Originally posted on History And Other Thoughts.
“Brussels will be haunted for ever by the ghost of this noble woman, shamefully murdered. I thought no act of our enemy could surprise me further. I was mistaken. This foul deed will live when great battles are forgotten.”
That’s what King Albert I of the Belgians uttered when he learned English nurse Edith Cavell had been executed. Up to the last, he thought the sentence wouldn’t be carried out. Both he and his wife Elizabeth did all they could to try and get her released since she was arrested, but it was all in vain. The Germans wanted to make an example of her. On 12th October 1915, Edith Cavell was executed in Brussels, an act that shocked the entire world.
Edith Luisa Cavell was born in Swardeston, a village near Norwich, on 4th December 1865. She was the eldest child (she had three siblings) of Reverend Frederick Cavell, vicar of Swardeston. Although the family wasn’t rich, they always shared what they had with those less fortunate than them and, from an early age, the children were taught to care for others. Edith also visited the poor with her mother and even become a Sunday School teacher. This need to help other people had a big influence on her life.
After she finished her education (she was educated at home first and, when she was about 16, attended several local and boarding schools where she learned French), she first became a governess. She worked for several families and they all seemed to like her. In the late 1890s she inherited a small amount of money and decided to take a trip to Austria and Bavaria. Here she visited a free hospital run by Dr Wolfenberg and, impressed with what she saw, donated some money to it. Then, she briefly resumed her governess work before…