lizbrownlee – poet

Poems, animal info, extraordinary women, my books!

C is for Edith Cavell #AtoZ Blog Challenge

Edith Cavell with her two dogs, before war broke out. The dog on the right was rescued after her death.

From the Imperial War Museum Collection


Edith Cavell was born on 4th December 1865 and died by firing squad on 12th October 1915.

During the first world war she was a matron of a hospital in Belgium run by the Red Cross. When war broke out, her hospital treated wounded from both sides without discrimination.

The Red Cross was very strict about their nurses taking sides or becoming involved in political activity – however, Edith gave shelter to about 200 British, French and Belgian soldiers and helped them escape to a neutral country.

With German authorities becoming increasingly suspicious, fuelled by her outspokenness, she was arrested on 3 August 1915 and charged with harbouring Allied soldiers, when she was betrayed by Gaston Quien, one of the soldiers she had helped.

She was found guilty of treason by a court-martial and sentenced to death. There was an international outcry but despite the pressure for mercy, she was shot by a German firing squad, for which Germany received worldwide condemnation and press coverage.

Edith became famous for her proclamation before her death: ‘I realise that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.’

Recent evidence and reading of documents ignored or overlooked before this by historians have suggested that the Germans were right, and she was indeed sending intelligence, when available, back to Allied forces.

She was an intelligent, shrewd and brave woman.

Edith Cavell is the subject of one of the poems in my new book, written with Jan Dean and Michaela Morgan, and published by Macmillan. If you would like to buy it, use the link below:






  1. Thea O'Brian

    I can’t even imagine being in front of a firing squad of all things. Sheesh! She was really a wonderful woman from what I have read so far.


    • No – neither can I! She was an interesting woman to research, especially as there has been new information since I researched for the book!


  2. I think I only really knew about her in a ‘legend’ sense. I didn’t know any details. You’ve prompted me to learn more. Any books you’ve come across in your research that you’d recommend?
    Jemima’s C is for Challenges


    • Hi, Jemima, I have a lot of old encyclopaedias, a copy of the Oxford Children’s Book of Famous People (bought for my daughter when she was young, but sadly lacking in females in the lists, for example no female philosophers, which made me determined to find one, and there were many!) but mostly I did it online, reading many websites to get a round picture and checking the references for validity, taking most of the info from Wikipedia as it is under CC licences where it was verified in the papers in the bottom. Some newspaper articles of new info like that of Edith.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A terrible end to a beautiful woman who showed bravery and kindness. Thank you for sharing her story.


    • Thank you, and thank you for reading, Rajlakshmi!


  4. Wow, such a brave and admirable woman. She lived (and died) by her convictions.


  5. wow..such a string and brave women..

    Launching SIM Organics
    *Menaka Bharathi*


  6. She was brave, fearless and could not betray her own convictions. She is worth remembering…amazing woman


    • Hi Birgit! She’ll certainly forever be in my mind, she’s in my new book!


  7. The first casualty of war is truth. Interesting woman indeed. I wondered why a nurse would be executed.


    • She was a woman, and strong, and I think people worldwide couldn’t believe that she could possibly have been a spy – why the historians before chose to ignore or not disclose the truth is a matter for conjecture (perhaps not to sully her reputation?) but anyhow, she was all the greater in my eyes for actually having been guilty!


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