Join our campaign to get Norfolk heroine Edith Cavell honoured on a £2 coin
08:07 16 May 2014
We are today backing a campaign to honour Norfolk heroine Edith Cavell.
Edith Cavell, a vicar’s daughter, was born at Swardeston, near Norwich, in 1865.
Following her execution for helping soldiers escape from occupied Belgium during the First World War, Edith Cavell’s body was eventually brought back from Brussels to England – 95 years ago yesterday – on May 15, 1919.
It was taken from Dover to Victoria station in London. It was then carried through streets lined with people to Westminster Abbey for a memorial service.
In the afternoon, her body was taken by a special train from Liverpool Street to Norwich, where another burial service at Norwich Cathedral took place. According to her family’s wishes, she was reburied at the cathedral with a tombstone also used to commemorate soldiers who served in the war. A large memorial statue to the nurse stands just outside the cathedral precinct facing Tombland.
London has a fine 1920 statue of Edith Cavell by Sir George Frampton near Trafalgar Square and at Cavell Street in Whitechapel. In France and Belgium, Edith was a popular name for girls born after her execution, Edith Piaf among them. In 1939, Anna Neagle starred in a film called Nurse Edith Cavell.
More than 105,000 people have signed a petition calling for the Swardeston-born nurse to be commemorated on a new £2 coin.
Miss Cavell helped 200 Allied soldiers escape from occupied Belgium during the First World War, before she was executed by firing squad.
The petition was presented to the Treasury yesterday, and the region’s MPs have now added their voices to the call to arms.
Richard Bacon, MP for South Norfolk, whose constituency includes Swardeston, said: “It would be a very good idea to have Edith Cavell’s face on a new £2 coin. She was a very important historical figure and a great daughter of Norfolk. I fully support the campaign.”
His calls were backed by Simon Wright, Norwich South MP, who said: “It’s a fantastic campaign and has made a real impact. It’s now collected more than 100,000 signatures which is an amazing achievement.
“When you hear of the sense of pride that so many local people have towards her, and the selflessness that she demonstrated, her story’s all the more amazing.
“She’s a national icon, and this is a campaign I want to support. I will be writing to the Royal Mint and the Treasury asking them to consider this.”
Meanwhile, his coalition partner, Norwich North MP Chloe Smith said: “I certainly back the petition. It would be very good to have a Norfolk heroine on the currency, and a prominent woman from history at that. It would also be appropriate in this year when we are marking the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.”
The campaign also has the support of the charity named in Miss Cavell’s honour, the Cavell Nurses’ Trust, which today supports nurses, midwives and healthcare professionals in need.
Kate Tompkins, the trust’s chief executive, said: “Edith Cavell nursed all wounded soldiers regardless of nationality, saying to her nurses each man is a son, husband or father.
“As the charity set up in her name in 1917, just two years after her death, we are delighted with the support and recognition through the online petition of Edith’s work as a nurse and for helping the 200 Allied soldiers escape from occupied Belgium.”
The petition was started by Sheffield city councillor Sioned-Mair Richards after the announcement that former war secretary Lord Kitchener would feature on a coin to mark the First World War’s centenary. She said: “Lord Kitchener represents all that I have always loathed about the First World War – the jingoism, the sheer waste of men, the ‘Lions led by Donkeys’ mentality. And then I thought of Edith Cavell, a heroine of my early childhood. The nurse who was executed for giving succour to all wounded soldiers, regardless of nationality.
“The woman who is celebrated for saving the lives of soldiers in Brussels from all sides without distinction. Along with Belgian and French colleagues she helped over 200 Allied soldiers escape from German-occupied Belgium. She was arrested, tried with 33 others by a German military court, found guilty of ‘assisting men to the enemy’ and shot by a German firing squad on October 12, 1915.
“Her last words were ‘I realise that patriotism is not enough, I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone’. She did not want to be remembered as a martyr or a heroine but simply as ‘a nurse who tried to do her duty’. In the year in which we commemorate the First World War she should be honoured by her country as a woman who was one of the best.”
The campaign follows last year’s successful petition to put author Jane Austen on the back of £10 notes after a public outcry that every banknote featured a man. A spokesman from the Royal Mint said it planned to produce a collection of coins over the next five years to mark the First World War. But she said it would not be saying who it planned to feature on the coins until they were formally unveiled.
Sign the petition here
Do you think Edith Cavell should be honoured on the £2 coin? Write (giving your full contact details) to: The Letters Editor, EDP or Evening News, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE, or email EDPLetters@archant.co.uk