AKA Edith Louisa Cavell
Birthplace: Swardeston, Norfolk, England
Location of death: Brussels, Belgium
Cause of death: Execution
Remains: Buried, Norwich Cathedral, Norwich, England
Race or Ethnicity: White
Executive summary: British nurse, shot by the Germans
Edith Cavell was an English nurse working in Brussels as the German Army occupied the city in 1914. Offered safe passage to England she refused and remained, caring for the sick and wounded and becoming involved in a clandestine network that secured escape to The Netherlands, a neutral country, for almost 200 English and French nationals and Belgian and French men of draft age. She was arrested with several co-conspirators by the German Military Police on 6 August 1915, and court martialled on 7 and 8 October, denying nothing and detailing her resistance work. She was executed by firing squad four days later.
Her image and story became a major element of British war propaganda. She was the subject of numerous books and countless pamphlets during the war, as thousands of posters plastered across England showed a brute-faced German officer ordering soldiers to fire upon Cavell, shown as a young, beautiful, and defiant girl. In England, America, and other allied nations, becoming an "Edith Cavell Nurse" was an honor, and after the war the Royal Family attended the ceremony as her body was repatriated and buried in her homeland. A statue of Cavell stands near London's Trafalgar Square, engraved "Patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness for anyone", words she was said to have spoken before her execution.
Germans, of course, took a different view of Cavell's execution, pointing out that she confessed and received the penalty the law demanded. Of the 34 others arrested for involvement with the network, eight were acquitted, 22 were sentenced to prison, and four were sentenced to death, with three of those death warrants later reduced to imprisonment. Some Belgians complained after the war that Cavell's principled unwillingness to lie at her trial exposed previously unknown corners of the underground network, and led to the deaths of many Belgians who might have escaped if she had lied.
Father: Frederick Cavell (Anglican vicar, b. 10-Aug-1824, d. 5-Jun-1910)
Mother: Louisa Sophia Warming Cavell (b. 1835, d. 17-Jun-1918)
Sister: Florence Mary Cavell (b. 1867)
Sister: Mary Lilian Cavell (b. 1870)
Brother: John Frederick Scott Cavell (b. 1873)
High School: Norwich High School, Norwich, England
University: Nursing, Fountains Fever Hospital, Tooting, England (1895)
Nurse, Royal London Hospital (1895-1900)
Night Superintendent, St. Pancras infirmary, London, England (1900-02)
Ass't Superintendent, Shoreditch Infirmary, London, England (1902-06)
Ass't Superintendent, Ashton New Road District Home, Manchester, England (1906-07)
Matron, Berkendael Medical Institute, Brussels, Belgium (1907-15)
Treason Brussels, arrested (15-Aug-1915)
Shot: Firing Squad St. Gilles Prison, Brussels (12-Oct-1915)
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