Edith Louisa Cavell was a British nurse. She is celebrated for saving the lives of soldiers from both sides and in helping some 200 Allied soldiers escape from German-occupied Belgium during the First World War, for which she was arrested. She was subsequently court-martialled, found guilty of treason and sentenced to death. She was shot by a German firing squad at the age of 49. Her execution was greeted with worldwide condemnation and extensive press coverage. A woman of profound faith, she told her chaplain, on the night before her execution, “Standing as I do in view of God and eternity, I realize that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone." Her death caused international outrage and may have contributed to America’s decision to enter the war. Three films and a stage play have been written about her life, and many public buildings and streets named after her. She will feature on a commemorative £5.00 coin in 2015.
The execution of British matron Edith Cavell by occupying German forces was portrayed by the allies as one of the key atrocities of the Great War. This book recovers and interprets the worldwide reaction to Cavell's death, exploring its contextual relationship within imperial and international history, as well women's history and gender history.
Edith Cavell was born in 1865, daughter of a Norfolk vicar, and shot in Brussels on 12 October 1915 by the Germans for sheltering British and French soldiers and helping them escape over the Belgian border. Following a traditional village childhood in 19th century England, Edith worked as a governess in the UK and abroad, before training as a nurse in London in 1895. To Edith, nursing was a duty, a vocation, but above all a service. By 1907, she had travelled most of Europe and become matron of her own hospital in Belgium, where, under her leadership, a ramshackle hospital with few staff and little organization became a model nursing school. When war broke out, Edith helped soldiers to escape the war by giving them jobs in her hospital, finding clothing and organizing safe passage into Holland. In all, she assisted over two hundred men. When her secret work was discovered, Edith was put on trial and sentenced to death by firing squad. She uttered only 130 words in her defence. A devout Christian, the evening before her death, she asked to be remembered as a nurse, not a hero or a martyr, and prayed to be fit for heaven. When news of Edith's death reached Britain, army recruitment doubled. Diana Souhami brings one of the Great War's finest heroes to life in this biography of a hardworking, courageous and independent woman.
Edith Cavell was a nurse who helped hundreds of British soldiers escape the Germans through the Belgian underground during World War II. Her later arrest and execution by the Germans caused an uproar around the world.
Dutiful nurse, hospital matron, courageous resistance fighter, Edith Cavell was all of these. A British citizen, the forty-eight-year-old Cavell was matron of an institute for nurses in the suburbs of Brussels at the outbreak of World War I. Dedicated to the methods of Florence Nightingale, her intelligence and ferocious sense of duty had transformed the institute into a leading training center. When the Germans captured Belgium in the fall of 1914, an organization was formed to assist British and French soldiers trapped behind German lines. Edith was asked to help and she didn’t hesitate. From that moment forward, Edith sheltered escaping soldiers in her hospital, using trickery to keep the suspicious Germans from discovering them. She helped arrange a secret route to neutral Holland and back to England at great personal risk, enabling soldiers of all ranks to slip through German lines. Using the institute as part of an elaborate Allied escape route, Edith Cavell was responsible for one thousand soldiers eventually making their way home. But Cavell’s role was discovered and a German military court put her on trial in Brussels, where she was sentenced to be executed by firing squad. On October 12, 1915, she put on her nurse’s uniform and met her fate, immediately becoming a worldwide martyr and rallying point for the British in their war against Germany. In this riveting account, author Jack Batten brings an incredibly brave woman and her turbulent times to life. From the Trade Paperback edition.
This book examines the myriad identities and portrayals of Edith Cavell, as they have been constructed and handed down by propagandists, biographers and artists. Cavell was first introduced to the British public through a series of Foreign Office statements which claimed to establish the “facts” of her case. Her own voice, along with those of her family, colleagues and friends, were muted, as a monolithic image of a national heroine and martyr emerged. The book identifies two main areas of tension in her commemoration: firstly, the contrast between complexity of her own behaviour and motivations and the simplicity of the “Cavell Legend” that was constructed around her; and, secondly, the mismatch between the attempts of individuals and professional organisations to commemorate her life and work, and the public construction of a “heroine” who could be of value to the nation state.