Edith Louisa Cavell’s heroism and bravery during World War I has been commemorated through a series of special events over the weekend and today across East Anglia and the rest of Europe. It was on 12th October 1915 that the Norfolk-born nurse was executed for treason by a firing squad by the Germans. Her memory has endured though down the ages and her sacrifice has been rightly recognised on the 100th anniversary of her death.

Paid the ultimate price

She was born in Swardeston near Norwich in Norfolk, educated in Peterborough and first became a nurse in London.

Yet it is largely for her work in Belgium during World War I that Miss Cavell has received deserved recognition since her death, staying true to her profession and saving lives on both sides without discrimination. She helped to smuggle around 200 Allied soldiers to safety as the war raged on across Europe, but paid the ultimate price for her efforts. The Germans sought to make their point through her execution at just 49-years-old.

Memory lives on

Instead of quashing the abiding memory of her spirit and determination, Miss Cavell is often viewed as a martyr by the British public and the British government used her story in their propaganda effort. The outcry after her death led ultimately to a very public statement in her honour, with a special service held at Westminster Abbey after the war.

Her body now lies at rest on the east side of Norwich Cathedral.

She is fondly remembered in Belgium, commonly featuring among polls for the greatest Belgians despite being born across the water in England. Landmarks mentioning her name are dotted across Brussels, where she put her fluent grasp of the French language to good use as a nurse during the Great War.

A hospital and several streets are among the features named in her honour.

Rest in peace Edith Cavell, 1865 - 1915

The warmth and affection with which she is still regarded by many in East Anglia and in Brussels is clearly evident, with events to mark the occasion including:

  • The unveiling of a new statue of her in Brussels by Princess Astrid of Belgium which was attended by the Princess Royal, Princess Anne.
  • Peterborough remembered her with a special dawn parade and a commemorative service at the city’s war memorial.
  • In the centre of Norwich an early morning service was held today at the St Peter Mancroft Church, attended by a small gathering including members of the nursing community. Her life and death resonates particularly strongly within the profession to this day.
  • The railway carriage (known as the ‘Cavell Van’) used to transport her body from London to Norfolk will be positioned outside the Forum in Norwich this week, allowing visitors to learn more about the great woman.
  • Norwich Cathedral held a graveside service over the weekend at Life’s Green, with dignitaries in attendance from Germany and Belgium. It was proceeded by a procession involving Royal British Legion standard bearers.
  • An Edith Cavell Centenary Concert will be held at Peterborough Cathedral on 17th October.

There are many landmarks and reminders of Edith Cavell across the city of Norwich to ensure that her memory is not forgotten.

The city centre boasts the Edith Cavell public house across the road from the cathedral, while there are several statues depicting her image dotted around the area. All are fitting gestures to a very special lady of whom Norwich, Peterborough, Brussels and indeed the rest of Europe can be rightly proud.