It’s 100 years since Norfolk nurse Edith Cavell was shot by German soldiers

Edith Cavell picture 1895Published with permission of St Mary's church Swardeston.

Edith Cavell picture 1895Published with permission of St Mary's church Swardeston.

Today marks a century since one of the most shocking and heartbreaking episodes of the First World War.

Edith Cavell graveside service at Norwich Cathedral. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Edith Cavell graveside service at Norwich Cathedral. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Swardeston-born nurse Edith Cavell had served in a hospital in Belgium and treated Allied, German and Austrian soldiers.

She was executed by a German firing squad on October 12, 1915, after helping Allied prisoners escape to Holland, prompting outrage in Britain with thousands inspired to join up for the war effort.

A record number of people turned out to a graveside service to honour Miss Cavell at Norwich Cathedral on Saturday.

The ceremony at Life's Green, where she is buried, was attended by hundreds of people, including dignitaries from Belgium and Germany.

Edith Cavell graveside service at Norwich Cathedral. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Edith Cavell graveside service at Norwich Cathedral. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant


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Memorial events continue today – on the centenary of her death – with exhibitions around Norwich.

The Bishop of Norwich the Rt Rev Graham James, speaking at Saturday's service, said: 'The Church of England doesn't have beatification like the Roman Catholic Church does, but Edith Cavell has certainly attained the status of a blessed one in our calendar.'

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He was sure Miss Cavell did not give much thought to her posthumous reputation, but noted: 'The night before she died it was the chaplain who said 'we will remember you as a heroine and a martyr' and she replied: 'don't think of me like that; think of me as a nurse who tried to do her duty'.'

He added: 'She enabled many soldiers to recover not just their health, but their freedom too.

Edith Cavell graveside service at Norwich Cathedral. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Edith Cavell graveside service at Norwich Cathedral. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

'Her memory is alive, her example cherished and we count her a blessing.

'Even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed.'

A procession including Royal British Legion standard bearers led to the plot where Miss Cavell is buried, to the east of the cathedral, where hundreds of people gathered under umbrellas to pay their respects.

Among the crowds were the Belgian ambassador to the UK Guy Trouveroy; Colonel Frank Hartwig, who represents German forces in the UK; General Lord Dannatt; and Lord Mayor of Norwich Brenda Arthur.

Nick Miller, chairman of the group organising Edith Cavell commemorations, said the centenary graveside service was particularly poignant.

'I don't think in all the years I've been going, which is around 20, I've seen so many people,' he said.

'I've never seen so many wreaths laid, which indicates this is a very important year in memorial.

'I found it deeply moving seeing all those Royal British Legion members standing in the pouring rain without umbrellas. It makes me think what those soldiers went through in 1914 – the endless wet.

'I found the Last Post and the lowering of the standards moving. Every time I crumple.

'It was an honour to this woman who came from my village, a vicar's daughter, and here we are remembering her sacrifice and all the soldiers who gave their lives and their futures.'

•Do you have a story about the First World War? Email ww1@archant.co.uk

•Read about how Edith Cavell's body was brought to Norfolk from Belgium

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