Edith Cavell 1865-1915 - Norwich - Norfolk

                    (c) by John Ashley Photography

The film staring Anna Neagle made in 1939 was based on one of Norfolk’s heroines Edith Cavell who died at the hands of a German Firing Squad during the First World War.  Edith was born in 1865 in Swardeston Norfolk, daughter of Reverend Frederick Cavell who was the rector at St. Mary’s church. Edith became a nurse at the Berkendael Medical Institute in Brussels which became a Red Cross Hospital for wounded soldiers after the German Army invaded Belgium in 1914.

Edith assisted in helping over 200 allied soldiers to the neutral territory of Holland, including some of her own countrymen of Norfolk. Unfortunately in July 1915 some member of the escape route team were arrested and incriminated Nurse Cavell and a Belgian man Philippe Baucqno. 

During her interrogation her German captors tricked her into revealing all by saying that her co-conspirators had already told them everything. Edith trusting her captors willingly confessed to her own guilt in the matter. As a result she was sentenced to death. 

Despite the best efforts of the neutral American and Spanish embassies the Germans decided to carry out the execution the very next day.

On 12th October 1915 two firing squads totaling sixteen men shot her and four others from a distance of six paces, Edith was then aged 50. After her execution there was a public outcry much to the surprise of the German Army and it is said that the allied recruitment rate doubled in the two months following her execution. Before her death Edith forgave her executioners. 
Her remains were returned to England in May 1919 and an impressive funeral attended by Queen Alexandra and Princess Victoria was held at Westminster Abbey. However, her final resting place was back in Norfolk and she was buried in Cathedral Close at Norwich Cathedral, Norwich. If you leave the Cathedral by the south door you will see her simple grave.

A really good website for fuller details along with more pictures is www.edithcavell.org.uk

Picture (c) by John Ashley Photography