Things you may not know about Edith Cavell
Edith Cavell in brief
Edith Cavell was a vicar's daughter, an English matron of a teaching hospital and an influential pioneer of modern nursing in Belgium.
When World War 1 broke out she was visiting her mother in England. She returned to Belgium as she felt her nursing skills would be needed more than ever and felt it was her duty to stay in the occupied country rather than return to the safety of England. Edith's hospital became a Red Cross hospital, and wounded soldiers of all nationalities were equally treated there. Her strong Christian beliefs motivated her to help all those in need, both German and Allied soldiers. She once said, "I can't stop while there are lives to be saved". However, when some wounded British soldiers, who had been cut off from their comrades, arrived, Edith had to face a near-impossible dilemma: if she helped the soldiers she put at risk the neutrality of the Red Cross and would possibly endanger others working with her. If she refused to help them they would be in danger of being executed, along with any civilians who had harboured them.
Edith decided to help them despite the risk to herself. "Had I not helped, they would have been shot", she later said. She then agreed to join a Belgian underground movement and helped more than 200 Allied soldiers to escape to neutral territory. When the network was betrayed, she was arrested, tried by a court martial, found guilty of treason and sentenced to death.
The execution was carried out at dawn by a firing squad, on October 12th, 1915, in Brussels. Edith was still wearing her nurse's uniform. She immediately became a national heroine to the British and her death was used as propaganda against the Germans. However, Edith never wanted to be a martyr; to Edith the protection of hunted men was a Christian and humanitarian act for which she was prepared to face the consequences. Just as importantly, she is also remembered for her forgiveness.
On the eve of her execution she said, "I am thankful to have had these 10 weeks of quiet to get ready. Now I have had them and have been kindly treated here. I expected my sentence and I believe it was just. Standing as I do in view of God and Eternity, I realise that patriotism is not enough, I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone".
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