted of treason despite not being German, and executed by firing squad on October 12th.* She offered no apology for her actions, and her final words were ‘I am glad to die for my country’. Yet Edith, daughter of a Norfolk clergyman, had also confided to her English chaplain in prison: ‘Patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.’

* Something similar happened to Captain Charles Fryatt, a ferryboat captain captured by the Germans.

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Picture: © GdML, Wikimedia Commons. Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0. View original
A memorial to Edith Cavell in Uccle, a suburb of Brussels in Belgium, erected to mark the anniversary of Edith Cavell’s execution on October 12th, 1915. The eyewitness evidence shows that to die for her country really was ‘dulce et decorum’ for Cavell; the higher and more testing challenge which set for herself was to die at the hands of others without hatred.

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