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.