Edith Cavell and her Legend

This book examines the myriad identities and portrayals of Edith Cavell, as they have been constructed and handed down by propagandists, biographers and artists. Cavell was first introduced to the British public through a series of Foreign Office statements which claimed to establish the “facts” of her case. Her own voice, along with those of her family, colleagues and friends, were muted, as a monolithic image of a national heroine and martyr emerged. The book identifies two main areas of tension in her commemoration: firstly, the contrast between complexity of her own behaviour and motivations and the simplicity of the “Cavell Legend” that was constructed around her; and, secondly, the mismatch between the attempts of individuals and professional organisations to commemorate her life and work, and the public construction of a “heroine” who could be of value to the nation state.

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Edith Cavell and her Legend

Christine E. Hallett

Edith Cavell and her Legend

Christine E. Hallett

Edith Cavell and her Legend

Christine E. Hallett Professor of History The University of Huddersfield Huddersfield, UK

ISBN 978-1-137-54370-7    ISBN 978-1-137-54371-4 (eBook) https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-54371-4 Library of Congress Control Number: 2018959109 © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2019 The author(s) has/have asserted their right(s) to be identified as the author(s) of this work in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, express or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. Cover illustration: Cover Pattern © Melisa Hasan This Palgrave Pivot imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Limited The registered company address is: The Campus, 4 Crinan Street, London, N1 9XW, United Kingdom

Preface and Acknowledgements

This project took four years to complete. During its research phase, the centenary of Edith Cavell’s execution created a new upsurge of interest in her life, work, and death, enabling me to incorporate numerous insights drawn from recent commemorative activity into the work. The book’s main purpose is to trace the parallel processes of individual memory and public commemoration across a period of one hundred years, in order to offer insights into the nature of memory, remembrance, and commemoration. In Edith Cavell’s case, these processes were highly volatile, and the availability of primary sources—many of them distorted and some deliberately fictional—has at times threatened to become overwhelming. In order to bring coherence to the project, I have chosen to focus mainly on British commemorative processes, using evidence from British sources. Alongside these, however, I have incorporated material relating to Britain’s self-­ governing Dominions (particularly Canada, Australia, and New Zealand), along with some Belgian material that enabled a better understanding of the commemorative partnership that developed between the British and Belgian nursing professions. I have accumulated numerous debts. My research took place at several British libraries and archives, and I would like to acknowledge the kind assistance of librarians, archivists, and curators at the Imperial War Museum, London; the Archives of The Royal London Hospital; the Wellcome Library, London; and the Royal College of Nursing Library and Archives, London and Edinburgh. I would add my particular thanks to Porshia Boafo of the Royal College of Nursing Archives, who kindly obtained a copy of Cavell’s Nursing Mirror article, published in April v



1915; and to Jane Rosen of the Imperial War Museum Archives, who arranged for me to see original holdings at the Imperial War Museum which were not available on microfilm. I am very grateful to Emma Cavell, a descendant of Edith Cavell, who kindly confirmed that permission was not required for the reproduction of text from Cavell’s own writings. The inclusion of extensive quotations from Cavell’s letters, publications, and diary has greatly enhanced the book. Material has also been directly quoted from several biographies— notably those authored by Adolphe Hoehling, Archibald Clark-Kennedy, Rowland Ryder, and Diana Souhami, and from a number of newspapers. Of particular value has been the direct quotation of material from two British newspapers: The Times and The Manchester Guardian (later The Guardian). Collections of letters, eyewitness statements, and other manuscript and printed sources were accessed at the Imperial War Museum, London. Among the materials directly quoted in this book are letters and narratives donated by Archibald Clark-Kennedy, Rowland Ryder, Millicent Battrum, and Jesse Tunmore. Images are reproduced by kind courtesy of The Wellcome Collection, London, UK, and the Library of Congress, Washington DC, USA. The length of time it has taken me to bring this project to completion has, undoubtedly, tested the patience of my commissioning editors at Palgrave Macmillan—Emily Russell and Carmel Kennedy—and I thank them, and their colleagues, for their valuable support, professionalism, and tolerance. I would also like to thank my employer, the University of Huddersfield, UK, for its collegiality and support. Beyond that, my appreciation goes to Professor Alison Fell, the University of Leeds, for her generous advice and support; and to the anonymous reviewers who advised on both the initial proposal for this book and on an early draft. As always, I owe the greatest debt of gratitude to my family, particularly to my mother, Margaret Hallett, and my husband, Keith Brindle, for their constant support and generosity. Huddersfield, UK

Christine E. Hallett


1 Introduction: Faces of Edith Cavell  1 2 Edith Cavell: Her Life and Her Death  7 3 Interleaving Stories 39 4 Legend 81 5 Conclusion115 Bibliography121 Index133


List of Images

Image 2.1 Portrait of Edith Cavell. (Credit, US Library of Congress) Image 3.1 Propaganda Image: Edith Cavell executed by a Prussian soldier, 12 October 1915; Lettering reads: “She was glad to die for her country. Pro patria. Her spirit endureth ever!”. (Credit: Wellcome Collection (V0006911)) Image 3.2 Edith Cavell wearing Red Cross uniform lying dead on the floor, a gloating jackbooted Prussian officer stands over her corpse, holding a smoking revolver, Death with a lantern looks on. Colour reproduction of a painting by T. Cobella, 1915. (Credit: Wellcome Collection CC (V0006885)) Image 4.1 Statue; Edith Cavell, 1865–1915, Brussels, dawn 12 October 1915. (Credit: Wellcome Collection, CC BY) Image 5.1 “Edith Cavell, 1865–1915, Photograph, Daily Mirror”; Quote reads: “I have seen death so often that it is not strange or painful to me. I am glad to die for my country. Brussels, October 12th 1915”. (Credit: Wellcome Collection CC BY 4.0)



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Introduction: Faces of Edith Cavell

Abstract  Edith Cavell has been portrayed in many different ways, and this book examines her myriad “faces”, as they have been constructed and handed down by propagandists, biographers, and artists. Its introduction relates these ideas to a rigorous form of “public history”, in which analysis can intersect with commemoration. Edith Cavell was first introduced to the British public through a series of Foreign Office statements which claimed to establish the “facts” of her case. Her own voice, along with those of her family, colleagues, and friends, was muted, as a monolithic image of a national heroine and martyr emerged. The two main areas of tension in her commemoration are identified. The difference between the complexity of her behaviour and motivations and the simplicity of the “legend” that was constructed around her is highlighted. And the attempts of individuals and professional organisations to commemorate her life and work are contrasted with the public construction of a “heroine” who could be of value to the nation state. Keywords  Edith Cavell • Public history • Commemoration • Legend • Propaganda A century after her death, Edith Cavell has many faces: some physical— carved out of marble or stone; others portraits—made in pencil, watercolour, or oils. Some are realistic, others highly stylised, still others totally © The Author(s) 2019 C. E. Hallett, Edith Cavell and her Legend, https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-54371-4_1




imaginary. Some were drawn or sculpted with the intention of recapturing an accurate likeness of Edith Cavell; others were intended as external representations of what the artist believed to be her interior features: her character, her motivations, her transcendent qualities. But the most powerful faces of Edith Cavell were neither carved from rock nor painted on canvas. They were created in narrative form: mind’s eye images, emerging out of carefully constructed stories. Through these stories, Edith Cavell has been handed down through the generations since her death as a fragmentary figure—more a crowd than an individual. Although one of the aims of this book is to offer a reintegrated portrait of Edith Cavell, its other—more important—goal is to examine and analyse the multitude of “Edith Cavells” that have emerged in approximately 100 years since her death. I hope to set these against the contexts and circumstances of their times in order to offer a better understanding of how these “cultural afterlives” of Edith Cavell emerged. In a book this size, it is impossible to examine every commemoration and representation of Edith Cavell—literally thousands of such representations exist. My focus is, therefore, primarily on the ways in which Cavell was remembered, commemorated, and memorialised in her home country, Britain, although a few prominent and significant overseas commemorations are also considered—particularly in Cavell’s adopted homeland of Belgium, and in Britain’s self-governing Dominions. In his Theatres of Memory, Raphael Samuel equated history with memory.1 His perspective has been criticised by some professional historians, who baulk at any failure on the part of the historian to distance himself or herself from the material evidence. Yet, others—particularly self-confessed “public historians”—openly embrace Samuel’s approach.2 In examining the way Edith Cavell has been handed down through generations of narrators, both professional and amateur, this book draws on the idea of “public history” as a rigorous engagement between historical analysis and collective memory. It explores the ways in which individual memories come under public ownership through the processes of “remembrance”, only then to be transformed and hardened into a single dominant narrative which becomes the focus for public acts of “commemoration” and “memorialisation”. It also considers the ways in which, in Edith Cavell’s case, these processes were advanced both through deliberate manipulation by organisations such as the British War Propaganda Bureau and, more organically, through the receptiveness of British and Dominion citizens to a ‘whitewashed’ image of Cavell as national heroine.



The processes of storytelling are at the heart of this analysis. Very few forms of cultural exchange are as powerful as personal stories. Yet storytelling is a fragile medium, highly susceptible to deliberate distortion and propagandising. The commemoration of Edith Cavell is a series of overlapping stories, some more closely related to the historical evidence than others. The examination of inaccuracies within the narratives themselves is perhaps less important than the analysis of the possible reasons behind them. The earliest remembrances of Edith Cavell were introduced to the public consciousness by a series of carefully composed statements from the British Foreign Office, purportedly intended to establish the “facts” of her case: she was a British nurse who enabled her countrymen to escape from occupied Belgium; for this she was executed in spite of the protestations of neutral diplomats. Existing at the same time as these stark official statements were Cavell’s own writings and the memories of her family, friends, and professional colleagues; but these were, for the time being, almost invisible—her own voice rendered inaudible. In these personal remembrances, Cavell was both a “nurse who did her duty” and a human being who, because she was outraged by the German invasion of Belgium in August 1914, was willingly drawn into resistance activities. Following Cavell’s death, the official statements of the British government rapidly coalesced with a number of newspaper stories of doubtful provenance to produce a monolithic image of a patriotic “martyr” who died for her own country—Britain. And within a few years this image had hardened into that of a “national heroine”, who was somehow both victim and victor. Of all national heroines in modern civilisations, Edith Cavell is probably the subject of more biographies than almost any other. A number of these “Cavell biographies” claim to be serious texts based on rigorous research; others are more avowedly imaginative or novelistic writings inspired by Cavell’s life. Both types can offer some insight into the ways in which Cavell’s story has entered into the cultural psyche of British—and more generally Western—societies. One of the earliest of the more serious biographies, Adolphe Hoehling’s Edith Cavell, based its claim to veracity on the use of a number of conversations with individuals who had known Cavell personally. But Hoehling’s text is an acknowledged polemic—a biography with an explicit message. On its frontispiece, the author dedicated the book to “the many women who have given their lives in this twentieth century that freedom might live”.3 At times, the tone of



Hoehling’s text is somewhat overwrought, and he often appears more interested to present a poetic than an accurate portrait. Later biographers Archibald Clark-Kennedy and Rowland Ryder offered less partial and more deliberately dispassionate portrayals, though both relied heavily on witness testimony provided in response to newspaper advertisements.4 Much more recently, Diana Souhami offered a twenty-first-century portrait of Cavell: an image of a tragic heroine whose early life forged the character traits that would both rob her of her life and win her enduring fame.5 Very few authors have chosen to step back from Cavell’s own life and focus on the impact of her death. One very notable exception is Katie Pickles, who offers a detailed analysis of the world’s reaction to Cavell’s death through the lenses of gender and transnational history. In the introduction to her book, Pickles indicates her intention of “revealing and interpreting the sonic boom of empathy and outrage for Cavell and mapping and analysing the resulting commemoration of her”.6 This comment is revealing of Pickles’ perspective on the processes that translated what was known about Cavell’s life and death into a kaleidoscope of consequences—intended and unintended. What is most striking about Pickles’ perspective is the extent to which she sees the world’s reaction to Cavell’s execution (and the consequences of that reaction) almost as a natural process, perhaps minimising the role of deliberate propaganda and myth-­ making in the construction of Cavell’s public identity. In this book I focus on the ways in which Edith Cavell’s story was distorted and analyse the reasons for those distortions. I focus on the writings of biographers, and on the press handling of Cavell’s story rather than on mapping the memorialisation of her death. I also, as mentioned earlier, focus more on the British reaction to Cavell’s death than on the significance of commemorations in other countries—although the latter are referred to, and the relationships between the British and Belgian nursing professions are examined more closely. Edith Cavell and Her Legend is, thus, less a gender and postcolonial history than a cultural history of the ways in which professional organisations, the press, and individuals preserved, translated, distorted, and transmitted a series of narratives based on evidence that was highly open to interpretation. It focuses on two areas of tension: first, the difference between the evidence for Cavell’s highly complex character and motivations, and the simplicity of the “Cavell Legend” that emerged; and, second, the conflict between attempts to commemorate her life and ­



work—particularly within the nursing profession—and a desire to focus on the manner of her death and thus transform her into a “heroine” and “martyr” whose execution could be of value to the nation state. Ultimately, then, this book traces two long processes: one through which Cavell’s family, biographers, and nursing organisations attempted to remember her as a complex human being who experienced conflicting demands and desires, but who, ultimately, wished to be remembered as a nurse and patriot; and another, through which the state, powerful organisations, and the press deliberately selected, distorted, and embellished evidence relating to her trial and execution. In this way, it aims to cast light on the conflict inherent in two distinct processes of remembering, and, hence, to offer insight into the nature of commemoration—and of memory itself.

Notes 1. Raphael Samuel, Theatres of Memory: Past and Present in Contemporary Culture, Revised Edition (London: Verso, 2012, first published 1994), 8. 2. Pedro Ramos Pinto and Bertrand Taithe, ‘Doing history in public? Historians in the age of impact’, In: Pedro Ramos Pinto and Bertrand Taithe, The Impact of History? Histories at the Beginning of the Twenty-First Century (London, Routledge, 2015), 2; Jerome de Groot, Consuming History: Historians and Heritage in Contemporary Popular Culture, Second Edition (London: Routledge, 2016). 3. A.A.  Hoehling, Edith Cavell (London, Cassell & Company, 1958), frontispiece. 4. A.E. Clark-Kennedy, Edith Cavell: Pioneer and Patriot (London: Faber & Faber, 1965); Rowland Ryder, Edith Cavell (New York: Stein & Day, 1975). 5. Diana Souhami, Edith Cavell (London: Quercus, 2010). 6. Katie Pickles, Transnational Outrage: The Death and Commemoration of Edith Cavell (London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 2.


Edith Cavell: Her Life and Her Death

Abstract  The evidence relating to Edith Cavell’s life and death is examined in this chapter. The paucity of “original” primary evidence and eyewitness testimony is recognised. The significance of evidence located at the Archives of The Royal London Hospital, the Imperial War Museum (which holds several collections of witness testimony), the Royal College of Nursing Archives, and newspaper archives (particularly those of The Times and The Manchester Guardian) is acknowledged. Four significant biographies are mentioned: those of Adolph Hoehling, Archibald Clark-­ Kennedy, Rowland Ryder, and Diana Souhami. Cavell’s life is traced. Particular attention is given to Cavell’s own writings, including a fragment of an original diary she kept in 1914 and 1915. From her prison cell at St Gilles, she wrote several letters, some of which have been preserved at the Imperial War Museum, London. She also spent some of her time studying Thomas à Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ, before bequeathing a marked copy to her cousin, who had this version republished in facsimile as the Edith Cavell Edition. Edith Cavell was executed by a firing squad on 12 October 1915. Keywords  Edith Cavell • Biography • The London Hospital • History of nursing education • First World War escape networks • Belgian resistance

© The Author(s) 2019 C. E. Hallett, Edith Cavell and her Legend, https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-54371-4_2




Tracing the outlines of Edith Cavell’s life and work is far from straightforward. Only a handful of primary sources—letters, journal articles, and a highly ambiguous diary—capture her own voice. Significant collections of materials record the eyewitness testimony of people who knew her during her lifetime. Yet, the preservation alongside these of a vast array of sources created by individuals who never met her has left a kaleidoscope of perspectives, some more authentic than others. The student of Edith Cavell’s life is presented with a vast and confusing patchwork of primary sources, which have, in their turn, laid the foundation for a number of biographies, stage plays, and cinematographic outputs. In offering a narrative of Cavell’s life and death, this chapter attempts to peel away the multiple retellings of her story, bringing to the fore those materials which enable her voice to break through, or which give voice to the accounts of those who appear to have been genuine eyewitnesses. Nevertheless, it must be acknowledged that my particular retelling of Edith Cavell’s life history is necessarily brief, and follows a well-worn path that leads back to two significant repositories of primary material: the Archives of The Royal London Hospital, where much of the material relating to Cavell’s nursing career is held, and the Imperial War Museum, London, which holds sources relating to her later years in Belgium and to her imprisonment, trial, and execution (including letters she wrote from St Gilles prison). Within these archives, alongside Cavell’s own writings, are preserved the witness testimony of her nurses and associates, some of which is also published in earlier biographies1 (Image 2.1). Ultimately, much of what is known about Cavell’s early life is based on hearsay. Cavell’s most significant early biographers, Adolph Hoehling, Archibald Clark-Kennedy, and Rowland Ryder, all spoke to, corresponded with, and drew upon the memoirs of individuals who had known Cavell during her lifetime. Many of their source materials were of questionable provenance, and some of the details were, later, questioned or disputed by other eyewitnesses. All three had unrecorded conversations that they were, later, to cite as sources, and, although these conversations can be viewed as prototype “oral history interviews”, they were conducted without the rigour or reflection that were later to be claimed by oral historians as the foundations of their methodology.2 Certain facts are agreed by all: Edith Cavell, the oldest of four siblings, was born in December 1865  in the village of Swardeston in Norfolk.3 Biographers, from Hoehling in 1958 to Diana Souhami in 2010, emphasised the harshness of her upbringing. It was said that, although the family



Image 2.1  Portrait of Edith Cavell. (Credit, US Library of Congress)

lived moderately well, the children were always exhorted to consider the poor of the parish before themselves. On Sundays, they were expected to take part of their own dinner to needy local parishioners before they could eat their own share.4 Cavell was educated by governesses at home and then, from the age of 16, was sent to a succession of girls’ boarding schools, one of which— Laurel Court, a school for daughters of the English gentry at Peterborough where she was a pupil-teacher—was to have a significant and lasting impact on her life.5 Headmistress Margaret Gibson, having recognised Cavell’s expertise in French, was later to recommend her former student for the position of governess to the wealthy François family, who lived on the fashionable Avenue Louise in Brussels.6 Yet, when Cavell left school in the summer of 1886, such opportunities were only a distant possibility. For someone with no independent source



of income, it was a natural progression to move from “finishing school” directly into a position as a governess, and, from January 1887 onwards, Cavell spent three years educating the children of various English gentry families, living the constrained life of a governess in the homes of her charges, belonging neither with the family which employed her nor below stairs with the servants—existing in something of a ‘limbo’ between the two.7 In a response to a newspaper advertisement appealing for reminiscences of Edith Cavell, one of her biographers, Rowland Ryder, compiled an impressive collection of letters, one of which recounts the experiences of Frederick Humphry, who remembered Cavell from his childhood in Steeple Bumpstead. In a letter dated 3 September 1963, which was clearly influenced by Humphry’s knowledge of later events, a compelling image of Cavell as a kind young woman with a sense of humour emerges: She was full of fun and liked to see us happy together … she just loved us children and when the walnuts fell from the trees which divided our meadows she would see to it that we had our share … what a lovely girl she was in every way (Bless her memory). I always say Miss Cavell was an angel on this earth, she did not wait until she was in Heaven. This world needs a lot more like her. … I did have a shock when I heard of her Awful End. But she died as she had lived a very good Woman.8

Edith Cavell was 25 when her former headmistress recommended her to the François family, creating the opportunity that was to broaden her horizons and introduce her to the country—Belgium—that was to have such a significant influence on her life. She was governess to the four François children for almost five years, and was said to have been treated as a member of the family. When questioned later, her former charges spoke with affection of her highly moral and intelligent approach to their education,9 and several of Cavell’s biographers commented that it was probably during this time that she developed what was to become an enduring love of her adopted country. Yet, even though most of Cavell’s biographers agree that her time at the Avenue Louise was a relatively happy one, they present her as having been restless and dissatisfied. In 1895, she returned home to nurse her father, who had fallen ill that spring. He recovered, and a direct link has been drawn between this episode and Cavell’s decision to become a nurse. By this time, both her sisters were already working as nurses, and it has been argued that educating the rather spoilt children of wealthy families



perhaps failed to satisfy Cavell’s desire to perform what she saw as genuinely good works.10 She began to prepare herself for a nursing career in the usual manner of the time: entering a fever hospital to work as an assistant nurse, gain experience, and judge whether the work was suitable for her. The contrast between the François family home on Avenue Louise in Brussels and the wards of the Fountains Fever Hospital in Tooting, South London, must have been stark. In the late nineteenth century, aspirant nurses, from whatever class they came, began their careers by doing the most basic work: work that was little more than drudgery, involving the sweeping of floors, the cleaning and laying of fires, and the emptying of bedpans. Yet, within months, Cavell had decided to apply to enter full nurse training as a “probationer” at the prestigious London Hospital training school, which, at that time, was run by the influential Eva Luckes. Her two-year probationary period began in September 1896.11 The routine for a nurse probationer was hard: the day began at 6.15, ended with “lights out” at 10.30, and was highly regimented, involving long hours of work on the wards. Although she gained good reports from all her ward sisters, Cavell does not appear to have been a particular favourite of her matron. In her “Record of Probationers”, Luckes wrote that “Edith Cavell had a self-sufficient manner which was very apt to prejudice people against her”—a rather harsh comment from a woman who habitually wrote penetrating, insightful, and yet somewhat negative comments about her probationers.12 Diana Souhami’s interpretation of Luckes’ comment characteristically turns its subtly critical appraisal of Cavell into a compliment: “Edith Cavell had scant reference to self, and paradoxically her self-sufficient manner came from her detachment from self-regard.”13 This emphasis on self-sufficiency and lack of care for what others thought of her was deliberately built into the narratives of many biographers to provide the groundwork for later explanations of her attitude towards interrogation by the German secret police following her arrest in 1915. In 1897, while she was still a probationer, Cavell was sent as one of a group of six nurses to care for victims of a serious typhoid epidemic at Maidstone in Kent; this was dangerous, challenging, and exhausting work. A grateful Maidstone town council had medals struck for each of the nurses who cared for patients, although it was said that the celebrations accompanying the award ceremony took so long that many of the nurses had to return to duty before the event was over.14 Over 60 years later, a Mrs. Osborne was to write: “I was nursed by Nurse Cavell at the time of the Typhoid epidemic in the year 1897, I can remember how kind she was



to me, and although I was five years old, I always think of the lovely toys she brought me.”15 Eva Luckes’ typically damning final evaluation of Edith Cavell’s time at The London Hospital was that Miss Cavell had plenty of capability for her work when she chose to exert herself, but she was not very much in earnest, not at all punctual and not a Nurse that could altogether be depended upon. She did good work during the Typhoid Epidemic at Maidstone and had sufficient ability to become a fairly good nurse by the end of her training. Her theoretical work was superior to her practical. She attained an average standard in the latter, giving a general impression that she could have reached a higher standard if she had put her whole heart into the work.16

Cavell appeared to bear no grudge towards her matron, corresponding with her for the rest of her life—sending news of her work and, at times, requesting references. It is likely that she was never aware of the damning statements that had been made in Luckes’ “Registers”.17 A very different account of Cavell’s work and demeanour is given by one of her colleagues on Mellish Ward, Margaret Brand, who stated that Cavell was deeply dedicated to her work with a keen sense of duty at all times, an excellent and efficient nurse whose patients were always her first concern reflected in her ward which was her pride and joy and which she kept in such beautiful order. I was always surprised that Miss Cavell was never made a Sister but this was probably due to her very reserved nature.18

Following the completion of her training period, Cavell was assigned to nurse private patients for several months, before returning to The London as a staff nurse on Mellish Ward, where she appears to have been bullied by the nurse in charge, Ethel Hope Becher. At the beginning of 1901, Luckes noted in her “Register of Sisters and Nurses” that Cavell “was convinced that the Sister had a prejudice against her” and wanted to leave the hospital.19 Luckes recommended Cavell for a position as Night Superintendent at the St Pancras Infirmary, a position entailing a very high level of responsibility—a surprising recommendation if Luckes really considered her former probationer to be “not altogether [to be] depended upon”. The hours were punishing and the work heavy and hard. At the end of 1903, Cavell secured a more senior position, again at a Poor Law



hospital, when she was taken on as assistant matron at the Shoreditch Infirmary. Her senior, Matron Inglis, was later to comment: I knew Miss Cavell almost as well after our first meeting as I did at the end of the two years when she left Shoreditch. I liked her. I admired her unswerving sense of duty. But I never felt close to her. Kindliness and a charming personality endeared her to her nurses and her patients, but I never knew anyone who felt that she really understood Edith Cavell. One felt somehow that she had hidden resources within her. Her reserved manner in another person would have appeared to be snobbery. But in Edith Cavell it was a grave dignity.20

Claire Daunton commented that “this characteristic of self-sufficiency was one that was to impress all who met Edith Cavell and was to appear at times as aloofness and even abruptness”.21 This general trend within the later twentieth- and early twenty-first-century biographies of Edith Cavell to deliberately build an image of a woman who was “self-contained”, as well as altruistic and self-sacrificing, is very marked. There is a clear intention to arouse the reader’s sympathy for a woman to whom, initially, very few opportunities were open. Lukewarm support from Eva Luckes and Cavell’s own retiring personality meant that, in spite of her prestigious training and extensive experience, only the more difficult and challenging senior positions were available to her. In 1906, Cavell inherited a small sum of money. By this time, she was, apparently, feeling worn down by many months of steady and unrelenting infirmary work, and she decided to take a six-month break, holidaying in the south-west of England with a friend. On her return to practice she found it difficult to obtain another hospital appointment. Hence, she took a temporary position as “Queen’s District Nurse in the Sick Poor Nursing Branch of the Manchester and Salford Sick Poor and Private Nursing Institution”.22 Her appointment was to have been for six weeks, but she was asked to take over the running of the institution when its matron became ill. She remained for nine months, writing to Eva Luckes on 12 March 1907: You know, I believe, that I have obtained a temporary post in Manchester at one of the Queen’s District Homes, and that I have been working as a nurse there. I have remained since September last, though the engagement was only originally for six weeks. Lately the Matron … became seriously ill and on Saturday underwent a severe operation which will prevent her from



being on duty for several months. The Matronship is in my hands for the time being – the Committee have asked me to take charge, I feel it rather a heavy responsibility.23

The challenge of running the Manchester and Salford District Nursing Association was to be a short-lived one. That summer, Cavell received an invitation from Dr. Antoine Depage to become head of a new training school for nurses he was establishing opposite his small hospital, the Berkendael Surgical Institute on the Rue de la Culture in Brussels. Cavell had been recommended by the president of the clinic’s “Ladies’ Committee”, Madame Charles Graux, who was the mother-in-law of one of Cavell’s former charges, Marguerite Graux (née François). The recommendation was, hence, the direct result of Cavell’s previous work as a governess with the François family.24 By August, Cavell was settled as Head of what was being termed the “Ecole Belge des Infirmières Diplomées”: four adjoining houses in the Rue de la Culture.25 On 19 September, she was writing to Eva Luckes requesting that British nurses be sent out to help with the work. She already had four prospective students, but her secular school was viewed with suspicion by the staunchly Catholic Belgians. She described her efforts as “pioneer work”.26 Depage was said to have been a brilliant and influential surgeon, but a difficult man to work with, and Cavell’s first years in Brussels were stressful. The Catholic Church had, until shortly before her arrival, held a monopoly of care of the sick, and its leading figures saw the foundation of secular schools in Belgium as a threat to its own religious nursing orders. Meanwhile, although influential members of the Belgian middle classes supported the new school, they did not share Cavell’s singularly British vision of what the training should entail. Cavell found herself trapped between the demands of the Ladies Committee and the Council of Administration; the outright opposition of the Catholic Church; and the prejudices of the Belgian middle classes, who still viewed nursing as a disreputable occupation.27 But she had her own ways of working—methods and approaches that had been drilled into her during her time as a London Hospital probationer and to which she was genuinely attached. She took the edelweiss—a symbol of nobility, purity, and rugged determination—as her School’s emblem, and designed a light blue uniform for her pupils, writing in an article for the Nursing Mirror and Midwives Journal that “the contrast which they present to the nuns, in



their heavy stiff robes, and to the lay nurses in their grimy apparel, is the contrast of the unhygienic past with the enlightened present”.28 Cavell clearly identified herself as part of an avant-garde of nurse-­leaders who were pushing the boundaries of their profession. Nurses from across the developed world were promoting a particular model of nursing—a model that was assumed to have emerged with Florence Nightingale’s school at St Thomas’s Hospital, London, but which actually owed much to reforms in a range of Britain’s so-called voluntary hospitals.29 Across the Atlantic, in the USA, new centres of excellence were emerging, such as the Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, and the Bellevue and Presbyterian Hospitals in New York. US nurses Adelaide Nutting and Lavinia Dock and British nurse Sarah Tooley were writing highly political histories of their profession (grand narratives of advance and progress)30 and journals such as the Nursing Mirror and Midwives Journal, the Nursing Times, and the more radical British Journal of Nursing were compiling catalogues of achievement and encouraging members of the profession to showcase their work.31 Eva Luckes, the woman Cavell viewed has her mentor, saw her own hospital, The London, as a significant promoter of educational reform. She had, in 1895, created the first “preliminary training school” for nurses, and, despite a lack of finance and recent bad press, had established The London as a recognised centre for the development of nursing practice. Cavell appears to have seen it as her duty to take up the baton of progress—to roll out her predecessors’ programme of reform across Belgium, a young country, where, according to the grand narratives, the dominance of the Catholic religion had suppressed professional progress. In April 1908, she wrote an account of her School for the Nursing Mirror, in which she observed that [t]he object of the School is threefold; first to create a profession for women; secondly to forward the cause of science; thirdly to provide the best possible help for the sick and suffering. These first nurses of ours will in the years which lie ahead teach, as no others have ever had the opportunity of doing, the laws of health and the methods of treating disease. They will also prove to their countrymen that education and position do not constitute a bar to an independent life for a woman, as so many seem to suppose over here.32

Edith Cavell was clearly earnest in her desire to make her mark on the world as one of the pioneers of professional nursing, and she was beginning to win the respect of her colleagues. In 1909, she gave a lecture to



the International Council of Nurses in London, and in 1910, she was appointed matron of Depage’s new hospital at St Gilles.33 Her school at the Rue de la Culture now became the training school for this large and prestigious hospital, and Cavell’s work in establishing a recognised, established secular nursing profession in Belgium appeared to be gaining support within the wider community. In that same year, a Belgian nursing journal, L’Infirmière, was founded. In 1914, work began on a new, larger nursing school in the suburb of Uccle.34 By this time, Cavell had appointed trained British nurse Millicent White as a surgical nurse for the “Clinique” attached to the Ecole and Elizabeth Wilkins as her own deputy at the Ecole.35 Cavell’s professional life was not entirely all-consuming. Whilst it clearly absorbed much of her time, she also had, effectively, a family life. During her early years at the Ecole, she had taken on the care of two “wards”: young women she had effectively (though not legally) adopted as daughters. One, a young gentlewoman, Grace Jemmett, a morphine addict, had been “placed” with Cavell by her brother-in-law, Wainwright Longworth36; the other, Pauline Randall, who had formerly been touring with a circus company, was given a home at the Ecole in August 1913.37 Cavell took meals with her probationer-nurses, and spent many evenings in conversation with them. She also sent some of her Belgian nurses to England from time to time, on holiday, to stay with her mother in Norfolk. It was as if the school at the Rue de la Culture and the Cavell home in Norfolk consisted of one large, extended, multinational family. It appears that Cavell’s effective adoption of Jemmett and Randall were disapproved of by the Women’s Council of L’Ecole des Infirmières, and her quiet insistence on caring for her two wards—as well as keeping two highly disruptive dogs Don and Jack—can be viewed as an illustration of both her stubborn determination and her unconventionality. When, in early August 1914, German troops crossed the Belgian border near Liege en route to implement the so-called Schlieffen Plan, an aggressive campaign against France, Edith Cavell decided to remain at the Ecole. Later that year, when British medical and nursing personnel were deported across the border to neutral countries—the Netherlands and Denmark—the German military authorities permitted Cavell, along with Millicent White, Elizabeth Wilkins, Grace Jemmett, and Pauline Randall, to remain. This decision may seem surprising, but it was probably taken because Cavell was clearly working in a Belgian hospital, was not a military



nurse, and had never been associated with any British—or other Allied— military unit. The Belgian government and many of its people resisted the invasion of their territory, and the German army implemented harsh reprisals in some areas. Cavell once again published an article in the Nursing Mirror, revealing both her desire to continue to perform her work and her indignation at the German invasion. Her sympathies were very clearly with the Belgian people. As directress of the first secular training school for nurses in Belgium and matron of one of its most important surgical institutes, Cavell now had a strong sense of identification with her adopted country. She referred in her article to the “cruel and vindictive foe bringing ruin and desolation on hundreds of happy homes and to a prosperous and peaceful land”,38 adding that I am but a looker-on after all, for it is not my country whose soil is desecrated and whose sacred places are laid waste. I can only feel the deep and tender pity of the friend within the gates, and observe with sympathy and admiration the high courage and self-control of a people enduring a long and terrible agony. They have grown thin and silent with the fearful strain. They walk about the city shoulder to shoulder with the foe, and never see them or make a sign; only they leave the cafes which they frequent and turn their backs to them.39

Following the German invasion of Brussels, Cavell wrote several letters to her mother in an attempt to reassure her, but these took several months to reach Norfolk. In September, she wrote: My darling Mother, I am beginning this letter on Monday Sept 14 and shall send it – when one of our nurses leaves for Holland with her patient, who may be going at any time. I have written to you on every possible chance but do not know whether all or any of my letters have arrived. I am most anxious to hear from you and hope soon to be able to send you an address to which you may write. Even now I dare not tell you our news in detail as letters must be left open and are not safe as they were before the war. I hope you have not been worrying about me – for indeed everything is quiet at our school.40

Cavell’s letter hints at the dangerous work she had already begun. The “nurse” she referred to may have been Sister Millicent White, who travelled to the Dutch frontier in the autumn of 1914. The rest of the letter is



chatty and innocuous, containing news about the weather, how the nurses were making clothes for the poor, and sister Lilian’s birthday. Soon after this, Cavell wrote to her other sister, Florence, commenting that their mother had asked her to come home—adding that Mrs. Cavell “must have been horribly anxious”. She stated unequivocally that for her to return home was “of course … out of the question”. She was needed in Brussels. Life under German occupation was, in many ways, difficult. Food was in short supply, and the letter conveys a sense of living in a “gloomy”, shuttered city.41 The resistance of the Belgian people to German occupation appears to have begun with small acts of defiance, but soon more organised networks of resistance workers developed. At first, these centred on two activities: the printing and circulation of anti-German newspapers and the sheltering of allied soldiers—particularly British men who had become trapped behind enemy lines following the Battles of Mons and Le Cateau that had taken place in late August and had resulted in a rapid and chaotic Allied retreat.42 Stories told much later by Allied soldiers who had been trapped behind the German lines suggest that several patriotic Belgian citizens began to take these fugitives into their homes on an ad hoc basis, and then found ways to move them across the border from Belgium into neutral Holland. A network of “safe houses” was formed and the Belgian network linked with a similar French “escape line”, operating carefully planned routes. Among the most active of those who guided soldiers to safety were two young women, Louise Thuliez and Henriette Moriamé, from the village of St Waast near Mons; Ada Bodart, who was based in Brussels; Hermann Capiau, an engineer; Tollemache Bull, a British dentist; architect Philippe Baucq; and chemist Louis Severin. Belgian historian Emmanuel Debruyne has demonstrated that the network as a whole was very large involving a far greater number of people than have ever been named in biographies of Cavell.43 In addition to operating an escape network, the cell engaged in espionage, collating information that could be useful to the Allies, and then conveying this across the border—often in the shoes or clothing of escapees. Two members of the Belgian aristocracy—Prince Reginald and Princess Marie de Croÿ of the Chateau de Bellignies close to Mons on the Belgian–French border—soon emerged as leading members of the network.44 From the first, Cavell’s behaviour mirrored what she saw to be that of the Belgian people: it was defiant, but not aggressive. She refused to



r­egister with the authorities, even though such registration was made compulsory for all foreigners, and she willingly gave refuge to fugitives of several Allied nations when asked to do so by members of the resistance movement. It seems likely that she allowed herself to be drawn gradually into activities that later came to be viewed as classic “resistance” strategies. It is possible that she became aware of the grave consequences of her actions only gradually over time; it was, indeed, only some months after she had begun to harbour fugitive Allied soldiers that such activities were explicitly outlawed by the German military governor. At this stage, Cavell’s position was, no doubt, a complex and challenging one. It would have been quite difficult for her to refuse to harbour men at the Ecole in the Rue de la Culture.45 This is not to say that she took them unwillingly. Her subsequent actions and her writings in the nursing press suggest that she was glad to have the opportunity to resist German occupation and support the Allied cause. The first British soldiers to be assisted by Cavell were said to have been Colonel Dudley Boger and Sergeant Fred Meachin. They were brought to the Rue de la Culture by Hermann Capiau, an early recruit to the resistance network. Boger had severe leg wounds, which were operated upon. Cavell hid both men in the Ecole for 18 days, found them Belgian clothes, and helped locate guides for their journey to the Netherlands.46 Some of what is known about Edith Cavell’s resistance activities has been recounted by nurses who worked for her at the Rue de la Culture. The arrival of Boger and Meachin at the Ecole was, for example, recounted decades later by Millicent Battrum (née White), who compiled several files of notes relating to her time at the Ecole and her memories of Cavell. In the notes for an article to be entitled “The Crime that Shook the World”, she stated that she had had the privilege of going out to Brussels in 1912 to work alongside Miss Cavell, and in particular to take charge of the operating theatre. … The beginning of Edith Cavell’s end came one night as I was waiting to give her the usual report of the day. I was lucky to have a copy of “The Times” this night which had been bought for £5. I laid my report book on the table in the centre of the room, and was scanning The Times, when I heard a ring at the door to the right where Edith Cavell was in her office. The German maid went to answer it; I heard a strange voice from where I was as the door was open. Very hurriedly I bund[l]ed the Times under the table to see passing into Edith Cavell’s office three men. The maid closed the door, and I



wondered! Also very hurriedly the door opened, and out came one of the men hurrying down the passage and went off, shutting the hall door. A few seconds elapsed when Edith Cavell opened her office door, came towards me with two men following her. She briefly told me one was a Commanding Officer and his sergeant, both escaped English prisoners, and asked me to take them to my house and hide them. This incident was completely spontaneous at that time, but unfortunately as time went on, and after I escaped myself, I understand that this training school became the headquarters, where stragglers, or men trying to hide from the Germans were given refuge, and it is for this crime that Edith Cavell was shot.47

In another account, Battrum describes how she herself escaped across the border into Holland with confidential material given to her by Colonel Boger strapped to her leg.48 Resistance workers often engaged in acts of defiance as well as covert operations such as the running of escape routes. Among these was the distribution of clandestine newspapers, such as La Libre Belgique, a publication which was printed by Eugene van Doren, the owner of a cardboard factory, and distributed by, among others, Philippe Baucq.49 There is also evidence that members of what later came to be called the “Cavell Network” were involved in espionage. In 2015, Stella Rimington, a former Director of MI5, reported that she had viewed an account in the Belgian Archives written by Hermann Capiau, who stated that “whenever it was possible to send interesting intelligence on military operations, this information was forwarded to the English intelligence service punctually and rapidly”.50 This information was said to be written in ink on tiny strips of fabric, and then hidden in the shoes of escaping Allied soldiers—or sewn into their clothing. The information transmitted in this way included intelligence about the locations of munition dumps and German trench systems. In the same archive are said to be notes linking Cavell herself to a “Dr Bull”, who may have been Dr. Tollemache Bull, an Englishman living in Brussels who later admitted that he had worked for the British Secret Service Bureau, the organisation from which had been created, in 1909, the two arms of the British Intelligence Services: “MI5” and “MI6”.51 Biographers of Edith Cavell—notably Clark-Kennedy and Ryder— went to some trouble to identify the soldiers who had been enabled to escape. Ryder, in particular, insists that Cavell assisted far greater numbers of Allied soldiers than the approximately 200 she admitted to during her interrogation and trial. As a result of several responses to appeals for



i­nformation in British newspapers during the 1960s he was able to piece together the stories of several escapees, and eventually suggested, in his book Edith Cavell, that over 630 fugitives actually took refuge in the Ecole between November 1914 and July 1915. He went on to compile a “hotel register” of 67 of these, giving their names, ranks, regiments, and dates of arrival and departure.52 Among the papers of Sergeant D. Jesse Tunmore in the Imperial War Museum, London, are two accounts of his escape from Belgium following the Battle of Mons: one “a brief report on my Escape from Captivity, whilst in the hands of the Germans”, and the other “The Thrilling Story of a Soldier Assisted by Nurse Cavell”. In his “brief report”, Tunmore describes how [w]hen we entered the door, Pte Lewis and myself were shewn into her office. As I was entering the office I noticed a picture hanging on the wall and immediately remarked that is Norwich Cathedral. Nurse Cavell remarked, Do you know Norwich? I replied, It is my home, I was born on the outskirts of Norwich. So immediately the Nurse was greatly interested in me, both being from Norfolk. Nurse Cavell fed us and housed us for a few days. The date on arrival at Nurse Cavell’s was 23rd December 1914… Nurse Cavell herself took small photographs of Lewis and myself and eventually procured a Certificate of Identity for us both. We were to travel in a Covered Wagon. Our first place was TERMONDE, then on to St. Nicholas near Antwerp.53

Tunmore and his travelling companion were stopped by German guards, who informed them that their passes were “out of date” and tore the documents up. They returned to Cavell who was “naturally disappointed”. Tunmore now suggested that he should plan his own walking route to the frontier. Cavell supplied maps, helped him plan his route, and gave him money. This time he reached home successfully.54 In his rather racier version of the same story, Tunmore describes how “we returned to Brussels and to the mercy and goodness of Nurse Cavell. It was now early in January, 1915, and again assisted by our loyal self-sacrificing country-­ woman, we made our third attempt to gain liberation and England”.55 Tunmore appears to have suffered mental illness as a result of his experiences, and was admitted to hospital. His father engaged in correspondence with Edith Cavell’s mother, who replied: “I hope [he] is in a fair way to restored health – I shall be very pleased if you will write and tell me



how he is progressing at Hillington Hall, for I take a[n] interest in him for my daughter’s sake – I received a letter from Miss Cavell on Monday last and she particularly mentions your son, and is very desirous to know how and where he is”.56 Years later, in 1919, Tunmore was one of the pall bearers at Cavell’s state funeral.57 Such amateur networks as the so-called Cavell Network can be viewed as the precursors to the much more highly organised resistance operations which took shape rapidly following the outbreak of the Second World War over 20 years later. Unfortunately, because their modes of operation were quite amateurish, the earlier First World War networks were usually short-­ lived. In Brussels, the military governor-general, General Baron Moritz von Bissing, who had been appointed in December 1914 because of his reputation for ruthlessness, was particularly zealous in rooting out such networks, using counter-espionage agents. The School in the Rue de la Culture was put under surveillance in 1915. A Frenchman, Gaston Quien, who appears to have been working for the German Secret Police, infiltrated the escape organisation and betrayed several of its members, including Cavell. After the war, Quien was detained, put on trial in France, convicted of the crime of spying for the enemy, and imprisoned.58 One or two rather random pieces of evidence in various collections of papers at the Imperial War Museum in London suggest that the relationships between network members were not always what they seemed. One highly cryptic letter, for example, which was written by Ada Bodart, and preserved among Clark-Kennedy’s papers, states: There is an old English gentleman, Mr Bull, here at Bruxelles, who could relate a tale of his about Capiau; but he is so disgusted of all the injustice, that has taken place, he would not receive anyone who speaks of 1914. Please do not mention the name Capiau to me. One thing certain, any book, or newspaper, that I shall see or hear about him, speaking or writing about his work, with Nurse Cavell, I shall make it a duty to have it contradicted.59

The available evidence suggests that, although Cavell was drawn into the escape network by others, she embraced the opportunity to help her fellow countrymen, and to perform work that would support the Allied war effort. A handful of tiny fragments from a diary she kept, probably from late 1914 until the summer of 1915, indicate her genuine enthusiasm for resistance work. It is likely that the majority of its pages were lost



during the earliest raid on the Ecole in June 1915. Elisabeth Wilkins described later how she had thrown a large number of incriminating papers into a water cistern in the bathroom.60 The pages that were preserved were later stuffed into a cushion by Cavell herself, minutes before her arrest. Wilkins, Cavell’s executrix, following her execution, took possession of the cushion, passing it on to Cavell’s sister, Lilian Wainwright, who, in turn, gave it to a friend. Years later, as the cushion began to wear out, a lump appeared. Investigation revealed tiny fragments of a diary which were, in 1968, passed on to the Imperial War Museum.61 Among the cryptic notes left by Cavell are comments such as the following: 27th April: this month during which I have been unable to keep a diary has been full of interest and anxiety. … People are wonderfully generous with their loyal help – I went to a new house and there secured the services of a man who comes to take our guests of Café Oviers to safe houses and where they can abide till it is time for departure. A little widow with a big house gives shelter to some and does all the work without a servant.62

Much of the detail is gossipy in nature, offering stories about the backgrounds and wartime experiences of guides—who are always given pseudonyms. The diary provides evidence for Cavell’s deep involvement in the escape network. She clearly went so far as to recruit new members, indicating that—while not necessarily a leader—she was a very active member of the organisation. In July, Cavell became aware that her school was being watched, and realised that she and her resistance colleagues were under suspicion. On 21 July, she asked a friend, Comte de Borchgrave, to send a message via his wife, who was then living in England, to warn her mother not to speak to anyone about her. Cavell had become aware that a man, who was probably a German spy, had been making enquiries in Britain. She also became aware that the escape network was being infiltrated by German “plants” pretending to be fugitive Allied soldiers. Her message did not reach her mother until 15 August.63 Earlier that month, the military police began to arrest suspects—first Louise Thuliez and Philippe Baucq. On 5 August, Cavell herself was arrested and imprisoned, along with Elisabeth Wilkins (who was released just hours later).64 It was later reported that, during interrogation, Cavell freely admitted that she had assisted approximately 200 British soldiers to escape from Belgium, and that she also confirmed the names of other members of the escape network. In early August, she was



transferred from police headquarters to St Gilles Prison, where she remained for almost two months. She appears to have spent much of her time writing letters, which were censored by her gaolers. Many related to matters of business, but some—especially towards the end of her imprisonment—contained poignant messages of goodbye.65 In total, 34 members of the resistance network were arrested. All cases were heard at a single trial which was held between 6 and 8 October, at the Brussels Salle des Députés.66 Edith Cavell admitted to assisting Belgian, French, and British men of military age to cross the border between Belgium and the Netherlands. She was found guilty of “returning soldiers to the enemy”—an act of treason under the martial law which had been imposed on the Belgian people.67 Two of the main protagonists in the interrogation and trial of Edith Cavell, Lieutenant Bergan of the Secret Police and Herr Stober, the prosecutor, chose to present Cavell as a leader of the escape network. It is not clear whether this choice was based on persuasive evidence of any kind— and in the absence of direct access to original documents relating to the interrogation and trial, recent biographers and commentators have chosen to view it as a deliberate distorting of the reality—that Cavell was largely innocent, and had been drawn into a network organised and run by others.68 Cavell appears to have spent much of her time as a prisoner at St Gilles studying a small book she had owned since her days as a governess: The Imitation of Christ, a treatise written in the late fifteenth century by mystic and visionary Thomas à Kempis. This book seems to have held a powerful fascination for her, and, because she scored lines in the margins against certain passages during her time at St Gilles prison, it has come to be viewed as a window—albeit an opaque one—into both her personality and her ideas and feelings during her last weeks.69 Some passages appear to have enabled her to face death. She scored lines in the margins alongside: “Vanity it is, to wish to live long, and be careless to live well”; “Who hath a greater combat then he that laboureth to overcome himself”70; and “He is truly great that is great in charity. He is truly great that is little in himself, and that maketh no account of any height of honour. He is truly wise, that accounteth all earthly things as dung, that he may gain Christ”.71 Of particular interest to Cavell appears to have been the section entitled “Of Bearing with the Defects of Others”, against which she had marked an “X”; she marked a line which read: “No man speaks securely, but he that holds his peace willingly.”72 In a later section, she marked: “He that is well



ordered and disposed within himself cares not for the strange and perverse behaviour of men”, and “If thou canst be silent and suffer, without doubt thou shalt see that the Lord will help thee”.73 It may be that she felt she had been brought to destruction, not only by the German military command and secret police, but also by failures among her own colleagues. The work she was doing in her prison cell with her copy of The Imitation of Christ can be viewed as a way of enabling herself to fully accept recent events and face her death with composure. A particularly strong double line had been scored alongside the text: “Thou must pass through fire and water before thou come to the place of refreshing.”74 Cavell’s copy of The Imitation of Christ offers evidence for her desire to transcend what she saw as the human and earthly elements of her trial and sentencing—the cleverness of her interrogation, the ceremony of the court martial, and any suggestion that she should plead for mercy. This is not to say that Cavell was a conscious and deliberate martyr, but rather that she appears genuinely to have viewed the rescue of her soul as her most important mission. Towards the end of the book, in a section written by à Kempis as if quoting directly the words of God, Cavell had marked the following lines with a bold and forceful double stroke: “[T]hen with full resignation and with thy entire will, offer up thyself to the honour of My Name, on the altar of thy heart a perpetual whole burnt offering, even thy body and soul, faithfully committing them unto Me.”75 Cavell does appear to have taken this stark and uncompromising directive to heart. All 34 defendants in the mass show-trial were found guilty of treason, and all were sentenced on 11 October. Five were condemned to death, but only two, Edith Cavell and Philippe Baucq, had these sentences carried out; the remainder had theirs commuted to imprisonment.76 The executions took place extraordinarily rapidly: Cavell and Baucq were shot around 7.30 pm on 12 October—within 24 hours of their sentencing—at the Tir National, a shooting range just outside the city.77 There has been speculation as to why only two of those accused in the summer of 1915 were executed. All of her biographers have suggested that, along with her British nationality, Cavell’s quiet self-containment (which might have been read as arrogant defiance) along with her refusal to ask for clemency may have evoked the enmity of her judges. In Baucq’s case, the highly subversive nature of his work for the underground Belgian newspapers and his reported “outbursts” of anger in court were said to have condemned him. Cavell and Baucq perhaps represented “Resistance” in an overt form.



Cavell’s last letters, along with several others she wrote to her family, were donated to the Imperial War Museum after the war. Her letters to her nurses reveal that, mentally, she had not stepped outside her role as matron of their school and clinic, sustaining what can be viewed as a performance of authority and care. On 14 September 1915, she wrote: My Dear Nurses. Your charming letter gave me great pleasure and your lovely flowers have made my cell gay. The roses are still fresh but the chrysanthemums did not like prison any more than I do. Hence they did not live very long. … In everything one can learn new lessons of life, and if you were in my place you would realise how precious liberty is and would certainly undertake never to abuse it. To be a good nurse one must have lots of patience. Here one learns to have that quality, I assure you!78

The letter she wrote on the night before her execution probably indicates how she wished to be remembered: Prison St. Gilles. My dear Nurses, It is a very sad moment for me now that I write to you to bid you farewell. I remember that my eight years’ management of the school ended on September 17th. I was so happy to have been called upon to help the organisation of the work our committee had just founded. On October 1st, 1907, there were only four young probationers. Now you are quite numerous – I think between 50 and 60, counting those who are certified and have left the school. At one time or another I have told you about those early days; the difficulties we encountered even to the choice of words to describe your hours of service, off duty etc. Everything connected with the profession was so new to Belgium. Little by little one department after the other was established: certificated nurses for private cases; nurses for schools, for the St. Gilles Hospital, Dr. Depage’s Institute, Bysinghem Sanatorium, Dr. Meyer’s Clinique, and now many are required (as perhaps you will be later on) to nurse the brave men wounded in the war. If, during the past year, our work has diminished, the cause is to be found in the sad times through which we are passing. When brighter days come our work will resume its growth, and all its power for doing good. If I talk to you of the past it is because it is good sometimes to stop for a moment and look on the road we have traversed, and to take stock of our mistakes and of our progress.



In your new, beautiful institute you will have more patients and everything that is necessary for their comfort and yours. To my regret I have not always been able to talk to you in personal converse. You know I have many things to occupy me, but I hope that you will not forget our evening chats. I have told you in them that devotion will give you real happiness, and the thought that you have done, before God and yourselves, your whole duty and with a good heart will be your greatest support in the hard moments of life and in the face of death. There are two or three of you who will recollect the little conversations we have had together; do not forget them. Being already so advanced in life I have, perhaps, been able to see more clearly than you and to show you the right path. One more word: beware of backbiting. May I tell you – loving your country with all my heart – that it is the great fault here. I have seen so many troubles during the last eight years that might have been avoided or lessened if a little word had not been whispered here and there, perhaps without bad intention, but which has ruined the reputation, the happiness, even the life of somebody. My nurses have all of them need to think of that, and to cultivate amongst themselves loyalty and esprit de corps. If there is one of you who has a grievance against me I ask you to forgive me. Perhaps sometimes I have been too severe, but never voluntarily unjust. I have loved you all much more than you thought. My wishes for the happiness of all my girls, as much for those who have left the school as for those who are still there, and thanks for the kindness you have always shown me. Your devoted directress, E. Cavell. October 11th 1915.79

This last letter to Cavell’s nurses was written in French, and underwent a number of different translations, including one by Dora Wiener, a typed copy of which was donated to the London Hospital in 1919. A note on the front cover indicates that the original was located at “The Edith Cavell School of Nursing” in Brussels.80 In writing this letter—apparently on the last evening of her life—Cavell appears to have had two worldly preoccupations: first, to celebrate the progress of her school and anticipate its eventual recovery from war; and, second, to offer one last piece of advice on avoiding “backbiting”. When reading the letter, it is difficult to avoid speculation about whether Cavell believed that she herself might have been a victim of such behaviour. A number of witnesses—individuals who had spent time with Cavell in the days leading to her execution—later commented on her behaviour during those days. Much of what she said and wrote was handed down as



part of the legend of a woman who was seen as both courageous and altruistic, but who then also came to be viewed as a martyr and heroine. The German prison chaplain at St Gilles, Pastor le Seur, visited Cavell in her cell the night before her execution. He then arranged for the Reverend Gahan Stirling, the Chaplain of the Anglican Church in Brussels (an Irishman) to administer communion to her. Gahan later reported that, during her meeting with him, Cavell spoke of her feelings about death, and about her imprisonment and impending execution. There is no way of knowing whether he reported her words accurately, but the words he did report have been inextricably linked with her identity as a nurse and humanitarian. A version of Gahan’s account was included in a 1923 volume, Source Records of the Great War: Her first words to me were upon a matter concerning herself personally, but the solemn asseveration which accompanied them was made expressedly in the light of God and eternity. She added that she wished all her friends to know that she willingly gave her life for her country, and said: “I have no fear nor shrinking; I have seen death so often that it is not strange or fearful to me.” She further said: “I thank God for this ten weeks’ quiet before the end. Life has been hurried and full of difficulty. This time of rest has been a great mercy. They have all been very kind to me here. But this I would say, standing as I do in view of God and eternity, I realize that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards any one.” We partook of the Holy Communion together, and she received the Gospel message of consolation with all her heart. At the close of the little service I began to repeat the words “Abide with Me”, and she joined softly in the end. We sat quietly talking until it was time for me to go. She gave me parting messages for relations and friends. She spoke of her soul’s needs at the moment and she received the assurance of God’s Word as only the Christian can do. Then I said “Good-bye,” and she smiled and said “We shall meet again”. The German military chaplain was with her at the end and afterwards gave her Christian burial. He told me: “She was brave and bright to the last. She professed her Christian faith and that she was glad to die for her country. She died like a heroine.”81

Gahan’s account was quoted widely throughout the twentieth century, at times verbatim, with slight alterations to the original wording, and at



times in paraphrase. One phrase—“she willingly gave her life for her country”—was rapidly transposed into a verbatim quotation “I am happy to die for my country” in the world’s press shortly after Cavell’s death.82 Rowland Ryder’s carefully researched biography, published in 1975, offers a version taken from an article written by Gahan himself, in which he reveals his own feelings: “On my way to the prison I had been apprehensive as to the condition of mind in which I might find her. Distraught? Bitter? Unnerved? Full of hopeless grief? But all anxieties were set at rest on a moment. There she stood, her bright, gentle, cheerful self, always, quietly smiling, calm and collected. She seemed well in body, quiet in mind and even cheerful and gave me a kind of grateful welcome.”83 One other element of Cavell’s conversation with Gahan which is referred to by Ryder refers to her apparent repudiation of the label “heroine”: Stirling Gahan is reported to have said, ‘We shall always remember you as a heroine and as a martyr’, occasioning the reply, ‘Don’t think of me like that, think of me only as a nurse who tried to do her duty’.84 Just before her death, Cavell bequeathed her copy of The Imitation of Christ to her cousin, Eddy. She wrote on the flyleaf: Arrested 5 August 1915 Brussels Prison St Gilles 7 August 1915 Court-martialled 7 Oct 1915, 8 Oct 1915 Condemned to death 11 Oct in the Salle des Deputes at 10.30am with 7 others (The accused numbered in all 70 of whom 34 were present on these two dates) Died at 7am on Oct 12th 1915 E. Cavell With love to E.D. Cavell.85

Several of the memoirs and personal testimonies of Cavell’s nurses describe how they spent the night before Cavell’s execution trying to find powerful individuals who could plead for clemency on her behalf. Nurse Delaheine Buck, for example, wrote many years later to Rowland Ryder, explaining how [a]s soon as we could get off duty in the evening we rushed round Brussels to call on everyone who might help. The Marquis de Villalobar Spanish Ambassador representing British interests, Dr Leboeuf, Medecin a la Cour et Dirigent l’Ambulance du Palais Royal, Dr Heger etc, some we found and some were already doing their utmost. Von Bissing [sic] was at the Opera



and the Powers That Be refused to derange him. So – on the 12th Oct at Dawn we went and stood and waited in the drizzling cold rain at the gate of the Prison de St. Gilles, hoping that it was all a false alarm, but that if a car came out our Matron might see us, and know she was not quite alone and that her work would live. The gate opened suddenly, three grey cars heavily shuttered came out and drove off. Poor dear little Woman alone, and surrounded by brutal enemies.86

In a long series of letters and statements which were later published in the British press, and repeated in newspapers throughout the world, the minister at the American Legation in Brussels, Brand Whitlock, claimed to have made vigorous attempts to intervene on Cavell’s behalf. He was, however, struck down by a mysterious illness on the night before her execution—an illness which has never clearly been identified, but which prevented him from pleading for mercy in person. In his place, Legation First Secretary, Hugh Gibson; Legal Adviser, M. de Laval; and the Spanish Minister, Marquis de Villalobar, paid a visit to Baron von der Lancken, Head of the Political Department of the Governor-General, to plead for mercy. Von der Lancken was later to claim that he tried to present the appeal of the American Legation to the acting military governor of Brussels, General Sauberzweig, who refused to read it.87 The executions of Edith Cavell and Philippe Baucq are believed to have been carried out around 7.30 am the following morning, 12 October. Among the most poignant artefacts held by the British Government is a series of photographs that were smuggled across the Belgian border by members of the resistance movement in 1917.88 One shows the forbidding location of Edith Cavell’s execution at the Tir National, Schaerbeek, Brussels. Another claims to have captured an image of her grave, located in a grim, stony, unkempt cemetery alongside those of several others executed for resistance activities. On the rear of one photograph is a pencilled inscription advising that it is possible to see “au dernier 6ième croix en commençant à gauche la tombe de Miss Cavell”; its verification would have to wait until after the war, when the exhumation and repatriation of her body would become one link in the long chain of events by which her status as a national martyr and heroine was to be confirmed.89 Edith Cavell, the daughter of a Norfolk clergyman, had followed a long and sometimes tortuous path to “martyrdom”. Educated in boarding schools, and then as a student-teacher at Laurel Court, Peterborough, she became governess to the children of gentry families, before being



r­ ecommended for a position with the wealthy François family in Brussels. Following an episode during which she nursed her father through a serious illness, she decided to train as a nurse. Having undergone a period of apprenticeship at the Fountains Fever Hospital, Tooting, London, she became a “nurse-probationer” at The London Hospital. Following employment as a senior nurse at two London hospitals, she was offered a position as Head of one of the first Belgian secular training schools for nurses, run by Antoine Depage in Brussels. Here, she expressed the view that she was performing “pioneering work”, and there is evidence that she was recognised by her professional peers as a significant reformer of nursing education. Following the German invasion of Belgium, Cavell wrote both letters and articles that reveal her sympathy for her adopted nation. She appears to have been drawn fairly quickly into a resistance network that was enabling Allied soldiers (and Belgian men of military age) to escape across the border into neutral Holland. For this work, she was imprisoned and tried; she was then executed on 12 October 1915. Knowing that she was about to die, Edith Cavell left several messages: verbally with an Anglican chaplain, Stirling Gahan; in letter form to her relatives, her students, and her close associates; and in the form of an annotated copy of Thomas à Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ, which she dedicated to her cousin, Eddy. These messages were carefully preserved by Cavell’s family and friends, and would, eventually, find their way into some of the more carefully researched of her biographies. They were, however, in the short term drowned out by the outpouring of patriotic sentiment that was to follow the stark British Foreign Office statement that carried the first news of her death.

Notes 1. The Royal London Hospital Archives is now part of the St Bartholomew’s and Royal London Hospital NHS Trust, and is located in Prescott Street, London, UK.  The Imperial War Museum, London, holds two boxes of papers relating to Edith Cavell. It also houses a significant collection of photographs and memorabilia, and several files donated by individuals who knew Cavell. 2. A.A.  Hoehling, Edith Cavell (London: Cassell & Company, 1958); A.E. Clark-Kennedy, Edith Cavell: Pioneer and Patriot (London: Faber & Faber, 1965); Rowland Ryder, Edith Cavell (New York: Stein & Day, 1975).



3. Hoehling, Edith Cavell, 5; Clark-Kennedy, Edith Cavell, 17; Ryder, Edith Cavell, 3; Diana Souhami, Edith Cavell (London: Quercus, 2010), 12. Edith Cavell’s sisters Florence and Mary Lilian were born in 1867 and 1870 respectively, and her brother John Frederick in 1873. See: Souhami, Edith Cavell, 12. 4. Hoehling, Edith Cavell, 7; Clark-Kennedy, Edith Cavell, 19; Souhami, Edith Cavell, 16. 5. Ryder, Edith Cavell, 14–15. 6. Souhami, Edith Cavell. On Cavell’s schooling, see page 19. On Miss Gibson’s recommendation of her to Paul François as governess to his children, see page 29. 7. On Cavell’s career as a governess, see Clark-Kennedy, Edith Cavell, 23; Ryder, Edith Cavell, 20–26; Souhami, Edith Cavell, 23–25. 8. Rowland Ryder, Private Papers; Box 3566, Misc 263; File 1; Imperial War Museum, London, UK. 9. Souhami, Edith Cavell, page 31. 10. This is the view of several of Cavell’s biographers. See, for example: ClarkKennedy, Edith Cavell, 27; Ryder, Edith Cavell, 33–35; Claire Daunton (ed.) Edith Cavell: Her Life and Her Art (London: The Royal London Hospital, 1990), 2. 11. Edith Cavell’s original London Hospital lecture notes are available at: Edith Cavell personal papers and memorabilia; LH/Z/1/29/1 CAVELL Box 1; The Royal London Hospital Archives, London, UK. 12. Register of Probationers, Entry for Edith Louisa Cavell, 3 September 1896. Available at: The Royal London Hospital Archives, London, UK. 13. Souhami, Edith Cavell, 64. 14. Transcripts of columns in the ‘Kent Messenger’; Rowland Ryder, Private papers; File 1, Box 3566, Misc 263; Imperial War Museum, London, UK. 15. Letter from Mrs. L. Osborne, dated 20 February 1963; Rowland Ryder; Private papers; File 1, Box 3566, Misc 263; Imperial War Museum, London, UK. 16. Register of Probationers, Entry for Edith Louisa Cavell, 3 September 1896, The Royal London Hospital Archives, London, UK. 17. Typescript excerpts from Cavell’s letters to Eva Luckes can be found at the London Hospital Archives: Edith Cavell personal papers and memorabilia; LH/Z/1/29/2 CAVELL Box 1; The Royal London Hospital Archives, London, UK. 18. Letter from Margaret Brand, dated 1 May 1964: Rowland Ryder, Private papers; File 1, Box 3566, Misc 263; Imperial War Museum, London, UK. See also a letter written by the daughter of Fanny Edgecombe in the same file.



19. Register of Sisters and Nurses, Entry for Edith Scott [sic] Cavell, 1901. Available at: The London Hospital Archives, London, UK. This representation of the Sister on Mellish Ward as a very difficult woman to work for was later corroborated by a letter sent to Rowland Ryder by one Constance Henniker, who had worked on the same ward: Letter dated 1/10/1967; Rowland Ryder, Private Papers; Documents 3566; Misc 263; File 1; Imperial War Museum, London, UK. 20. This letter is quoted by many of Cavell’s biographers. See, for example: Daunton Edith Cavell, 2; Ryder, Edith Cavell, 57; Souhami, Edith Cavell, 83–84. 21. Daunton, Edith Cavell, 2. 22. These were more normally referred to as “District Nursing Associations”. The term “Institution” was used by Hoehling, Edith Cavell, 14. See also: Ryder, Edith Cavell, 60; Souhami, Edith Cavell, 88–89. 23. Letter written by Edith Cavell to Eva Luckes, cited by: Ryder, Edith Cavell, 60–61. 24. Ryder, Edith Cavell, 61. 25. The four adjoining houses that formed the Ecole are described in detail in an account written by Elisabeth Wilkins, who arrived in 1912, when the Ecole was well established. See: Typescript account, written by Elisabeth Wilkins, of her experiences at the Ecole Belge des Infirmières Diplomées; In Rowland Ryder, Private Papers; Documents 3566; Misc 263; File 1; Imperial War Museum, London, UK. 26. Edith Cavell; copy of letter to Eva Luckes; personal papers and memorabilia; LH/Z/1/29/1 CAVELL Box 1; The Royal London Hospital Archives, London, UK. 27. Daunton, Edith Cavell, 3. 28. Clipping from the Nursing Mirror and Midwives Journal, available at: Edith Cavell personal papers and memorabilia; LH/Z/1/29/1 CAVELL Box 1; The Royal London Hospital Archives, London, UK.  See also: Leeds, Edith Cavell; Ryder, Edith Cavell, 63; Souhami, Edith Cavell, 101. 29. On the professional development of nursing during the nineteenth century, see: Susan McGann, The Battle of the Nurses: A Study of Eight Women Who Influenced the Development of Professional Nursing, 1880–1930 (London: Scutari Press, 1992); Anne Marie Rafferty, The Politics of Nursing Knowledge (London, Routledge, 1996); Hallett, C.E., ‘Nursing 1830– 1920: Forging a Profession’, in Anne Borsay and B.  Hunter (eds) A Handbook of Nursing History (London, Palgrave, 2012): 65–84. On reforms at Guy’s Hospital, see: Tesseyman, S.; Hallett, C.E.; and Brooks, J. (2017) ‘Crisis at Guy’s Hospital (1880) and the nature of nursing work’, Nursing Inquiry, 24, 4.



30. M.  Adelaide Nutting and Lavinia L.  Dock, A History of Nursing, Four Volumes (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1907–1012); Sarah A. Southall Tooley, The History of Nursing in the British Empire (London: S.H. Bousefield & Co., 1906). 31. On the influence of nursing journals in the early twentieth century, see Christine E. Hallett, ‘“Intelligent interest in their own affairs”: The First World War, the British Journal of Nursing, and the pursuit of nursing knowledge’, in P.  D’Antonio, J.  Fairman, and J.  Whelan (eds) The Routledge Handbook of the Global History of Nursing (New York, Routledge, 2013), 95–113. 32. Cited by Souhami, Edith Cavell, 104–5. 33. See “Rapport Annuel du Conseil d’Administration. Ecole Belge d’Infirmières Diplomées”; available at: Edith Cavell personal papers and memorabilia; LH/Z/1/29/1 CAVELL Box 1; The London Hospital Archives, London, UK. 34. Daunton, Edith Cavell, 3–4. 35. Elisabeth Wilkins’ appointment letter along with another letter sent by Cavell during a break in Norfolk in the summer of 1913 are held at The London Hospital Archives: Edith Cavell personal papers and memorabilia; LH/Z/1/29/1 CAVELL Box 1; The London Hospital Archives, London, UK. 36. Much information about life within the Ecole was gained by Rowland Ryder from letters written in response to his newspaper advertisements. These included letters from Cavell’s former staff and students, such as Ruth Hellyer (née Moore) and Millicent Battrum (née White): File 1, Box 3566, Misc 263; Imperial War Museum, London, UK. 37. On the arrival of Pauline Randall, see Jacqueline Van Til, With Edith Cavell in Belgium (New York: H.W. Bridges, 1922), 22–23. Millicent Battrum (née White) states that Randall was taken on to be her personal maid, though later biographers have interpreted this as an act of charity. See: Mrs. M. Battrum, Private Papers; File MB/7; Box P.367; Imperial War Museum, London, UK. 38. Anonymous, “Brussels under the German Rule: From Our Nurse Correspondent”, Nursing Mirror and Midwives Journal, 24 April 1915, 63. 39. Anonymous, “Brussels under the German Rule”, 64. The article has been extensively cited in the literature on Edith Cavell. See, for example: Leeds, Edith Cavell; Ryder, Edith Cavell, 84; Souhami, Edith Cavell, 143. 40. Edith Cavell, Private Papers; Documents 2482; Box 2; File EC2, microfilm copy; Imperial War Museum, London. 41. Edith Cavell, Private Papers; Documents 2482; Box 2; File EC2, microfilm copy, Imperial War Museum, London.



42. For a detailed analysis of the escape network, see: Emmanuel Debruyne, Le réseau Edith Cavell: Des Femmes et des hommes en resistance (Bruxelles, Editions Racine, 2015). See also: Clark-Kennedy, Edith Cavell, 111–30; Ryder, Edith Cavell, 107–49. 43. Debruyne, Le réseau Edith Cavell. 44. Debruyne, Le réseau Edith Cavell, 39–48. 45. The account of Sister Elisabeth Wilkins in the Imperial War Museum argues that Cavell was drawn into the escape network largely unintentionally, because she was asked for help by her associates in Belgium, among them the Prince and Princess de Croÿ: Typescript account, written by Elisabeth Wilkins, of her experiences at the Ecole Belge des Infirmières Diplomées; In Rowland Ryder, Private Papers; Documents 3566; Misc 263; File 1; Imperial War Museum, London, UK. 46. Hoehling, Edith Cavell, 40; Clark-Kennedy, Edith Cavell, 112–15; Ryder, Edith Cavell, 109–10; Souhami, Edith Cavell, 160–63. 47. Mrs. M.  Battrum, Private Papers; File MB/7; Box P.367; Imperial War Museum, London, UK. 48. Mrs. M.  Battrum, Private Papers; File MB/7; Box P.367; Imperial War Museum, London, UK. 49. Souhami, Edith Cavell, 175–76. 50. Secrets and Spies: The Untold Story of Edith Cavell; BBC Radio Documentary, aired on 16 September 2015; available at: https://www. bbc.co.uk/programmes/b069wth6. See also: Anita Singh, “Revealed: New evidence that executed wartime nurse Edith Cavell’s network was spying”, The Telegraph, online; available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/ news/bbc/11861398/Revealed-new-evidence-that-executed-wartimenurse-Edith-Cavells-network-was-spying.html [accessed 30 September 2015]; Katy Burgess, “Nurse Cavell ‘was involved in spying’”, The Times, online; available at: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/article4555812.ece [accessed 30 September, 2015]. 51. Secrets and Spies: The Untold Story of Edith Cavell; Singh, “Revealed: New evidence”. The relationship between Cavell and Bull was probably, initially, a clinical one. Patients from Depage’s Clinique appear to have received dental treatment from Bull: Debruyne, Le réseau Edith Cavell, 45–46. 52. Ryder, Edith Cavell, 249–50; 253–57. 53. D.J. Tunmore, Private Papers; Documents 7501; Box 75/93/1; Imperial War Museum, London. 54. Ibid. 55. Ibid. 56. Ibid.



57. Photographs of Tunmore carrying Cavell’s coffin are available at D.J. Tunmore, Private Papers; Documents 7501; Box 75/93/1; Imperial War Museum, London. 58. Anonymous, “Miss Cavell’s Murder”, The Observer, 8 June 1919; Anonymous, “Betrayer of Miss Cavell”, The Observer, 24 August 1919: 9; On the identification of Quien by Cavell’s nurses after the war, see: Jacqueline Van Til, With Edith Cavell in Belgium (New York: H.W. Bridges, 1922), 153–54. 59. Dr. A.E.  Clark-Kennedy, Private papers; Documents 10,855; Box P14; Imperial War Museum, London. 60. During this “raid”, on 5 June, Wilkins herself was arrested, interrogated, and then released: Typescript account, Elisabeth Wilkins; In Rowland Ryder, Private Papers; Documents 3566; Misc 263; File 1; Imperial War Museum, London, UK. 61. Ryder, Edith Cavell, 150–59. 62. Cavell’s diary is not in the original archive box; a photograph and transcript are both in File EC1: Edith Cavell, Private Papers; Documents 2482; Box 1; File EC1. An illegible copy of the diary is available on microfilm: Edith Cavell, Private Papers; Documents 2482; said to be “Box 2”; File EC1; microfilm PP/MCR/C39. A full transcript has also been provided by Rowland Ryder: Ryder, Edith Cavell, 151–56. 63. The narrative of the convoluted and delayed journey of Cavell’s message, and the search for “a certain man with reddish face, fair short military moustache and cockney accent, who said he had a florist’s shop at Forest Hill, London” is recounted in the MI5 file in her case: File KV2/822; 12. Quotation from letter dated 28 October 1915: File KV2/822; 67; The National Archives, Kew, London, UK. 64. This and other dates relating to Cavell’s arrest, imprisonment, trial, and execution were released in a Foreign Office statement on 16 October, and reported in the British national press. See: Anonymous, ‘Miss Cavell’s Death’, The Times, Friday, 22 October 1915, Issue 40992: 9. Original documents relating to Cavell’s arrest, trial, and execution can be found at: Edith Cavell, Private papers; Documents 2482; File EC5, Official and semi-official correspondence concerning the arrest, execution, and burial of Edith Cavell, August 1915–October 1915; available on microfilm PP/ MCR/C39; The Imperial War Museum, London, UK. 65. Edith Cavell, Private Papers; Documents 2482; Box 2; File EC2, microfilm copy. On Cavell’s letters to her nurses, see also: Van Til, With Edith Cavell in Belgium, 133–34; 149–51. 66. Anonymous, ‘Miss Cavell’s Death’, The Times, Friday, 22 October 1915: 9.



67. On the charge of “returning soldiers to the enemy” and the trial, see: Hoehling, Edith Cavell, 93–106; Clark-Kennedy, Edith Cavell, 177–200; Ryder, Edith Cavell, 193–209; Souhami, Edith Cavell, 281–90. 68. Daunton, Edith Cavell, 6; Souhami, Edith Cavell, 23–71. 69. Thomas à Kempis, Of the Imitation of Christ Four Books. The “Edith Cavell” Edition With an Introduction by Bishop Herbert E., Ryle (London: Humphrey Milford, Oxford University Press, 1920; first published 1470). 70. Ibid., 5. 71. Ibid., 2, 7. 72. Ibid., 21–22; 32. 73. Ibid., both quotations on page 52. 74. Ibid., 36. 75. Ibid., 205. 76. Anonymous, ‘Miss Cavell’s Death’, The Times, Friday, 22 October 1915: 9. 77. Hoehling, Edith Cavell, 131–32; Clark-Kennedy, Edith Cavell, 223–25; Ryder, Edith Cavell, 222–23; Souhami, Edith Cavell, 326–27. 78. Edith Cavell, Private Papers; Documents 2482; Box 2; File EC2, microfilm copy; The Imperial War Museum, London, UK. 79. Edith Cavell, Private Papers; Documents 2482; Box 2; File EC2, microfilm copy; The Imperial War Museum, London, UK. 80. Edith Cavell personal papers and memorabilia; LH/Z/1/29/1 CAVELL Box 1; The London Hospital Archives, London, UK. 81. Reverend Stirling Gahan, Account; reproduced by Charles F. Horne and Walter F. Austin, Source Records of the Great War, Volume 3, 1915; Alumni Association; University of California, Oakland CA.  Available at: http:// archive.org/details/sourcerecordsofg03horn 82. See Chap. 3. 83. Rowland Ryder is not clear about which “Article by the Reverend Stirling Gahan” he is quoting from. See: Ryder, Edith Cavell, 213–14. 84. Ryder, Edith Cavell, 214. 85. Thomas à Kempis, Of the Imitation of Christ, The “Edith Cavell” Edition, on reverse of frontispiece. A photograph of the original page is available at: Edith Cavell personal papers and memorabilia; LH/Z/1/29/1 CAVELL Box 1; The London Hospital Archives, London, UK. 86. Nurse Delaheine Buck: letter to RR, dated 12/5/1966: File 1, Box 3566, Misc 263; Imperial War Museum, London, UK.  This account was corroborated by Elisabeth Wilkins: Typescript account; In Rowland Ryder, Private Papers; Documents 3566; Misc 263; File 1; Imperial War Museum, London, UK. See also Jacqueline Van Til’s account: Van Til, With Edith Cavell in Belgium, 137–47.



87. Sauberzweig was acting military governor during a temporary absence of von Bissing. Von der Lancken’s narrative of the night before Cavell’s death is recounted in his book My Thirty Years of Office, and is presented here as summarised in a review published in The Observer: Anonymous, “Miss Cavell’s Death”, The Observer, 30 November 1930, 10. 88. File KV2/822; The National Archives, Kew, London, UK. 89. The photographs in the National Archives are copies. The originals were sent by members of the Belgian and French resistance movements to a headquarters of the French Army, and it was at the request of the “French Authorities” that they were sent to Edith Cavell’s mother in the hope that they would provide “a sad but precious link with Miss Cavell’s memory”. File KV2/822; 18, 26; The National Archives, Kew, London, UK.


Interleaving Stories

Abstract  In this chapter the ways in which Cavell’s death was reported by the British Foreign Office to the national press, and then widely disseminated, are examined. The responses of newspaper editors, clergy, and members of the nursing profession are considered. The reaction to Edith Cavell’s execution was almost uniformly patriotic, calling on men to enlist in order to avenge what was seen as her “murder”. A few pacifist voices were raised, but, for the most part, the British response appears to have been markedly consistent. For the British Bureau of Propaganda, Cavell’s death was an opportunity to present the German military high command as brutal, and the view that the Germans were essentially a brutal race found its way into the letters pages of newspapers and journals. Members of the German military government responded through their own carefully worded press releases, claiming that Cavell had been legally tried and convicted under martial law—but both British and US legal experts countered these claims by observing that her rights as an accused person had not been properly protected. A large number of biographical writings was produced during the twentieth century; some of these drew on apocryphal newspaper stories as well as on the testimony of individuals who knew Cavell. In the last 20 years there have been shifts in perspectives on Edith Cavell, with greater attention being paid to the realities of her resistance work, and with a greater tendency to interpret her work—both as a nurse and as a supporter of the Belgian resistance—from a feminist perspective. © The Author(s) 2019 C. E. Hallett, Edith Cavell and her Legend, https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-54371-4_3




Keywords  Edith Cavell • Biography • Propaganda • Narrative • Women’s history The news of Edith Cavell’s execution on 12 October 1915 was brought to the British people through an official statement from the British Foreign Office which appears to have been carried by daily newspapers on 16 October 1915. The Times reported the following: The Foreign Office are informed by the United States Ambassador that Miss Edith Cavell, lately the head of a large training school for nurses at Brussels, who was arrested on August 5th last by the German authorities at that place, was executed on the 13th inst. [sic] after sentence of death had been passed on her. It is understood that the charge against Miss Cavell was that she had harboured fugitive British and French soldiers and Belgians of military age, and had assisted them to escape from Belgium in order to join the colours. So far as the Foreign Office are aware, no charge of espionage was brought against her. Foreign Office, October 16, 1915.1

The British government and The Times newspaper seem to have been anxious to convey a number of key messages: Cavell, “the head of a large training school for nurses”, had been engaged in life-saving work; yet, she had been executed; the charge against her was that of enabling the escape of Allied soldiers; and “as far as the Foreign Office [were] aware” no charge of espionage had been brought. The stark simplicity of the statement belies the complexity and subtlety of the British government’s propaganda machine in the autumn of 1915.2 Members of the Foreign Office were probably aware that they could rely on the British public—including its more influential members, such as newspaper editors and members of the clergy—to provide a suitably emotional response to their plain and simple message. The announcement did indeed evoke a powerful response among a people who were both war-weary and anxious, as death tolls on the battlefields rose. Edith Cavell’s death was a clear opportunity for the British Bureau of Propaganda. Indeed, historians have argued that the portrayal of her trial and execution in the newspapers of the day gave the Bureau



one of its best opportunities to portray the German state and military high command as brutal—a destructive force that must be defeated at all costs.3 Cavell’s execution, in handing such a powerful propaganda opportunity to the Allied governments, almost certainly negated any benefits that might have been gained by preventing this one individual from “returning soldiers to the enemy”.4 One of Edith Cavell’s biographers, Noel Boston, publishing just after the Second World War, observed that Cavell’s death had been used by British recruitment propaganda in both world wars. He added: “[P]ropaganda was a young science in those days, but the execution of Edith Cavell was seized upon by the allies and made use of to the very utmost.”5 Very little schooling of the national response was required: it was not difficult to persuade people that they must unite against atrocities such as Cavell’s execution. Historian Catriona Pennell has argued that the effect of the war itself—the first “total war”, a war which mobilised entire populations—had already brought the British people together.6 The response to Cavell’s death was a collective one, and that response moved outwards from Britain itself to its Dominions and allies, doing so with such rapidity that historian, Katie Pickles, could liken it to a “sonic boom” of outrage.7 The most obvious—as well as the most powerful—element of the collective response was a call to arms. Many of those who expressed outrage at what they saw as the cold-blooded murder of an innocent woman also made energetic calls for their young male compatriots to enlist in greater numbers than ever before. In a letter to The Times, Jocelyn Henry Speck of St Paul’s Vicarage, Bedford, declared: By this crowning tragedy of cowardice, the enemy has murdered not only a woman in cold blood, they have also murdered chivalry, so far as their nation is concerned. What will be the answer of those “nearly two million of unmarried men who could enlist without disaster to the munition supply or the national industries”? If chivalry and manhood are not extinct in them, they will make their answer as one man.8

The layering of assertions about the Germans’ murdering of chivalry with a call to arms to British men appealed to nationalist sentiment—the idea that the British were somehow intrinsically better than their enemies. The Times devoted many columns to the subject throughout the ­remainder



of October. On 21 it reported a statement in the House of Lords, by The Earl of Desart, claiming that Cavell had been “tried in cold blood, convicted in cold blood, and executed in cold blood”.9 Under a column entitled “Public Protests” it quoted a declaration of Lord Selbourne that the actions of Cavell’s judges and executioners had been “brutish” and that, when men were deciding whether or not to enlist, they should “remember Edith Cavell”.10 One correspondent asserted that “Miss Cavell has been in the fullest sense of the term a martyr, for by her death she has borne witness not only to the faith that was in her, but to the essential nature of the struggle in which her country is engaged – a struggle not merely metaphorically but in very truth for life and death”.11 Another declared: “[L]et her name not be carved on memorial stones, as one who is dead, but let her name be graved on the fleshly tablets of the hearts of her countrymen. Let the men remember Edith Cavell as they enlist in the armies of her King and country.”12 A few pacifist voices were raised. H.M.  Swanwick, Chairman of the Women’s International League, wrote in a letter to the editor of The Manchester Guardian: Sir, In common with thousands of others I have been asked to contribute to the Edith Cavell Memorial Fund. The most significant memorial which the British people could erect to the memory of this British woman would be to bring to new birth and to foster the faith in which she died, that “patriotism is not enough,” and that we “must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.” I can conceive of no more glorious memorial than that this should become the national faith, upon which all national works should be founded.13

In another letter to The Manchester Guardian, Florence Edgar Hobson observed that “patriotism, interpreted in terms of hatred and bitterness towards other nations, has brought Europe to her present tragic position. Edith Cavell has pointed out a better way”.14 Such expressions of pacifism were remarkably few—or, at least, very few were published. The tone of almost all letters and publications continued to be one of shocked outrage, infused with pride in Cavell’s sacrifice “for her country”. The reporting of Cavell’s death served political purposes beyond the mere production of propaganda. It was also used to exculpate members of the American Legation in Brussels from charges of neglect. Documents relating to the attempts by Legation staff to secure clemency for Cavell



were quoted extensively in The Times newspaper. These had been sent to Sir Edward Grey by the American Ambassador to Britain, Sir Walter Page Hines, and were released to the press on 21 October.15 They do appear to provide evidence that the German military governors of Belgium deliberately concealed from the American Legation the events that were taking place (specifically the passing and carrying out of the death sentence), although subsequent biographers—notably Hoehling and Souhami— questioned whether the efforts of Brand Whitlock were as serious as he later tried to make them appear.16 The Times’ reproduction of the series of reports and letters produced by the American Legation in Brussels took place six days after the publication of the Foreign Office’s original statement on Cavell’s death. The intention of American diplomats in Brussels in publishing these documents (and of the British Embassy in facilitating their publication) was undoubtedly to exculpate themselves from any charges that they stood by and did nothing to protect an English woman for whose well-being they (as a neutral legation) would have been seen as responsible. One of the effects of their publication in national newspapers was to create a body of “evidence” that would be used by propagandists and biographers alike to reconstruct the days and hours before Cavell’s death. Indeed, the diplomatic and political manoeuvrings around Cavell’s death have been given as much prominence in many successive narratives as any actions of her own.17 One of the letters quoted in full by The Times was Brand Whitlock’s appeal for clemency—sent after the death sentence had been passed. Because Whitlock was ill, this letter was delivered by hand by Gibson, Laval, and Villalobar: Excellency – I have just learned that Miss Cavell, a British subject, and consequently under the protection of my Legation, was sentenced to death this morning by Court-martial. Without going into the reasons that have led to so severe a sentence – a sentence which, if I am correctly informed, is more severe in this case than in all other cases of the same kind which have been tried by the same tribunal – I trust I can appeal to the feelings of humanity and generosity of his Excellency the Governor General on behalf of Miss Cavell, in order that the death penalty pronounced against her may be commuted and that the unhappy woman may not be executed. Miss Cavell is a nurse, the Head of the Surgical Institute of Brussels. She has spent her life in alleviating the sufferings of others, and at her school numerous nurses have been trained, who, throughout the world, in Germany



as in Belgium, have watched at the bedside of the sick. At the beginning of the war, Miss Cavell gave her services as much to German soldiers as to others. If for no other reason, her career of humanity is of a kind to inspire the utmost pity and to procure for her the utmost mercy. If I am correctly informed, Miss Cavell, far from concealing anything, admitted with laudable frankness, all the facts laid to her charge, and it was, indeed, information which was given by herself alone, and which she alone was in a position to give, which increased the severity of the sentence passed upon her. It is therefore with confidence and in the hope of its being favourably received that I beg Your Excellency to present to the Governor-General my petition for clemency … on behalf of Miss Cavell.

A postscript in the Minister’s own handwriting follows: “My dear Baron – I am too ill to present you my petition in person, but I appeal to your generosity of heart to support it and to save this unhappy woman from death. Have pity on her! Yours very sincerely, Brand Whitlock.”18 Hugh Gibson’s report, which follows the transcripts of Whitlock’s letters, details his personal efforts (along with those of M. de Laval and the Marquis de Villalobar) to persuade Baron von der Lancken to support the commutation of Cavell’s sentence to imprisonment.19 The full reproduction of these documents is accompanied by an intriguing editorial, written ostensibly by the newspaper’s editor, Geoffrey Dawson, but probably heavily influenced by its owner, Alfred Harmsworth, Baron Northcliffe, who was already well known for his pro-war and anti-German stance, and who was later, in 1916, to be appointed to the War Propaganda Bureau at Wellington House by Secretary of State for War (later Prime Minister) David Lloyd George. The editorial refers to Cavell as “this heroic Englishwoman”, adding that [t]here was no question of Miss Cavell’s guilt. She had confessed to having harboured British and French soldiers in her house as well as Belgians of military age, all of them anxious to join the Allied Armies, and she admitted that she had facilitated the escape of some of them from Belgium. … But the exaction of the full penalty in the case of a woman must be received, in the words of Sir Edward Grey, “with horror and disgust not only in the Allied States, but throughout the civilized world”. That the woman had passed her life in the service of humanity and at the beginning of the war had tended suffering Germans makes the crime of her execution the more revolting.20



In one deft editorial, Lord Northcliffe set the tone of the collective British response to Cavell’s death: one of horror and revulsion. He also focused attention on two rather contradictory elements of Cavell’s behaviour: her heroism in supporting the Allied war effort despite the risk to herself, and her innocent humanitarianism in nursing patients of all nations—including German soldiers. The editorial ends by quoting the words Cavell spoke to the British Chaplain, Gahan, the night before her execution: “The only friend who saw Miss Cavell after the sentence was an English clergyman, Mr Gahan, to whom she said that she knew perfectly well what she had done and that she ‘was happy to die for her country’.”21 The placing of such a patriotic statement in a prominent and widely read report had the intended effect of obliterating Cavell’s other statement to Gahan—that “patriotism [was] not enough”. The Times published verbatim the letters written by members of the United States Legation to Baron von der Lancken, on 21 August, 10 September, and 5 October, along with his brief, unhelpful reply. These are followed by Hugh Gibson’s detailed account of how he tried in person to persuade von der Lancken to intervene on behalf of Cavell with the acting military governor.22 The concern of the staff at the American legation in Brussels to exculpate themselves from any charges of failing to support a British woman on foreign soil, along with the tendency of the British government to capitalise on the propaganda coup presented by her execution, ensured that a large amount of space in the British press was taken up with verbatim accounts of documents produced by members of the legation. Whilst it is not surprising that newspaper accounts focused on the events immediately preceding Cavell’s death, this focus did mean that the British public learned much more about the actions of American diplomats than about Cavell’s own life and career. On 22 October, The Manchester Guardian carried a lengthy report, quoting extensively from the Foreign Office statement. The newspaper’s main headline was “Merciless Execution of Nurse Cavell” with the straplines “How the Germans baffled the American Legation’s efforts” and “‘Happy to Die for her Country’”.23 The following day, the newspaper’s staff continued to develop the themes of German nefariousness and Cavell’s courage and patriotism, describing “Nurse Cavell’s Last Hours” with headlines such as “The British Chaplain’s Moving Story” and “Heroic Spirit Unshaken to the Last” (Image 3.1).24 The British press was, undoubtedly, highly influential in promoting enlistment among British men. Women, too, turned their expressions of



Image 3.1  Propaganda Image: Edith Cavell executed by a Prussian soldier, 12 October 1915; Lettering reads: “She was glad to die for her country. Pro patria. Her spirit endureth ever!”. (Credit: Wellcome Collection (V0006911))



outrage into a call to arms, thus amplifying the volume of the press message.25 A letter to The Times written by Mary A. Ward commented that she had been invited to join a working party to erect a memorial to Cavell, adding that she wished to see the most influential women in Britain— including the Queen—taking a lead in such work. Choosing to reiterate the statement attributed to Cavell that she was “happy to die for her country”, Ward called for “unanimous homage to the noble woman”.26 Cavell’s sister, Lilian Wainwright, then living at Henley-on-Thames, received so many letters from women wanting to know what type and style of uniform Cavell had worn during her time in Brussels that she felt compelled to write to Elisabeth Wilkins for information on the subject.27 The St Pancras Hospital Board of Governors passed a resolution expressing its “abhorrence of the crime” of killing Edith Cavell, contrasting it with their own actions in offering a grant of £10 to a German nurse who had been working for them for several years, but had recently been deported.28 Nurse leaders joined the clamour against those they saw as tyrants. On Saturday, 23 October 1915, seven days after the publication of the Foreign Office official statement of Cavell’s death, the Nursing Times reproduced it, following it up with a lengthy expression of outrage: The announcement has shocked the civilised world. That the Germans are capable of the most cold-blooded murders has been proved again and again in the course of this ghastly war, and now they have stooped to an act which the Belgians – themselves the worst sufferers – describe as “the bloodiest of the whole war”; they have murdered a woman who had spent her strength in nursing their own men back to health. And on what pretext? That she harboured fugitive soldiers and helped them to escape. There was not, so far as the Foreign Office are aware, any question of spying; she did what any patriotic person on either side would have done had they had the courage; and for this she has suffered the death penalty … we have no words to convey our sense of the despicableness of the act. It is one of those occurrences – and there have been many during this last year – before which the imagination is paralysed.29

In the Nursing Times, Cavell comes across, primarily, as a patriot; and editorial outrage is devoted to the treatment of patriotism as an act worthy of the death penalty. The piece continues with a thinly veiled call for enlistment. The writer looks forward to the avenging of Miss Cavell’s death “by the men who are upholding the honour of Great Britain”. One correspon-



dent to the Nursing Times, Matron Inglis, who had, years previously, written to Eva Luckes commenting on how difficult it was to get to know Edith Cavell, now wrote that her former Night Superintendent had been “a heroine of the Joan of Arc type. … Naturally of a quiet and unassuming disposition … she was a great favourite with both nurses and patients”.30 For the Nursing Times, Cavell was both patriot and martyr. Yet, while her assumed patriotism is central, it is not the sole focus. There is also a powerful emphasis on her identity as a nurse; and her death is used, in part, as a rallying cry to all professional nurses to devote themselves evermore wholeheartedly to their profession. The journal’s editor declares that, as a nurse in Mellish Ward at the London Hospital, Cavell herself was “devoted heart and soul to her profession”, and adds that “her death will stimulate us all to greater endeavour, more single-eyed devotion to duty”. This point is sealed with a declaration eliding professional devotion with religious martyrdom when the author declares that “in all ages the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church”.31 The editorial ends with the news that the journal has decided to endow a permanent memorial in the form of a “Cavell Bed” at the London Hospital—a project which is then traced through successive issues of the journal, culminating on 22 January 1916, with an article carrying the news that a bed has, indeed, been put in place, accompanied by a photograph of a somewhat bemused-looking patient sitting up in the “Cavell Bed” reading a newspaper.32 Edith Cavell’s devotion to duty was, for many of her nursing colleagues, her most significant trait. In an interview to a Times correspondent, published only six  days after Cavell’s execution, Ethel Gordon Fenwick, founder of the Royal British Nurses’ Association and President of the International Council of Nurses, declared that [t]he nursing profession regard Miss Cavell as one who has died a glorious death. She could have returned to England in September, 1914, when 70 English nurses were able to leave Belgium through the good offices of the United States Ambassador, but she chose to remain at her post. She was a resolute woman, and I am sure she would entertain no fear of the Germans and would not be diverted from doing that which she believed to be right.33

Fenwick was a determined and vocal spokeswoman for professional nursing, and it is not surprising that she took the opportunity to make her voice heard in the national press at the earliest possible moment. Her declaration that Cavell was, first and foremost, a courageous and noble woman



who did not shrink from doing what she saw as her duty had resonance for other members of the nursing profession. It found a powerful response, with large numbers of nurses’ letters being devoted to the subject over the following weeks. Members of the British clergy couched Cavell’s actions as a form of noble sacrifice. Soon after Cavell’s death, Canon Meyrick preached a sermon in which he declared Cavell to be a “brave and lonely woman, inspired with noble influences [who] had nursed many wounded Germans as tenderly as her own countrymen”, adding that “[s]he broke the letter of the law, and in breaking it put the spirit of the Gospel on the highest throne”.34 Others chose to contrast her nobility with the brutality of her executioners. A sermon preached by the Reverend Dr. F.B. Meyer at Christchurch, Westminster Bridge Road, was a masterpiece of nationalistic essentialism. Cavell was declared to be of “good old English stock”, the descendant of a distinguished admiral who had served in the reign of Henry VII. Those who had condemned her to death were, by contrast, “of the military caste now supreme in Germany”. It was added that “it seemed as though dark spiritual forces were allied with the German forces at this hour. Nothing less could account for the excessive brutality and passion manifested”.35 Some of the earliest critiques of Cavell’s execution were couched in carefully legalistic terms. The British Home Secretary, Sir John Simon, speaking with a representative of the Associated Press of America on 23 October, was reported to have contrasted the execution of Cavell—a “horrible act of brutality”—with the 10-year sentence of imprisonment meted out to a woman of German descent who had recently been convicted of espionage by a British court. The woman was not named, but it was made clear that, far from merely “returning soldiers to the enemy” this offender had been guilty of “deliberate and persistent spying”36: she had forwarded intelligence as to the nature of Britain’s naval defences to the German high command. Simon affirmed that the imposition of martial law in Belgium was no excuse for the failure of the court to offer Cavell the normal privileges of an accused person: information relating to the evidence that was being brought against her; the services of an impartial defence lawyer; and a right of appeal. He contrasted the German court martial in Brussels with the current British system, which, he stated, always permitted a fair trial before (in the case of a woman) a civil tribunal, followed by the allowance of time for an appeal and the consideration of any pleas presented through neutral embassies. He pointed out that “the thing which strikes Englishmen as most incredible in the case of Miss Cavell is



the calculated indifference with which the inquiries of the American and Spanish Ministers were treated”.37 The German high command responded through the Reuters news agency, presenting its arguments for the need to execute Edith Cavell. They accused the “foreign press” of reporting the matter in “an incorrect and exaggerated manner”, arguing that Cavell and her associates had received a lengthy and thorough trial; that the Governor General had issued warnings about the penalties for such behaviour; and that “the guilty persons were sentenced in a public sitting, according to the law based on the provisions of the Imperial Penal Code and the Military Penal Code for war treason and espionage”. Most of the accused had admitted their guilt and Edith Cavell was, they believed, “the principal agent in the plot to enlist Belgians for the Allies”. They met the claim that Cavell had cared for wounded German soldiers with the assertion that she “earned her living by nursing and charging fees which were within the means of rich people only”. They pointed out that two German women, Margarete Schmidt and Ottilie Moss, had been executed on similar charges in France earlier the same year. The telegram ended by reminding the world of the “cruelties committed by Lord Kitchener during the Boer War on women and children” and by asserting that the German High Command had to protect its soldiers against “the population of a hostile occupied country”.38 The following day, Arthur Zimmerman, Under Secretary of State to the German Foreign Office, forwarded another message to Reuters, asking his readers to think what a State is to come to which is at war if it allows to pass unnoticed a crime against the safety of its armies because it is committed by a woman. … [N]o court martial in the world could have reached any other decision. … Countless British, Belgian and French soldiers are now fighting again in the Allies’ ranks who owe their escape from Belgium to the activity of the band now sentenced, at the head of which stood Miss Cavell … a Government violates the most elementary duty towards its army that does not adopt the strictest measures. … Those that were convicted knew what they were doing. Countless public proclamations had declared that support of enemy armies would be treated with the severest penalties, and even that the lives of traitors would be sacrificed. I admit, certainly, that the motive of those convicted was not unoble [sic], that they acted out of patriotism, but in war time one must be ready to seal one’s love of Fatherland with one’s blood,



whether one opposes the enemy in battle or whether one commits acts in its interest which justly carry with them the death penalty.39

Zimmerman went on to declare that, were harsh penalties not imposed, “it would open the door to the evil activities of women who often are handier and cleverer in these things than the craftiest male spy”.40 A response to Zimmerman’s declaration was published in the New York Times by a former Assistant Attorney-General of the USA, James M. Beck, who argued that the British, French, and Americans held a very different notion of a “fair trial” from that of the Germans. Having examined the German word “Gerechtigkeit”, he declared he had found that it was not imbued with a sense of fundamental and inalienable human rights in the same way as the word “justice”. It was, rather, the mere exercise of power. He went on to explain his view that no human right is held more sacred in Britain than that of the individual charged of a crime: Whether guilty or not guilty, he cannot be arrested without a judicial warrant on proof of probable cause; he may not be compelled to testify against himself; he is entitled to a speedy trial and shall be informed in advance thereof of the exact nature of the accusation; his trial shall be public and open, and he shall be confronted with the witnesses against him and have compulsory process for his own defence; in advance of trial he shall have permission to select his own counsel, and shall have the opportunity to confer freely with him. Most of these fundamental rights were denied to Miss Cavell [italics as in the original].41

The views of British counter-espionage staff were very different from those of the press, clergy, and judiciary, but they were also highly classified, and were not made available until 2002, when the file on Edith Cavell compiled by members of the Secret Service agency MI5 was opened to the public gaze.42 It seems that Colonel Vernon Kell, the Head of MI5, shared the view of the German court martial in Brussels that women spies should be executed. In October 1915, Kell warned against underestimating the effectiveness of female spies, and called upon the British courts to consider imposing the death sentence in all serious cases of espionage. He argued that it was high time we put aside all false sentimentality and talk concerning the rights of British subjects when it comes to dealing with cases of espionage. A spy in wartime wherever caught and of whatever nationality, shall be tried by



court martial and dealt with expeditiously. … The employment of women as German spies in this country is on the increase and one must consider the fact that the class of information they can acquire is very often of more value than what the ordinary male spy can obtain. … We cannot afford to jeopardise the lives of our troops and the safety of our ships by advertising the fact that the extreme partiality of the law will not be carried out against women. We are dealing with an unscrupulous enemy who apparently do not even require evidence of espionage in order to execute a woman. I am advocating no vindictive methods but in a clear case of female espionage we should not hesitate to apply the full penalty.43

But if members of British courts did not feel that they could imitate the behaviour of the German court martial in Brussels, the British government was able—through its contacts in the press—to capitalise on what was clearly a mistake from the point of view of the propaganda war that was accompanying the military one. In the autumn of 1915, the German high command was becoming concerned—with good reason—at the reaction of the world’s press. Neutral countries throughout the world were declaring their condemnation of the German military command in Brussels. An article in the Italian newspaper Messaggero declared Cavell to be “a martyr” and the actions of her executioners to be “German in the grand style”, adding that “[i]t could only be Germans. The heroic officer who shot her indeed merits the Iron Cross”.44 A similar commentary in New York Herald predicted that “the official report received to-day will cause a wave of horror to sweep over the world at the thought of the possibility of a nation which will perpetrate such a terrible thing as a mere matter of military routine succeeding in this war and dominating Europe. So long as there is a possibility of such success and such domination there can be no feeling of security in any country where popular government exists”.45 An editorial in the Dutch newspaper Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant meanwhile declared: Miss Cavell did nothing but what anybody who feels anything for his country would have done. One can only be astounded that a court consisting of men, all of them probably with an Iron Cross on their breasts, who may be regarded as having some feelings of chivalry and patriotism, and who very probably in similar circumstances would have done exactly the same thing as Miss Cavell, should have looked upon it as their duty to judge so hardly of a woman. Still more astounding is it that the punishment should have been



carried out. This event is one of the most repulsive of any that have occurred in connection with this repulsive war.46

The motif of an Iron Cross, pinned to the breast of a murderer found widespread popular support. The presses of both Allied and neutral countries were seen to be declaring their solidarity with the British people. In Allied countries, politicians were vocal in their response. The Committee for Foreign Affairs of the French Chamber adopted a resolution forwarded by M.  Deschanel, its President: “The President and members of the Committee for Foreign Affairs of the Chamber of Deputies, deeply moved by the tragic end of Miss Cavell, address to the members of the House of Commons the expression of the sentiments of respectful admiration which this noble heroine of British patriotism inspires in them and constitute themselves the interpreters to them of the grief and indignation of all their colleagues.”47 As historian Katie Pickles has demonstrated, it was in the self-governing Dominions that some of the most passionate responses were evoked.48 It was reported through Reuters that, at a military recruiting meeting at Sydney, Australia, a band had played “the Dead March” while thousands of people “stood bareheaded as a mark of respect to the memory of Miss Cavell”.49 The emotional intensity of the response to Cavell’s death did not abate with the end of the war. If anything, in the years immediately following the war, it intensified. On 24 November 1918, just a few days after the Armistice, the military governor of Western Flanders sent a telegram to the Vice President of the Imperial War Graves Commission in Belgium stating that, as soon as it had been possible to do so, the Belgian Councillor of Justice, M.  Moordecker, and the French Captain, Benoit Stein, had gone together to the Tir National and “knelt with deep emotion at the grave of the British national heroine, Miss Edith Cavell”.50 Their actions inaugurated a period of deep and intense commemoration. In May 1922, three years after Cavell’s body had been brought home for a formal funeral at Westminster Abbey and interment in Norwich, King George and Queen Mary of England visited the Tir National to lay a wreath of lilies and palms on a memorial erected in memory of Cavell and 34 others who had been executed during the war.51 As commemoration began to abate, biographical (and autobiographical) writing came to the fore. In 1922, Jacqueline Van Til, a woman stating that she had been one of Edith Cavell’s “nurses” at the Rue de la



Culture published an account entitled With Edith Cavell in Belgium. Her book appears to have influenced A.A. Hoehling, one of Cavell’s earliest biographers, and to have caused much consternation among those who knew Cavell personally. Van Til, who had emigrated to the USA in 1920 and was living in White Plains when she published her book, begins her account with the disarming statement: “I am aware that many pages of this humble narrative are not of great literary merit. But I do claim that every word of it is true”,52 and therein began an intense debate about what the “real truth” was. Van Til was one of many who attempted to recall, from memory, the appearance and personality of Edith Cavell: Her eyes were blue; they would soften while she talked to us, but would become very stern and dark, when the little maid that was there dared to interrupt us. Her mouth was expressive, the lines around it were hard, both lips were extremely thin – a trait that denoted strength of will and firmness of character. … Her movements were simple, and her little hand felt very soft when she grasped ours to welcome us to her home.53

Van Til offered a highly melodramatic and much-disputed account of the arrival of the first two English fugitives, Boger and Meachin, at the Rue de la Culture in 1914, stating that Cavell had asked her to take care of one of the men: I led, or rather, I half-carried this ragged, haggard-eyed, feeble, poor fellow to his allotted room, and give him some food which he eagerly swallowed, as he looked at me with feverish blood-shot eyes. … His body was in a frightful condition from the hardships he had gone through and there was also a wound that needed careful attention. He did not speak a word; but upon removing the remnant of what served him as clothing, I found an object, that was eloquent enough. There was an English flag wound round his breast! I instantly knew that he was an English soldier. That very moment I began to be anxious for his safety, and I thought then, as Madame told me later she also thought, that he must be concealed from his foes. I knew not a word of English. All I could say was “Vous English?” “Yes, yes”, he replied.54

From the mid twentieth century onwards there was a strong tendency for biographies of Cavell to return to the theme of the earliest newspaper columns and letters: Cavell’s identity as a nurse. Yet, it was not her actual



nursing work—including her efforts to reform the nursing profession in Belgium—that formed their main focus, but her essential humanity. Whilst acknowledging the complexity of her character, most chose to emphasise her altruism and generosity, linking those features unquestioningly to her nursing identity. The second element of Cavell’s character that was paid much attention was her inherent religiosity. Noel Boston, in a short biography written soon after the Second World War apparently at the behest of the staff and clergy of Norwich Cathedral, emphasised Cavell’s identity as both a nurse and a devoted member of the Church of England. He was scathing about the comments of other writers: Such a lot of nonsense has been talked and often. She was not [a] girl full of romantic ideas. She was in her fiftieth year and a woman of national, almost international reputation in her own sphere, one who had single-handed[ly], completely changed the scope and reputation of her profession in Belgium.55

Boston went on to emphasise two elements of Cavell’s character: her puritanical sense of honesty and her powerful sense of duty, adding that “she was utterly, unbelievably unselfish and the trouble with those around her often arose because she expected her own standards from all those who worked under her”.56 Perhaps the most controversial biography of Cavell was A.A. Hoehling’s 1958 portrait of her as a “quiet, often strict and humourless person, but with depths of consideration”, adding that “already, because of her daily facing of problems hidden from the average person, she was assuming some of the traits that were to make her an enigma in the eyes of many. In fact, to this day the few who remember Edith Cavell think of her with exceedingly complex and often contradictory emotions. Saint? Stern disciplinarian? Motherly tyrant? Mystic? Warm? Cold? Normally effusive? Silent? Naïve?”.57 On 14 December 1959, Donald J. Copeland of Angaston, S. Australia, confided to Rowland Ryder that [A.A. Hoehling’s book] is not very satisfactory and has earned for itself the opprobrium of all living persons closely associated with Edith Cavell. Both Miss Wilkins and the Princess Marie de Croÿ are very emphatic about the author’s total disregard for truth. Unfortunately, Hoehling has given too much credence to a Jacquelin van Til who in 1922 published a book in America called WITH EDITH CAVELL IN BELGIUM.  She appears to



have been no more than a semi-trained or nurses’ aid employed for a short time by the Institute – no-one seems quite sure of her function – and those who can recall her do not appear to have cared for the woman. At the most, her knowledge of Edith Cavell must have been very restricted.58

The tendency to present Cavell as somewhat humourless and introverted was a feature of biographies from Herbert Leeds’ Edith Cavell: Her Life Story to Diana Souhami’s Edith Cavell.59 Yet, mid-century biographers Archibald Clark-Kennedy and Rowland Ryder found that when they contacted individuals who had known Cavell personally—particularly her nurses at the Ecole—a different picture emerged. Mrs. Millicent Battrum (formerly Sister White) was particularly keen to set the record straight, eventually compiling three boxes of papers—notes for a book that was never published. In the 1960s, she wrote to Ryder refuting the image of Cavell both in Hoehling’s book and in a later television play based on Clark-Kennedy’s biography. She commented that many of the mistakes in the mid-century portraits of Cavell originated in the memoir of Jacqueline Van Til, a woman she herself “never could recollect … at all – she certainly never worked with me at the School”.60 Eileen Harrison, whose parents were friends of Edith Cavell and who had visited the Ecole on several occasions as a small child, commented: “I was so happy to think that you were presenting her in a more human and homely light, as the very lovable and ‘feeling’ woman she was, and as I remember her.”61 Another former nurse, Delaheine Buck was also glowing in her praise: “Our Matron gave us beautiful talks each week on loyalty, devotion, truth and suchlike subjects. Some of the pros were very young, and when I think back I find we were a very mixed crowd with at least four different nationalities, and Matron managed to weld us all together in loyalty. It shows what a wonderful little Woman she was.”62 It was difficult for Cavell’s biographers to avoid being influenced by the propaganda that formed part of their background research. Many were swayed by the thrust and language of the earliest newspaper reports. But serious researchers such as Clark Kennedy and Ryder did attempt to stand back from their evidence, and review it dispassionately. Clark-Kennedy wrote his biography of Edith Cavell whilst working as a consulting physician to the London Hospital, and his fascination for Cavell’s training and persona as a “London Hospital nurse” resonates powerfully through his text. He had already edited an autobiography, Old Contemptible, by a soldier, Harry Beaumont, who Cavell had assisted to escape,63 and this



appears to have inspired his researches on Cavell herself. Writing in 1965, just before the fiftieth anniversary of Cavell’s death, he insisted that “in no way was Miss Cavell a martyr, unless the meaning of the word is stretched to include every soldier who gives his life for his country in wartime”.64 Clark-Kennedy’s reviewer in The Guardian, Lena Jeger, MP, was moved by his book to comment that Cavell’s “real claim on the history of human progress should surely be her establishment in Belgium of a pioneer school of nursing”.65 In 1968, soon after the publication of Clark-Kennedy’s book and the production of a BBC television series, one of Cavell’s former nurses, Millicent Battrum, who, as Sister White, had run the operating theatre at the Rue de la Culture, put together several files of notes. She had been intending to use these to write a book which would set the record straight. She emphasised that, whilst Cavell was shy, she was not without a sense of fun. She seemed strict because she was so intent on doing her duty: ensuring that discipline was maintained so that the work of the clinic would proceed smoothly.66 In writing of Cavell’s work with the Belgian resistance movement, Battrum stresses that the rescue of Boger and Meachin was a “spontaneous act” and that Cavell was drawn into the escape network almost by accident. She also suggests that the German authorities had been determined to execute Cavell, had concocted evidence against her, and had “hoodwinked” the staff of the American Legation. Many of Battrum’s views must have arisen from speculation, conversations with Elisabeth Wilkins, or readings of newspaper columns, because, as “Sister White”, she had left the clinic several months before Cavell’s arrest.67 Nevertheless, her perspective is valuable for its emphasis on what Battrum saw as “the truth” about Cavell herself: I write this book not from any personal inclination but because so many friends and relations have told me so often that I should. … Recently I have read several versions of books written about Miss Edith Cavell which I do not altogether agree with because I knew her so personally, and seeing for myself on TV being impersonated by someone who had absolutely nothing to do with my surgical house 147 Rue de la Culture Brussels whilst I was in the country. The thing, however, which has urged me most has been the very severe image given to Miss Cavell, which I would like to explain to those who did not know her so well, and the fact that having telephoned the BBC whilst their programme was on the screen to let them know that it was not authentic, I was informed that as it was pre-recorded it was not possible to do anything about it, it having been taken from a book. The last author



who wrote “Edith Cavell, Pioneer and Patriot”, Dr. A.E. Clark-Kennedy, who happened to hear of me after his book was in the hands of the publishers, by chance, said he was bound to change what he could having found proof amongst my papers when he hurridly [sic] came one morning by train from Cambridge to see me. I trust those who read this book, are glad to learn of such a Patriot and great leader, will also be glad to learn of a more true image, than has been portrayed.68

For whatever reason, Millicent Battrum never completed her book, though she did place a full, unedited, manuscript, Edith Cavell: A True Portrait, at the Imperial War Museum, London. Her main concern was to bring the “real” Edith Cavell to public attention, and her final manuscript contains a carefully drawn portrait, included as part of a description of her first meeting with Cavell: As she spoke to me, I could perceive fatigue in her blue-grey eyes, although these often twinkled brightly. Her face was quite small but full of character, her chin slightly tilted to the left. Her whole face lit up when she smiled. Her hair was almost grey and was brushed up from her forehead then rolled into a bun to the level of the top of her ears. … Listening to her, as she told me of what she had tried to achieve, I felt she could be a real inspiration to anyone who worked with her, providing that person was as hardworking as she herself was.69

Cavell’s other senior nurse at the Rue de la Culture, Sister Elisabeth Wilkins, appears to have communicated with almost every one of Cavell’s biographers, and one can only speculate about the toll on her own emotional well-being of the telling and retelling of her story. Wilkins’ account does confirm the more withdrawn and reserved image of Cavell portrayed in most biographies: When I met Miss Cavell, I found her to be slight, of medium height with dark hair, turning silver, brushed straight back under her plain Sister Dora cap. She had a rather severe expression, which disappeared when she smiled – which happened rarely. She loved flowers and animals and was especially devoted to her Belgian sheepdog, “Jackie”. “Jackie” adored his mistress but I fear had not the same tenderness for others and he usually took a nip at any stranger if he got the chance. … Speaking of Miss Cavell personally, I believe her work contented her. She had few friends – her vocation was so confining as to give her little time for the cultivation of friendships and she did not make friends easily and could not give herself in casual friendships. Her inti-



mate companionship was reserved for the very few. To all her patients and nursing staff she was thoughtful, pleasant and sympathetic, but she lived a very withdrawn life and at times was a very lonely figure. … She was endowed with limitless energy and patience which enabled her to carry through what she conceived to be her duty.70

Noel Boston uses an account offered by Elizabeth Wilkins in his biography. In doing so, he produces a complex layering of narratives, repeating, for example, a story of a visit to Cavell in prison, in which Wilkins speculates about what Cavell is thinking: As she walked away from me that afternoon, I remember how erectly she carried her slight body. Her whole bearing was calm and composed as though she said, “At last the end has come. I can’t say I’m sorry, this waiting, waiting, this uncertainty has been a great strain. I have done what was my duty. They must do with me what they will”.71

The repetition of such speculation about what might have been in Cavell’s mind is characteristic of almost every biography. But the attempt to understand her inner life is often framed within the myth of the heroine-­ martyr.72 In 1960, Elizabeth Grey dedicated her book Friend Within the Gates to Wilkins, with the following dedication: “For ‘Sister’ Elizabeth Wilkins, O.B.E. who remembers so well, the events of the night of October 11th, 1915.”73 Most biographies of Cavell are heavily dependent on the witness testimony of individuals who were personally acquainted with her—as relatives, friends, neighbours, professional colleagues, or students. The most famous testimony is that of Gahan, the chaplain who was with her the night before her death, and who repeated her famous words about patriotism. From Boston and Hoehling onwards the purpose of biographers in seeking out witness testimony was not so much to discover or confirm the sequence of events leading to Cavell’s death, but rather to unearth—or perhaps, rather to reconstruct—her character, and to reveal its tragic almost self-destructive elements. In an era before the emergence of “oral history” as a rigorous pursuit, these discussions—often conducted by exchanges of letters, rather than as direct conversations—appear to have been pursued unreflectively, published by one author and then uncritically repeated by others.



Cavell’s honesty and sense of duty are highlighted in all the biographies. Two stories dating from her time with the François family in Brussels have been cited by almost every biographer, and it is not clear exactly where they originated. One relates an episode that is said to have happened one day when Madame François, Cavell’s employer, wanted to be undisturbed by visitors. Cavell is supposed to have refused to lie to any guests who might call by stating that her employer was away from home. Rowland Ryder refutes this story—dismissing it as a myth. He had written to members of the François family, who had insisted that this story was apocryphal, although they did confirm Cavell’s “strong feelings about telling the truth”.74 Another story that was, however, confirmed by the family was that Cavell had abruptly left the dining room in protest when Monsieur François had insulted the British Queen Victoria one evening over dinner. Such stories were frequently retold, providing, as they did, useful symbols of particular character traits—in these instances, Cavell’s honesty and patriotism.75 All of Cavell’s biographers emphasise how ideally suited she was to a career as a professional nurse, though few offer any detail about her nursing work. Her self-sacrificing nature—developed through years of learning to put others before herself—is viewed from authors such as Noel Boston, apparently writing just after the Second World War, through to Diana Souhami in 2010 as an ideal qualification for professional nursing.76 Much is made of a letter Cavell wrote to her cousin, Eddy, while working as governess to the François family in the 1890s: Being a governess is only temporary, but someday, somehow, I am going to do something useful. I don’t know what it will be. I only know that it will be something for people. They are, most of them, so helpless, so hurt and unhappy.77

The letter is employed to reveal both Cavell’s genuine compassion towards other human beings and her sense of duty—her powerful desire to do “good works”. Typically, this desire is interpreted as an attribute that was instilled into Cavell during her rather fierce upbringing. Her father’s insistence that the children serve the community first and consider their own interests only second is said to have evoked a response in Cavell that lasted for the rest of her life. In 1895, although she had a comfortable life as governess to the sympathetic and generous François family, she gave up her position in Brussels when she heard about her father’s illness,



returning home to nurse him back to health. The influence of a loving— yet rather harsh and oppressive—father is woven into several biographies. Diana Souhami interprets Cavell’s care of her father in 1895 as a turning point in her life—both because it gave her an insight into the satisfaction of caring for another, and because it somehow enabled her to extract herself from his typically Victorian brand of patriarchal, authoritarian control and embark on an independent career as a nurse.78 In presenting this somewhat contradictory argument of both devotion and liberation, Souhami was probably the first of Cavell’s biographers to bring a distinctly—though not overtly—feminist tone to her portrayal. One of the episodes in Cavell’s life that evokes the greatest admiration from her biographers is the brief nine-month period when she was temporary matron of the Manchester and Salford District Nursing Association. The work was said to have been very “heavy”, and the branch short-­ staffed. Rowland Ryder paints a grim picture of life in the district nurses’ home, Bradford House, “a gloomy building cut off from the road by a high wall: the winding gear of a coalmine … the only view from the windows”.79 A.A. Hoehling offers a more romantic perspective. He had conferred with one of Cavell’s former patients, Annie Kent, who, now living in Montreal, appears to have been reaching for authentic memories through a veil created by the propaganda and memorialisation of the preceding four decades: I can see her now, her cape and black bag, hurrying through the streets of Manchester. People would look up and say “There goes Nurse Cavell!” She was very kind to the poor or anybody who needed help. She nursed them all. She lent clothing for newborn babies; bedding, blankets, chairs, bed rests, hot water bottles  – her only condition, that they be returned clean. … After she left, they called her the “poor man’s Nightingale” in Manchester, and her picture was in almost every house.80

Hoehling compiled a particularly compelling series of witness accounts, the most interesting of which are inserted at the end of his book. One— the testimony of Mademoiselle Marie Bihet, a later successor of Cavell as head of the Ecole des Infirmières Diplomées—cast an interesting light on the extent to which Cavell’s work, and its physical and emotional impact, might have influenced her behaviour:



I am almost sure that this straight and loyal soul had no secret. But knowing more or less what it means to be at the head of such an institution, with very little support from her Board, with practically no means, very little help from untrained nurses, in a foreign country, during a war, under the German tyranny, with the anxiety of hiding Allied soldiers, I know what it means, since I have been through those circumstances. Maybe not all of those things were so acute, but I must confess that I have felt at times that death could be a relief. But when I compared how much the situation has improved since Miss Cavell gave her life for the nursing profession, I felt ashamed of myself for the lack of courage.81

Hoehling also corresponded with Princess Marie de Croÿ, who had been at the heart of the escape network served by Cavell. De Croÿ emphasised Cavell’s puritanical honesty, but contradicted Bihet’s suggestion that she was fatalistic: “She was an earnest Christian and acted from a sense of humanity and duty. I do not think she did not care if she lived. She took every precaution both for herself and for me, but duty came first, and she was too puritanically truthful to be able to defend herself against the police.”82 Hoehling also cites Jacqueline Van Til, whose explanation of Cavell’s failure to defend herself more vigorously was both mystical and controversial: Madame felt her goal had been attained that morning in October 1915. How better could she summon attention to the terrible conditions in nursing schools, the poverty, the difficulties with the trainees – like myself – with the doctors? How could she better serve and dramatize the needs and the difficulties than by her own execution? If she had somehow bargained with her captors for release, she would not have been welcomed back at her school. She had hidden soldiers and focused unpleasant notoriety upon the Institute. I am sure the governing body would have sent her back to England in disgrace. Also her heart. When would she have another attack? And would it be fatal? In death, her goal would be achieved. I am sure she felt her mission in life had already been accomplished – which was the service of humanity, through the service of nursing. Consciously or unconsciously, she was a seeker after immortality. Indeed, even while among us, she must have heard eternity call – though it were but a whisper – and she recognised it.83

Van Til’s suggestion that Cavell was suffering from a heart condition is not corroborated by any other author.



When Roland Ryder was researching his (1975) biography of Cavell, he placed advertisements in several newspapers, inviting individuals who had known her to come forward with information. A remarkable range of insights was offered—from those now in their eighties or nineties, who had known Cavell at Swardeston or Steeple Bumpstead when they were children, through former fellow-students at The London Hospital and young women of all nationalities who had attended her Ecole, to former soldiers she had helped escape. Many were anxious to correct Hoehling’s view of Cavell, emphasising that, although quiet and restrained in her manner, she did have a sense of humour. In 1990 the focus on Cavell as a nurse—and the creation of an identity for her as a “London Hospital nurse”—was strengthened by the production of a new brief biography to which the so-called Special Trustees of the hospital lent their financial support. Edith Cavell: Her Life and Her Art offers an intriguing dual emphasis, focusing on both Cavell’s nursing work and her artistic talent. Ownership of the work was claimed by the hospital itself, while its author Claire Daunton’s name was placed discretely inside the back cover with the designation: “Editor for the Royal London”. Daunton declared that the aims of the book were to commemorate “[Edith Cavell’s] life of devotion to nursing, to nurse education, and to the improvement of the quality of medical care in Belgium … the training she received at the London Hospital … and her talent as an artist”.84 A selection of Cavell’s watercolour paintings was included at the back of the short volume. Daunton went to some pains to present an image of Edith Cavell that was quite different from that of the earlier—more hagiographical—biographies. When recounting Cavell’s response to the invasion of Belgium, for example, she wrote of her subject’s “quiet, calm, strong determination to do what she thought right without fear of the consequences and without trace of any idealistic heroism”,85 but she also acknowledged the tensions inherent in what she saw as Cavell’s two most important contributions in Belgium: the establishing of a significant professional nursing school, and involvement in a resistance network. She suggested that Cavell’s resistance work had been thought by her employers in Brussels to be bringing the St Gilles Hospital and the Ecole into disrepute. The Royal London Hospital also supported another, later, brief biography: the hospital’s Archivist, Jonathan Evans, produced a narrative biography of her life and work, emphasising her nursing career.86



Cavell’s apparent failure to protect either herself or her fellow resistance workers is one of the more uncomfortable elements of her story for her biographers, though copies of German documents at the Imperial War Museum in London suggest that much of this evidence may, in fact, have been fabricated.87 A three-act play written and performed in 1933 contains a brief, fictional exchange between Cavell and Gahan in her cell the night before her execution, which offers an interesting attempt to rationalise Cavell’s confession: CHAPLAIN: My friend, is it true that you told them how you had helped our poor fellows? CAVELL: Quite true. CHAPLAIN: They put pressure on you? They drew false conclusions from what you said? CAVELL: No. I answered the officers’ questions frankly and sincerely. I think they misled me by telling me that they knew everything already. That wasn’t true. – Of course, I don’t know all they said at the court-martial because I don’t understand much German. CHAPLAIN: Then it wasn’t a fair trial. CAVELL: I expect they think it was.88 Diana Souhami offers a fairly detailed analysis of what is known of Cavell’s interrogation at the hands of Lieutenant Bergan, Head of Espionage; Sergeant Pinkhoff, Chief Officer of Criminal Investigation; and Sergeant Neuhaus. She points out that questions were asked in German by Bergan, and responded to in French by Cavell, with Pinkhoff translating and Neuhaus taking notes. The statement she was later told to sign, and which was presented to the court, was in German, a language of which she had hardly any knowledge.89 Several authors suggest that Cavell’s interrogation at the hands of the Secret Police was highly likely to have employed either direct coercion or trickery in order to prise more details and names from her than she might otherwise have divulged. Elisabeth Grey’s 1960 biography written for “young people” offers a fictional narrative relating the means used to push Cavell into admitting that the men she had “returned to the enemy” did, indeed, reach their homeland:



“Do you think these men were grateful for what you did?” There was a sneer in the voice of her inquisitor. “Do you think for one moment they gave another thought to the woman who risked her life for them?” “I know they were grateful,” Edith replied, stung by the suggestion. “How?” There was a barely-concealed eagerness in the man’s voice. “They wrote and told me that they had arrived safely at their destination and thanked me for the help I had given them. A sigh went through the empty room; a sigh of mingled triumph and incredulity. Could any woman be so foolish as to knock the nails into her own coffin with such a confession? Only a very simple one, their ­contemptuous glances seemed to say. But in that respect Edith Cavell was very simple. She did not understand the tortuous twists and turns of the Prussian mind. Even after the experiences of the past year, truth and right were still, to her, immovable, intransmutable [sic] and eternal. If she broke the laws of the Germans, they might punish her body. If she broke her own laws, and those of God, she would destroy her soul.90

Daunton also refers to Cavell’s apparent betrayal of her resistance comrades: she points out that information given by Cavell to her examiners permitted the publication of a “long and comprehensive” account of the escape network, “detailing the full extent of [Cavell’s] work and naming all those involved in it. … It is not known whether the statement was extracted from her forcibly, or by very clever interrogation, or whether she decided there was no point then trying to conceal anything, as the Germans were already so well informed, or whether her character and beliefs inclined her to tell the truth despite its consequences”.91 It is impossible to be certain what actually happened during Edith Cavell’s interrogations by the German Secret Police. The details of her trial are also unclear—in spite of the large number of witnesses at that event. A copy of the original official documents on the case is available in English translation at the Imperial War Museum, London. These were said to have been obtained from a member of von der Lancken’s staff by a Frenchman, Ambrose Got.92 The suggestion that Cavell betrayed her fellow resistance workers is not borne out by the documents, and it does seem as though this suggestion, like so many others, is largely apocryphal. Diana Souhami was in no doubt about what she saw as Cavell’s superior moral fibre. In her biography, published in 2010, she drew a deft portrait of a woman whose integrity and sense of honour was to be her own undoing:



Edith Cavell was born into the Christian ethic and her father’s insistence on it. From the cradle she was imbued with the duty to share what she had, help those in pain, alleviate suffering. Life would take her far from Swardeston, its tranquillity and simple ways. Chance would take her into evil times. Through these she would stay true to her roots, her father’s orthodoxy, and her mother’s kindness. And from the day of her birth as the vicar’s daughter the Christian command of love was her moral standard.93

Souhami leads the reader down a remarkably linear path, from a childhood in which “devotion and service” were the central tenets of the Cavell children’s upbringing94 through a young adulthood in which work as a governess was a source of tension because it did not permit Cavell to do enough good. One of the most powerful elements of Souhami’s narrative is its poignancy. She, perhaps, makes more than other biographers of the contrast between the beauty and innocence of Cavell’s childhood and the bleakness of her death. She mentions, at an early stage in her narrative, the letter Cavell wrote later to her cousin Eddy, commenting on her childhood as a time when “life was fresh and beautiful and the country so desirable and sweet”.95 Souhami also offers a convincing interpretation of Cavell’s behaviour during her imprisonment and trial in Brussels. She characterises Cavell as a serious, reserved woman, whose upbringing had instilled in her both a puritanical honesty and a powerful desire to serve others, and suggests that these traits put her at a disadvantage at many points in her life— not least during the events which led to her premature death at the hands of the German firing squad on 12 October 1915. The emergence of women’s history as a distinct discipline with a clear identity and perspective followed rapidly in the wake of second-wave feminism in the 1970s; yet very few of its protagonists took a serious interest in the history of the profession or practice of nursing. The tendency for nurses to identify themselves within a traditionally feminine role and their practice as “women’s work” made them unappealing to female historians, who were more interested in assessing the work and contribution of more overtly tradition-breaking women such as munitions workers and ambulance drivers. It was not until several decades later, in the twenty-first century, that feminist perspectives began to impinge on research relating to Edith Cavell. Katie Pickles’ highly effective analysis, Transnational Outrage: The Death and Commemoration of Edith Cavell, argues that “Cavell embodied the ideal white British woman citizen and was claimed



throughout the British world where she was upheld as a role model and became a part of the imposition of British cultural hegemony”.96 Pickles suggests, in fact, that, for several decades following her death, Cavell was the perfect symbol of “Whiteness and Empire”, adding that this also explained why she was largely forgotten in a feminist and postcolonial world in which women were demanding equality with men—including the right for women “to kill and be killed” in wartime.97 If the twenty-first century saw a shift in perspective towards Edith Cavell as a woman and nurse, it also saw a move towards a more realistic and critical stance on her resistance activities in Belgium. For the first time, the idea that Cavell might have been engaged in espionage gained purchase in the minds of historians. Biographers such as Hoehling and Clark-­ Kennedy had simply accepted the received wisdom handed down by The Times, Daily Mail, and Guardian, that Edith Cavell was, essentially, a humanitarian who, even though she might be outraged by the behaviour of the German invaders in Brussels, sheltered allied soldiers purely from motives of love and humanity. Although the editors and reporters of those newspapers had seen her as a patriot, they never promoted the view that she was in any way engaged in espionage or other subversive activities. In 2003, Tammy Proctor included a brief narrative of Cavell’s resistance activities, arrest, and execution in her Female Intelligence: Women and Espionage in the First World War.98 Proctor comments on the hidden nature of women’s wartime espionage work. The very fact that women were not considered capable of performing such work made it easier for them to do so. She comments that “[j]ust as soldiers engaged in dangerous work, women used their feminine invisibility to their advantage but also masculinized themselves by taking on the ‘male’ work of gathering information in war zones”.99 Perhaps her most significant insight into female spies is the suggestion that it was less their wartime work than the manner of their deaths that enabled them to achieve their goals: “In the ideas of the time, if soldiers fought to protect their nations and if women reproduced and nurtured those nations, was it not an atrocity to execute these good women?”100 Proctor does, however, then go on to state that Cavell was not actually involved in any espionage-related activities. It was, in fact a male Belgian historian, Emmanuel Debruyne, who probed Cavell’s resistance work for elements of espionage. He did so from a perspective designed to effectively “put her in her place” as merely one member of a much larger enterprise. Debruyne had already spent several years researching the work of Belgian resistance movements from the early



twenty-first century, when, in 2015 he brought together those elements of his research in a history of the so-called Réseau Edith Cavell—the “Edith Cavell Network”—pointing out that the Germans’ execution of Cavell, had resulted in the world’s attention becoming distracted by the admittedly dramatic and poignant story of this one woman: the heroic nurse-­ martyr who had been ruthlessly and brutally destroyed by a tyrannical invader. Debruyne pointed out that the resistance network of which Edith Cavell had been a member had been so large, and had spread its threads so wide, that many of its members would not even have been aware of the existence of the “infirmière Britannique”. Nor had Cavell been a leader, or even a particularly important member of the network. Determined to bring a sense of historical perspective to the story of the “Réseau Edith Cavell”, he opened his book by observing that “[t]he British nurse will not be at the center of [my]attention, in order to avoid her becoming ‘the tree that hides the forest’ that [I] intend to explore, but [she] will not be excluded for all that”.101 Most authors agree that among the most significant members of the escape network were Prince and Princess de Croÿ, who, as local aristocrats, offered moral leadership; Louise Thuliez, Henriette Moriamé, and Comtesse Jeanne de Belleville, who appear to have achieved the earliest rescues of British soldiers trapped behind enemy lines; architect Philippe Baucq, who planned escape routes, as well as helping run and distribute the subversive newspaper La Libre Belgique; and Hermann Capiau and Louis Severin, who were among those who guided soldiers to the Dutch border.102 Although she was almost certainly not the leader of the network, Cavell was, nevertheless an important player. Former Head of M16, Stella Rimington, was one of the first individuals to openly declare that Cavell knowingly engaged in espionage during 1914 and 1915. Whilst not a professional historian, Rimington had undeniable talents as a researcher. Having consulted the work of Debruyne and conducted some research at the Belgian Royal Military Archives in Brussels (notably papers compiled by Hermann Capiau), Rimington concluded that Cavell was probably involved in espionage. She appears to have helped to return “to the enemy” not only soldiers but also vital military information.103 Members of the escape network actively sought out and recorded the locations of ammunition dumps, trench systems, and troop movements, knowing that such information could be of vital use to the Allied armies. Messages were inscribed in ink onto tiny pieces of material, which were then hidden in



the shoes and clothing of fugitive soldiers. Cavell was almost certainly a part of this process. In a programme entitled Secrets and Spies: The Untold Story of Edith Cavell, transmitted on Radio 4 on 16 September 2015— very close to the centenary of Cavell’s death—Rimington set out her arguments, stating that “the Cavell organisation was a two-pronged affair”.104 Its dual missions were the transfer of British, French, and Belgian soldiers across the Dutch border and the transmission of military intelligence to the British government and military leadership. She translated a statement made by Hermann Capiau: “Whenever it was possible to send interesting intelligence on military operations, this information was forwarded to the English intelligence service punctually and rapidly.” One of the most convincing elements of Rimington’s argument is the evidence she cites relating to network member Dr. Tollemarche Bull, an Englishman living in Brussels, who, Rimington claimed, worked for MI6.105 The reported words of Dr. Benn, the medical officer who was present at Cavell’s trial and execution, cast Edith Cavell in the role of a resistance fighter: I was ordered to be present at the trial and execution of Miss Cavell. I followed the trial from the first to last and frequently spoke with her. I certified her death, closed her eyes, and placed her body in the coffin. She was the bravest woman I ever met, and was in every respect the heroine her nation has made of her. She went to death with poise and a bearing which it is quite impossible to forget. She had, however, acted as a man towards the Germans, and deserved to be punished as a man.106

One element of her life to which her biographers paid great attention was Cavell’s final words (including letters she wrote) during her imprisonment at St Gilles in the weeks—and more particularly the last few days— before her death. Noel Boston’s translation of the letter Cavell sent to her nurses from prison emphasises the importance of doing one’s duty: “The thought that you have done before God and yourselves your whole duty and with a good heart will be your greatest support in the hard moments of life and in the face of death.”107 Daunton’s interpretation of the main content of Cavell’s final letters emphasises how Cavell urged her nurses “to be dutiful and courageous, dedicated to their profession and loyal to each other”.108 Even greater attention has been paid to Cavell’s final words, spoken to the two chaplains—first Gahan the night before her execution and then Le



Seur just before her death. Yet, whilst the authenticity of Cavell’s letters is largely undisputed (although varyingly translated), it is impossible to be sure whether her last spoken words were accurately reported. Like the apocryphal stories mentioned earlier in this chapter—stories that were emblematic of key elements of Cavell’s character such as her honesty and her patriotism—it is impossible to be certain that her “famous last words” were ever actually spoken. One early rephrasing of Stirling Gahan’s account was transcribed from a New York Churchman article and reproduced in May 1917 by a correspondent for the Nursing Times. The alteration is significant, and gives a greater emphasis to the concept of duty than the conversation Gahan refers to in his own account: I have no regrets, she said. “I did what I could for my country, and I am ready to pay the price. I should certainly do the same thing again if I could.

Image 3.2  Edith Cavell wearing Red Cross uniform lying dead on the floor, a gloating jackbooted Prussian officer stands over her corpse, holding a smoking revolver, Death with a lantern looks on. Colour reproduction of a painting by T. Cobella, 1915. (Credit: Wellcome Collection CC (V0006885))



I am sure that in God’s sight I am not an offender, for I did what seemed to me clearly my duty. And that is the only thing that matters, my friend – to do one’s duty.”109

Noel Boston’s translation of Cavell’s words emphasises the kindly elements: “Everyone has been most kind to me here in prison and I have been so thankful for these eight weeks of rest. I was very tired and so pressed with the multitude of petty things that life brings that I have not had time for many years of quiet and uninterrupted meditation. It was a welcome rest for me before the end” (Image 3.2).110 The execution itself has also been the subject of several different accounts. The most carefully researched of these agreed on the central elements: that Cavell was executed at the Tir National, a shooting range just outside Brussels at 7.30 am on 12 October; that she was attended by the German chaplain Le Seur and confided to him that she was happy to die for her country; that she was tied loosely to a post and blindfolded before being shot by a firing squad of German soldiers; and that she was buried immediately in the burial ground of the Tir National.111 Yet, a range of variations on this central story can be found. One of the most interesting appears to have originated as an article in the Amsterdam Telegraaph, which carried a highly complex narrative: that the soldiers of the German firing squad were so impressed by Cavell’s behaviour that each aimed his rifle above her head. Cavell was left unharmed, but so shocked that she fainted, whereupon the officer in charge stepped up and shot her through the head.112 Variations on this central theme of German soldiers refusing to fire on Cavell, who is then killed by a “Prussian” officer, include one narrative in which a single soldier, given the name “Rammler”, refuses to shoot and is, himself, executed for insubordination. In another variation, Cavell faints as the soldiers raise their guns, whereupon the officer steps up to her body and shoots her through the head with a single shot from his revolver. This central narrative motif—of Cavell’s death being achieved by a single officer’s bullet—has formed the basis of many propaganda images, in which her execution is portrayed as a form of murder.113 In these emotive images, a youthful Red Cross nurse lies dead on the ground with a German officer standing over her wielding, quite literally, a smoking gun. They helped to crystallise the “Edith Cavell Legend” that emerged quite soon after her death, was broken down in the mid twentieth century as biographers brought more detail and nuance to her story, but then re-­



emerged in the twenty-first century, as those details—that nuancing of the narrative—were largely forgotten. The earliest narrative of Edith Cavell’s life and death took the form of a stark statement produced by the British Foreign Office in October 1916. This was followed rapidly by the publications of several newspaper accounts, some of which were highly melodramatic and several of which contained apocryphal stories. The governments of Allied countries—particularly those belonging to the British Dominions—expressed solidarity with the British, and an emotional outpouring of sympathy which began in October 1915 continued after the war, when, soon after the Armistice, wreaths were laid on Cavell’s grave. From the 1920s onwards, individuals who had known Cavell began to publish their memoirs and reminiscences, and these influenced the biographies that followed. Student nurses who had trained at Cavell’s Ecole and professional nurses who had worked at the Clinique it served offered their own perspectives, but very few of these were published. Drawing on letters, reminiscences, and personal communications, biographers incorporated several stories into their books, some of which were almost certainly apocryphal. These were used to “reveal” Cavell’s character traits—such as sternness, professionalism, courage, an almost-puritanical honesty, and a strong sense of duty. Uncomfortable elements of Cavell’s story—such as the claim that she had betrayed other members of the escape network with which she was associated—were addressed with speculation as to her German interrogators’ methods. Two further elements of Cavell’s story that have been given particular attention are her “famous last words”, which have been variously distorted, and a range of perspectives on the manner of her death, with an apparently apocryphal story that one or more members of the firing squad refused to shoot, with the result that a “Prussian” officer shot her through the head with a single bullet—a narrative of “cold-blooded murder” that formed the basis for many propaganda images.

Notes 1. Anonymous, News in Brief, The Times, Saturday, 16 October 1915, Issue 40987: 8. 2. On British propaganda during the First World War, including the work of the British Bureau of Propaganda, see: Michael Sanders and Philip Taylor, British Propaganda during the First World War, 1914–18 (London, Palgrave, 1982); Peter Buitenhuis, The Great War of Words; Literature as



Propaganda, 1914–18 and After (London: B.T. Batsford, 1989, first published 1987); Trudi Tate, Modernism, History and the First World War (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1998), 41–62. 3. Buitenhuis, The Great War of Words; David Monger, Patriotism and Propaganda in First World War Britain: The National War Aims Committee and Civilian Morale (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2012); Guy Richard Hodgson, “Nurse, martyr, propaganda tool: The reporting of Edith Cavell in British newspapers 1915–1920”, Media War and Conflict, 10 (2), 239–53. 4. Buitenhuis, The Great War of Words; Nicolas J. Cull, David Culbert and David Welch, Propaganda and Mass Persuasion: A Historical Encyclopedia, 1500 to the Present (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC Clio, 2003); Philip M.  Taylor, Munitions of the Mind: A History of Propaganda from the Ancient World to the Present Day, Third Edition (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003). 5. Noel Boston, The Dutiful Edith Cavell (Norwich: Norwich Cathedral, undated), 3–4. Available at the Wellcome Library, London, UK. 6. Catriona Pennell, A Kingdom United: Popular Responses to the Outbreak of the First World War in Britain and Ireland (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2014). See also Adrian Gregory, The Last Great War: British Society and the First World War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008). 7. Katie Pickles, Transnational Outrage: The Death and Commemoration of Edith Cavell (London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 2. 8. Jocelyn Henry Speck, Letter: ‘The Execution of Miss Cavell’, The Times, Tuesday, 19 October 1915, Issue 40989: 9. 9. Anonymous, ‘House of Lords’ The Times, Thursday, 21 October 1915, Issue 40991: 15. 10. Anonymous, ‘Public Protests’, The Times, Monday, 25 October 1915, Issue 40995: 6. 11. Anonymous, ‘The Martyrdom of Miss Cavell’, The Times, Monday, 25 October 1915, Issue 40995: 9. 12. Anonymous, ‘The Martyrdom of Miss Cavell’, The Times, Monday, 25 October 1915, Issue 40994: 9. 13. H.M.  Swanwick, ‘Edith Cavell Memorial’, Letter, The Manchester Guardian, 3 November 1915: 4. 14. Florence Edgar Hobson, Letter, The Manchester Guardian, 5 November 1915: 5. 15. Anonymous, ‘Miss Cavell’s Death’, The Times, Friday, 22 October 1915, Issue 40992: 9. 16. Hoehling refers to “the still obscured role of the United States Legation”: Hoehling, Edith Cavell, 149. Souhami, perhaps influenced by Hoehling’s



perspective, referred to the efforts of the diplomats as “all too little too late”: Souhami, Edith Cavell, 317. 17. Even one prominent professional nursing journal, the Nursing Times, devoted several pages to the events preceding Cavell’s execution, including the conversation she was said to have had with Reverend Stirling Gahan: Anonymous Editorial, “The Martyrdom of Nurse Edith Cavell”, Nursing Times, Saturday, 30 October 1915, XI (548): 1327–29. 18. Anonymous, ‘Miss Cavell’s Death’, The Times, Friday, 22 October 1915, Issue 40992: 9. 19. Ibid., 9. 20. Ibid., 9. 21. Ibid., 9. 22. Ibid., 9. 23. Anonymous, ‘Merciless Execution of Nurse Cavell’, The Manchester Guardian, 22 October 1915: 7. 24. Anonymous, ‘Nurse Cavell’s Last Hours’, The Manchester Guardian, 23 October 1915: 9. 25. On women and war propaganda in the later years of the war, see: David Monger, “Nothing Special: Propaganda and Women’s Roles in Late First World War Britain”, Women’s History Review, 2014, 23, 4. On depictions of women in one particular magazine, the War Illustrated, see: Jonathan Rayner, “The Carer, The Combatant and the Clandestine: Images of Women in the First World War in War Illustrated Magazine”, Women’s History Review, 2014, 23, 4. 26. Mary A.  Ward, Letter, The Times, Saturday, 23 October 1915, Issue 40993: 8. 27. Edith Cavell personal papers and memorabilia; LH/Z/1/29/1 CAVELL Box 1; The London Hospital Archives, London, UK. 28. Anonymous, ‘Forms of Memorial: Readers’ Suggestions’, The Times, Monday, 25 October 1915, Issue 40994: 6. 29. Anonymous, Editorial, Nursing Times, Saturday, 23 October 1915, XI (547): 1287. The American Journal of Nursing also reported Cavell’s execution: Anonymous, “Edith Cavell. Further Information”, American Journal of Nursing, 16 (3), 1915: 169–70. 30. Matron Inglis, Shoreditch Infirmary, Letter, Nursing Times, Saturday, 23 October 1915, XI (547): 1291. 31. Anonymous, Editorial, Nursing Times, Saturday, 23 October 1915, XI (547): 1287. 32. Anonymous, “Sacrifice”, Nursing Times, Saturday, 30 October 1915, XI (548): 1323; Anonymous, “Cavell Bed for a Paralysed Soldier”, Nursing Times, Saturday, 27 November 1915, XI (550): 1460; Anonymous, “Cavell Bed for Paralysed Soldier”, Nursing Times, Saturday, 18



December 1915, XI (552): 1586. In the event, the fund paid for two “Edith Cavell Beds”, one at the “King George Hospital” and another at the “Star and Garter Home for Totally Disabled Soldiers” at Richmond: Anonymous, “The Edith Cavell Bed”, Nursing Times, Saturday, 22 January 1916, Vol XII (560): 84. 33. Anonymous, ‘The Execution of Miss Cavell’, The Times, Monday, 18 October 1915, Issue 40988: 5. 34. Anonymous, ‘Public Protests’, The Times, Monday, 25 October 1915, Issue 40994: 6. 35. Ibid., 6. 36. Anonymous, ‘British and German Methods: Sir J. Simon’s Contrast’, The Times, Monday, 25 October 1915, Issue 40994: 6. 37. Ibid., 6. 38. Anonymous, ‘The Enemy’s Defence, “Plot to Enlist Belgians” Amsterdam, Oct 24’, The Times, Monday, 25 October 1915, Issue 40994: 6; Anonymous, ‘Miss Cavell’s Death. German Attempts at “Defence”. A Sneer at the Victim’, The Manchester Guardian, 25 October 1915: 9. See also: Anonymous, ‘“A Masculine Force of Mind”. German Excuse for Treating Miss Cavell as a Man’, The Manchester Guardian, 30 October 1915: 11. 39. Anonymous, ‘Why Miss Cavell was Shot’, The Times, Tuesday, 26 October 1915, Issue 40995: 10; 9. A slightly different translation of the telegram was printed in The Manchester Guardian on the same day. A cutting of this version was pasted into the MI5 File on Edith Cavell, along with other articles from The Times, The Daily Sketch, The Morning Post, and The Manchester Guardian. See File KV2/822; 45–53; The National Archives, Kew, London, UK. 40. Anonymous, ‘Why Miss Cavell Was Shot’, The Times, Tuesday, 26 October 1915, Issue 40995: 10. See also: Anonymous, “Miss Cavell’s Soldier Refugees. German Account of the Conspiracy”, The Manchester Guardian, 29 October 1915: 6. 41. James M. Beck, The Case of Edith Cavell: A Study of the Rights of Non-­ Combatants (New York: G.P. Putnam’s, 1916), 9–10. 42. File KV2/822; The National Archives, Kew, London, UK. 43. File KV2/822; 57; The National Archives, Kew, London, UK. See also: Owen Bowcott, “British war leaders urged to execute women spies”, The Guardian, 9 May 2002, 8. 44. Anonymous, ‘Italian Condemnation’ [citing a report in Il Messaggero]’, The Times, Monday, 25 October 1915, Issue 40994: 6. See also the reference to articles in the Dutch newspaper, the Telegraaf, in the same issue of The Times.



45. Anonymous Editorial in the New York Herald, quoted in: Anonymous, ‘Nurse Cavell’s Last Hours’, The Manchester Guardian, 23 October 1915: 9. 46. Anonymous Editorial in Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant, quoted in Anonymous, ‘Nurse Cavell’s Last Hours’, The Manchester Guardian, 23 October 1915: 9. 47. Anonymous, ‘Nurse Cavell’ The Manchester Guardian, 27 October 1915: 14. 48. Katie Pickles, Transnational Outrage: The Death and Commemoration of Edith Cavell (London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). 49. Anonymous, ‘Nurse Cavell’, The Manchester Guardian, 27 October 1915: 14. 50. Anonymous, “Nurse Cavell’s Grave”, The Observer, 24 November 1918: 8. 51. Anonymous, “King’s Tribute to Nurse Cavell”, The Manchester Guardian, 11 May 1922: 7. 52. Jacqueline Van Til, With Edith Cavell in Belgium (New York: H.W Bridges, 1922), preface. 53. Ibid., 9–12. 54. Ibid., 46–47. 55. Boston, The Dutiful Edith Cavell, 8. 56. Ibid., 8–9. 57. A.A. Hoehling, Edith Cavell (London, Cassell & Company, Ltd., 1958), 15. 58. Rowland Ryder, Private Papers; Box 3566, Misc 263; File 1; Imperial War Museum, London, UK. 59. Leeds, Herbert, Edith Cavell. Her Life Story. A Norfolk Tribute (London: Jarrold & Sons, 1915); Souhami, Edith Cavell. 60. Sister White to Rowland Ryder; Box 3566; Misc 263; File 1; Imperial War Museum, London, UK. 61. Letter from Eileen Harrison, dated 11 May 1966; Box 3566, Misc 263; File 1; Imperial War Museum, London, UK. 62. Nurse Delaheine Buck: letter to RR, dated 12/5/66; Box 3566, Misc 263; File 1; Imperial War Museum, London, UK. 63. Dr. A.E.  Clark-Kennedy, Private papers; Documents 10855; Box P14; Imperial War Museum, London. 64. A.E. Clark-Kennedy, Edith Cavell. Pioneer and Patriot (London, Faber & Faber, 1965), 233. 65. Lena Jeger, MP, “A Nurse’s Ghost”, The Guardian, 2 July 1965, 20. 66. Mrs. M. Battrum, Private Papers; File MB/7; Box P.367; Imperial War Museum, London. 67. Ibid.



68. Ibid. This text is from an earlier draft of the book, Battrum was working on. There are two other boxes: P.368, with memorabilia of Battrum’s own later work as a nurse during the war. 69. Edith Cavell: A True Portrait, Mrs. M.  Battrum, Private Papers; File MB/7; Box P.367; Imperial War Museum, London. 70. Typescript account, written by Elisabeth Wilkins, of her experiences at the Ecole Belge des Infirmières Diplomées; In Rowland Ryder, Private Papers; Box 3566; Misc 263; File 1; Imperial War Museum, London, UK. 71. Boston, The Dutiful Edith Cavell, 11. 72. Richard Garrett, Piccolo Book of Heroines (London: Macmillan, 1974); Brian C. Peachment, Ready to Die: Story of Edith Cavell (Faith in Action) (London: Elsevier, 1979); Nigel Richardson, Edith Cavell (London: Puffin, 1987); Sally Grant, Edith Cavell: Nurse and War-Heroine (Dereham: Lark’s Press, 1995); Nick Miller, Edith Cavell: A Forgotten Heroine (Cambridge: Grove Books, 2014). 73. Elizabeth Grey, Friend Within the Gates (London: Constable & Co. Ltd., 1960), frontispiece. 74. Rowland Ryder, Edith Cavell (New York: Stein & Day, 1975), 29. 75. Boston, The Dutiful Edith Cavell, 9; Hoehling, Edith Cavell; Clark-­ Kennedy, Edith Cavell; Ryder, Edith Cavell; Souhami, Edith Cavell. 76. Hoehling, Edith Cavell; Clark-Kennedy, Edith Cavell; Ryder, Edith Cavell; Souhami, Edith Cavell. 77. See, for example, Souhami, Edith Cavell, 33. 78. Ibid., 45. 79. Ryder, Edith Cavell, 60. 80. Hoehling, Edith Cavell, 14. 81. Ibid.,147. 82. Ibid., 147–48. 83. Ibid., 148–49. 84. Claire Daunton (ed.) Edith Cavell: Her Life and Her Art (London: The Royal London Hospital, 1990), Foreword. The papers relating to the production of Daunton’s book can be found at Edith Cavell personal papers and memorabilia; LH/Z/1/29/2 CAVELL Box 1; The London Hospital Archives, London, UK. 85. Daunton, Edith Cavell, 4. 86. Jonathan Evans, Edith Cavell (London: The Royal London Hospital, 2008). 87. Documents 2482a; P114/1; File EC10/2; Imperial War Museum, London. 88. C.E. Bechhofer Roberts and C.S. Forester, Nurse Cavell: A Play in Three Acts (London: John Lane The Bodley Head Limited, 1933), 97.



89. Souhami, Edith Cavell, 243–49; 261–64. 90. Elizabeth Grey, Friend Within the Gates (London: Constable & Co. Ltd., 1960), 167. 91. Daunton, Edith Cavell, 6. 92. Documents 2482a; P114/1; File EC10/2; Imperial War Museum, London. 93. Souhami, Edith Cavell, 6–7. 94. Ibid., 8. 95. Ibid., 13. 96. Katie Pickles, Transnational Outrage: The Death and Commemoration of Edith Cavell (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 4. 97. Ibid., 4. 98. Tammy Proctor, Female Intelligence: Women and Espionage in the First World War (New York and London: New York University Press, 2003), Chapter 5: Spies Who Knew How to Die, 99–106. 99. Ibid., 99. 100. Ibid., 100. 101. “L’infirmière britannique ne sera donc pas au centre de notre attention, afin d’éviter qu’elle ne devienne ‘l’arbre qui cache la forêt’ que nous entendons explorer, mais elle n’en sera évidemment pas exclue pour autant”: Emmanuel Debruyne, Le Réseau Edith Cavell; Des femmes et des hommes en resistance (Brussels, Edition Racine, 2015), 11. See also a text published by a British author in the same year which also emphasises Cavell’s membership of the clandestine Belgian network that later took her name: Anthony Randall, Edith Cavell: Brussels Via Yorc (Oxford: The Cloister House Press (Blackwells), 2015). 102. Proctor, Female Intelligence, 100. 103. Stella Rimington, “Secrets and Spies: The Untold Story of Edith Cavell”; BBC Radio Documentary, aired on 16 September 2015; available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b069wth6. See also Anita Singh, “Revealed: New evidence that executed wartime nurse Edith Cavell’s network was spying”, The Telegraph, online; available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/bbc/11861398/Revealed-new-evidence-thatexecuted-wartime-nurse-Edith-Cavells-network-was-spying.html [accessed 30 September 2015]; Katy Burgess, “Nurse Cavell ‘was involved in spying’, The Times, online; available at: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/ tto/news/uk/article4555812.ece [accessed 30 September 2015]. 104. Rimington, “Secrets and Spies: The Untold Story of Edith Cavell; Singh, “Revealed: New evidence”; quotation from Daily Telegraph, 12 September 2015. 105. Rimington, Secrets and Spies; Singh, “Revealed: New evidence”; quotation from Daily Telegraph, 12 September 2015.



106. Cited by Daunton, Edith Cavell, 7. 107. Boston, The Dutiful Edith Cavell, 13. 108. Daunton, Edith Cavell, 7. 109. Anonymous, “Miss Cavell’s Last Hours”, Nursing Times, 5 May 1917, Vol XIII (627): 536. 110. Boston, The Dutiful Edith Cavell, 13. 111. Clark-Kennedy, Edith Cavell, 223–24; Ryder, Edith Cavell, 222–23. 112. Boston, The Dutiful Edith Cavell, 14. 113. These narratives are closely analysed by Katie Pickles. See: Pickles, Transnational Outrage, Chapter 2: “Gendered Execution: Dying Like a Woman”: 39–59.



Abstract  From the earliest days of Cavell’s commemoration, the British government was careful to promote her as both a “heroine” and a “martyr”, whilst suppressing information on her resistance activities—the knowledge of which might have undermined the claim that she was a victim of German hatred and brutality. Events such as her state funeral at St Paul’s Cathedral on 29 October 1915 and the return of her body to Britain—to Westminster Abbey, and then Norwich—in May 1919 became foci for national mourning and commemoration, which enabled a greater sense of national unity. Some commemorations focused on hospital nursing; these included a “Cavell Bed” and a “Cavell Home” for nurses at The London Hospital and a “Cavell Ward” in Birkenhead. Stone monuments were unveiled in several countries, the most significant and best known probably being George Frampton’s stone memorial incorporating a marble statue, in St Martin’s Place, London. Two significant film dramatisations were produced, both directed by Herbert Wilcox: Dawn in 1927 and Nurse Edith Cavell in 1939. Both caused controversy, with Dawn being—at first—refused a certificate by the British Board of Film Censors. Cavell was also commemorated as a “legendary heroine” in the British Dominions: in Canada, a mountain was named after her; in New Zealand, a bridge. In the USA, a group of Boston philanthropists raised funds for an “Edith Cavell Memorial Nurse”, who served for over a year with the Reserve of the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service. A charity named the “Edith Cavell Homes of Rest for Nurses” was founded in © The Author(s) 2019 C. E. Hallett, Edith Cavell and her Legend, https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-54371-4_4




1916, with the support of Cavell’s family and friends, who saw the care of nurses as a cause Cavell herself would have wished to be remembered by. The charity was brought under the auspices of the National Fund for Nurses (NFN), but the NFN was, itself, renamed twice in the twenty-first century, eventually being given the name “Cavell Nurses’ Trust” in 2012, as interest in Edith Cavell re-emerged at the approach of the centenary of her death. The nursing professions in Britain and Belgium have continued to commemorate Cavell’s life and work. Every year, on 12 October, two nurses of The London Hospital lay a wreath at the foot of Frampton’s statue in St Martin’s place. The centenary of Edith Cavell’s death has coincided with several new works relating to her that portray her as, essentially, a patriot. Keywords  Edith Cavell • Legend • Commemoration • Memorials • George Frampton’s statue • Herbert Wilcox • Dawn • Nurse Edith Cavell • Cavell Nurses’ Trust The process by which a legend of Edith Cavell was created was one of hardening narrative: within days of her execution, the multiple interleaving stories of her life and death had already begun to give way to a single, concrete narrative. The first news of Cavell’s execution was heard by the publics of British and Dominion nations through a series of stark yet powerful Foreign Office statements presented through national newspapers and designed both to heighten public belief in the barbarity of the Germans and to exculpate the American Legation for the tardiness of its intervention in Cavell’s case. A few apocryphal narratives—notably the stories that Cavell had fainted and been shot by an officer whilst unconscious, and that one soldier, “Rammler”, had refused to fire on her—gained prominence alongside the central narrative of her death as “murder”. Cavell’s family and friends were almost silent during this initial phase of remembrance. And Cavell’s own voice had yet to emerge from the cacophony of outrage that accompanied the news of her death. The work of creating the monolithic legend of Edith Cavell that would subsequently be so difficult to unpick began in the weeks following her death. As shown in the previous chapter, it was carefully monitored and controlled by the British Bureau of Propaganda, in part though the agency of newspaper owners such as Lord Northcliffe. As historians from Peter



Buitenhuis to David Welch have observed, the art of propaganda developed rapidly from the earliest months of the First World War. By October 1915, both sides were employing effective measures for the rapid dissemination of information.1 And “heroines” were particularly useful as instruments of mass persuasion. As a concept, heroism was useful—but it had to be very carefully handled. The mould from which female heroines came was very different from that for traditional male heroes. In wartime, it was men’s role to fight, both to preserve whatever freedoms were held sacred and to protect women and children—who remained at home. If women deliberately transgressed those social expectations, they were likely to meet with censure rather than admiration. But, for nurses, the rules were stretched. A nurse was permitted to work in dangerous war zones, because her skills were needed, whilst Cavell was presented as having continued her essentially caring work while “trapped” behind enemy lines. Had the realities of Edith Cavell’s case been more widely known, her story might have aroused censure; she had gone beyond the bounds of her female, nurturing role, and had knowingly engaged in resistance activities. Yet, the governments of Allied nations were able to present her as a nurse who had simply been doing her job—protecting vulnerable men whose lives, she believed, were at risk. For this—for her humanitarian work—she was ruthlessly murdered, or so the story went. As cultural historian, Alison Fell, has commented, Cavell “was made to embody two central (and frequently interlinked) concepts: the brutality of the enemy and the humanity and self-sacrifice of womanhood”.2 Those nurses who volunteered with the military medical services of their nations during the First World War often recounted their experiences in diaries, letters, and other personal writings through the lens of patriotism, identifying war service as a privilege.3 Edith Cavell never entered war service as a military nurse, and her only war diary was the tiny record of resistance activities in Belgium that she hid, by stuffing it into a cushion, just before her arrest. Her case appears to be unique: the evidence does suggest that she was drawn into a particularly active and dangerous form of participation largely by accident. At the time of her death, and for many years afterwards, it was Cavell’s status as a martyr and victim that appeared to offer the greatest opportunities to Allied governments seeking to make use of her death as a source of propaganda. What was known about her highly active war service—her



clandestine resistance activity—was carefully suppressed because it distorted the central narrative that she was an innocent nurse who had been brutally gunned down. As Tammy Proctor has observed, “[i]n the weeks after her death, Cavell was transformed form an active resister to a passive pawn, providing a powerful story for women in wartime and a motivating force to men. Perhaps for this reason Cavell is often shown in posters kneeling, praying, or collapsed on the ground as supplicant and victim … both a mother of the nation and an unsullied virgin”.4 Claire Daunton has, similarly, commented on the creation of a propaganda weapon out of Cavell—“a martyr, the victim of German hatred and cruelty”.5 Friday, 29 October, was a day of huge national mourning for Edith Cavell. Acts of remembrance took place across Britain, centring on a formal service at St Paul’s Cathedral and collectively providing a powerful means of drawing together the British population in national unity. The editor of The Manchester Guardian reached for an eloquent and rather sentimental tone in describing the London event: Often before has the glorious elegiac ritual of St Paul’s expressed a national emotion, but never has there been a memorial service so touched with strangeness in tragedy as the nation’s tribute of pity and indignation to Miss Cavell’s memory this morning. We are used to commemorations in St. Paul’s of the great dead of England, but here the country through its representatives was mourning a woman of whom few had ever heard until the Germans gave her immortal fame. Only an enemy who murders women under forms of law could have brought about that. The German bullet won for this English nurse the supreme honour of a funeral service in our central church. There has been nothing more remarkable in all the centuries whose great moments of sorrow or thanksgiving have found a voice in the schooled and harmonious beauty of chant and prayer in this place.6

The claim that Cavell had been “murdered under forms of law” and that the act had been achieved by means of a single bullet were both significant. The repetition of such evocative descriptions—sometimes deliberately and sometimes casually, as in this example—ensured that the image of a single German officer standing over Cavell wielding a smoking gun was impressed into the minds of British and Dominion citizens. One of the most powerful elements in the crystallising of the Cavell Legend was the involvement of the British royal family. Even before her attendance at the service at St Paul’s Cathedral, Queen Alexandra had arranged for a letter to be sent to Cavell’s mother. Dated 23 October 1915,



the message assured Mrs. Cavell that “the hearts of their Majesties go out to you in your bitter sorrow, and [they] express their horror at the appalling deed which has robbed you of your child. Men and women throughout the civilised world, while sympathising with you, are moved with admiration and awe at her faith and courage in death”. The dual themes of horror and admiration are developed further by a letter written by A.R. Grant, the Rector of Sandringham, again on behalf of Queen Alexandra: Her Majesty views the unheard-of act with the utmost abhorrence. … “Her poor, poor mother, I go on thinking of her”, were her Majesty’s words. The women of England are bearing the greatest burden of this terrible war, but by all the name of Miss Cavell will be held in the highest honour and respect. We shall always remember that she never once failed England in her hour of need.7

The great movement of national mourning that was orchestrated by the British government and Anglican Church in the weeks immediately after Cavell’s death provided a unique opportunity for the nursing profession to celebrate what it saw as the universal nursing values embodied by Cavell’s “sacrifice”. The memorial service held at St Paul’s Cathedral on 29 October was attended by a “great gathering of nurses”.8 Indeed, a large part of the church was reserved for nurses—who were said to have attended from every hospital in London and the home counties. Their appearance was described in elegiac, consciously or unconsciously propagandist—and inaccurate—terms by the editor of The Manchester Guardian: A strong light came through the windows of the nave and lit up a great gathering of nurses – women in grey cloaks tipped with scarlet, the military nurses, women in spotless aprons, the straps of their capes making a Red Cross on their breasts, nurses in khaki, in navy blue, nurses by the hundred in the ordinary black dress. There were rows of nurses in the high places of the church, in the little balconies perched over the doors and so on. It was indeed a congregation of women who are doing woman’s oldest war work. Far behind the mass of nurses one saw the dark crowd of people who had been in their places for hours.9

Under the dome were seated Queen Alexandra, Mr. Asquith, Sir Alfred Keogh, Lord Robert Cecil, and several cabinet ministers. Meanwhile, “out in the streets people were buying from the hawkers penny memorial cards with Nurse Cavell’s portrait and extracts from the bracing story of how



she met death”.10 By placing the nurses somewhere between the elites and the “dark crowd of people” the Guardian’s editor appears to have been attempting to create an image in the minds of his readers—an image of the place and role of women in the war effort, doing “woman’s oldest war work”, emphasising that such work was very different from that of the male soldier: his role was to fight to protect such paragons, who would, in return, nurture him if injured. Consciously or unconsciously, the editorial was building an image of British society united in both grief and patriotic resolve. Even more impressive was the pomp and ceremonial which accompanied the return of Cavell’s body from the continent in May 1919 on board the destroyer Rowena, from Ostend and then by train from Dover to London, where a service was held at Westminster Abbey.11 A further journey from London to Norwich was punctuated by street parades at numerous stopping points. Cavell’s remains were buried in Cathedral Close, right beside Norwich Cathedral. The entire proceedings were carefully planned by the so-called Public Funeral of Miss Cavell Executive Committee, which was composed mainly of the Committees for the Edith Cavell Homes of Rest for Nurses and the Anglo-Belgian Union.12 On 1 May, a correspondent for The Manchester Guardian commented on the plans for the forthcoming funeral: With the service in Westminster Abbey and the burial in the Cathedral Close at Norwich the body of Edith Cavell is laid to rest in her own land with a sincere and widespread homage and a dignity of ceremonial rarely accorded in our history. Her devotion and her death are the very stuff of which national history itself is made, and it is right that they should enkindle for all time the British record of the war. There was a danger that, by its very magnitude this supreme national ordeal would be robbed of the salient and stirring individual facts on which the child of the future must seize if history is to be more than a dull chronology.13

A later editorial placed Cavell’s funeral as a historic landmark of some significance: “Westminster Abbey was found thirteen hundred years ago, and through the centuries it has been the place of burial, or of memorial services, to Englishmen and English-women who were great in their generation. But no funeral service there through all the past expressed more the heart of the nation, or honoured a higher spirit, than that of the woman we mourned there today.”14 Cavell’s funeral afforded the British



press an opportunity to bring new perspectives on her trial and death to the British public. A reporter for The Manchester Guardian commented on a lecture given by Gaston de Laval, in which he described the efforts of the Spanish Minister, the Marquis de Villalobar to intervene for Cavell on the night before her execution.15 The efforts of Villalobar were celebrated again in 1930, when an extract from his diary was published.16 Almost as a counterpoint to the lionisation of Villalobar, Gaston Quien, the French spy in the pay of the German military command in Brussels, who was said to have tricked and denounced Cavell and her comrades, became a focus for public opprobrium. The Manchester Guardian reported in detail on how “a sensational case came before the Sixth Court-martial in Paris to-day [25 August 1919], when Georges Gaston Quien, accused of intelligence with the enemy and with having, among other crimes, denounced Edith Cavell to the enemy, was brought up for trial”.17 Public funerals provided foci for public mourning and created a sense of social cohesion, but they were followed rapidly by calls for more permanent memorials. The Reverend Hubert Green, vicar of Swardeston, wrote to The Times within weeks of Cavell’s death, declaring that “[i]n this village, where Miss Cavell was born and brought up, a strong desire exists to erect some suitable memorial to her in the church of which her father was vicar for 46 years. The record of her devoted labours and tragic death has created so profound an impression throughout the whole country that probably very many outside the parish would welcome the opportunity to join in honouring her memory”.18 The letter ended with instructions as to where subscriptions should be sent. In August 1917, the creation of a memorial window was completed—medieval in style, perhaps to emphasise the timelessness of Cavell’s form of martyrdom. She is shown kneeling, reading the hymn “Abide with Me”. In the central part of the window is an image of Christ on the cross with the words “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends”.19 Many felt that the commemoration of a nurse should have a clear association with the care of hospital patients. The Nursing Times launched an appeal for funds to place an “Edith Cavell Bed” at The London Hospital,20 and, in October 1918, the same journal reported on the opening of “The Edith Cavell Memorial Ward” in Birkenhead Borough Hospital, which proudly displayed one of several replica busts carved by George Frampton.21 In 1927, an appeal was launched in Norwich to fund a nursing home for the sick poor in the name of Edith Cavell.22 The proceeds of a Daily Mirror appeal were donated to The London Hospital to be used to complete



construction of a new nurses’ home, which was to have been named after Queen Alexandra, but, following consultation with the Queen herself, was, instead, named “The Cavell Home”. The nurses of The Royal London Hospital continued to take a deep interest in Cavell’s commemoration. In 1988, English Heritage placed a “blue plaque” commemorating Cavell’s time at The London Hospital on a building close to where the former nurses’ home would have been. And in 1990 the hospital combined its 250th anniversary with a commemoration of the 75th anniversary of Cavell’s death, to which were invited the staff of the “Institut Médical Edith Cavell, Brussels”.23 Perhaps the most enduring memorials to Edith Cavell were those that were carved out of stone. And, of all the stone monuments to Edith Cavell, none is better known than Sir George Frampton’s statue in St Martin’s Place, near Trafalgar Square, London.24 The monument—a marble statue supported by a granite plinth—was unveiled by Queen Alexandra in March 1920, although the actual act of pulling apart the two flags, British and Belgian, that enclosed it was performed by two professional nurses: Annie Beadsmore-Smith, matron-in-chief of the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service, and Miss Monk, the matron of The London Hospital. In attendance were Lord Burnham; Lord Knutsford; the Bishop of London; the Belgian Ambassador; the Lord Mayor of London; the Mayor, Aldermen, and Councillors of Westminster; Lady Airlie; Lady Astor, then a Member of Parliament; Mrs. Asquith, wife of the former prime minister; Dame Sidney Browne, matron-in-chief of the Territorial Force Nursing Service; and three members of staff from Cavell’s former training school in Brussels. It was reported by a correspondent of The Manchester Guardian that Queen Alexandra “looked very charming in a black velvet costume, with sable cuffs, a bright black toque, and a bunch of Irish Shamrock”.25 The statue “stood out, with its air of calm self-reliance”, and the “Last Post” was played. Cavell’s face was said to have been “lifelike, gentle and firm”, though there was an air of formality and dignity about her uniformed figure, which was carved out of white marble to denote purity (Image 4.1). The Guardian’s correspondent quotes part of Queen Alexandra’s address: This beautiful statue  – the work of our distinguished sculptor Sir George Frampton – will stand for all time as a memorial of one who met a martyr’s fate with calm courage and resignation which has rarely been excelled, and



Image 4.1  Statue; Edith Cavell, 1865–1915, Brussels, dawn 12 October 1915. (Credit: Wellcome Collection, CC BY) we recall the beautiful words which, when death was very near Miss Cavell wrote to a friend:- “Nothing matters when one comes to the last hour but a clear conscience before God. I wish you to know that I was neither afraid nor unhappy, but quite ready to give my life for England”. The countless



thousands who will pass this spot in our time and in future generations will think with sorrow of her cruel death, with pride of her splendid fortitude and with affection of her unselfish and womanly character. The example of Miss Edith Cavell’s life will be always before us, and her name will remain honoured and revered throughout the Empire.26

In some senses, Frampton’s statue of Edith Cavell recreates the more powerful elements of the propaganda that had followed her death. Although avoiding more obvious fabrications, such as those of images presenting her as a youthful and rather pretty nurse in a Red Cross uniform, Frampton chose to bring her nursing identity to the fore. He also chose to depict a woman facing death with both courage and conviction. This close fit between Cavell’s own self-identification as a nurse and patriot, the expectations of the public which idolised her, and the fact that she appeared to have lived a faultless life made her memorialisation powerful. The ‘real’ Edith Cavell approximated to a perfect fit with an image of ideal womanhood that persisted throughout most of the twentieth century, beginning to break down only in the 1970s and 1980s as Second-­ Wave Feminism began to question some of its central tenets: self-sacrifice, self-abnegation, and the denial of ambition or appetite. The monument weighs 175 tons and is 40 feet high, and is both impressive and redolent with symbolism. Above the statue itself is a figure of a nurse protecting a child, representing humanity protecting the small nations. There are four panels on each of the four sides of the plinth with the words “Humanity”, “Sacrifice”, “Devotion”, and “Fortitude”. At the rear is a relief of the British lion trampling a serpent representing envy, spite, malice, and treachery. Above it can be read the words “Faithful unto death”. On the base is the inscription “Edith Cavell. Brussels. Dawn  – October 12, 1915”. Only later, in 1924, were the words “Patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred of bitterness towards anyone” added, at the request of the National Council of Women. These “famous last words” were one of the most ambivalent elements of the “Cavell Legend”. Both the propagandists who so carefully constructed an image of Cavell after her death and the biographers whose later attempts to reconstruct the “real Edith Cavell” were stymied by the propaganda image were presented with at least two different voices. There seemed to be more than one “Edith Cavell”. In the letters she wrote to her nurses during the last few days of her life, her voice comes through as that of a pragmatic, kindly matron who wants to set her affairs in order,



apologise for her mistakes, and leave her students with a sense that they are valued. But her words, as reported by Stirling Gahan, the chaplain who took communion with her on the night before her execution, sound different—less worldly and more imposing. Perhaps Cavell found a different voice—one no less her own—designed to be heard by a world beyond her own small circle of nurses. Or perhaps Gahan—an experienced minister of the church—employed his own rhetorical skills to paraphrase Cavell’s words and elevate them into something more suitable for posterity. Cavell’s “famous last words”, with all their poignancy and ambivalence, provided generations of biographers and semi-fictional writers with endless possibilities. Many versions bore only a passing resemblance to the conversation described by Gahan in his own accounts of his meeting with Cavell. Roberts and Foresters’ 1933 play, Edith Cavell, for example, offered a fictional debate between the condemned Cavell and her chaplain the night before her execution: CAVELL:

I want you to let all my friends know that I give my life willingly for my country. Will you? CHAPLAIN: I will – (With sudden intensity) Miss Cavell, if this terrible thing comes to pass; if indeed it does, there will spring up such a storm of righteous anger, such a demand for vengeance upon its perpetrators as even the worst atrocities in this awful war have not yet called forth. There will be no more hesitation at home, no more wavering among our young men to take up arms to rid the world of these brutes. There will be lit such a flame of patriotism in England that – CAVELL: I don’t want that. Standing as I do now in view of God and eternity, I realize that patriotism is not enough. I would have no hatred or bitterness for anyone.27 Frampton’s memorial to Edith Cavell was only one—albeit the most impressive and best known—of a huge number of stone monuments erected in Britain, Belgium, and France. A memorial at Norwich, which was unveiled in October 1918, showed a soldier presenting a wreath to Cavell, with the words “Edith Cavell, Nurse, Patriot and Martyr”, carved at its base.28 At Manchester Cathedral, a tablet was placed on the north wall in Cavell’s memory. Significantly, it was located just below a memorial tablet to the classic British hero, General Gordon.29 In Brussels, in 1919,



a committee was formed under the king’s patronage to design a monument to Cavell.30 In Paris, in June 1920, a rather dramatic bas-relief depicting Cavell lying dead on the ground was officially inaugurated at the Tuileries, in a ceremony attended by M. André Honnorat, French Minister of Public Instruction and Fine Arts; Lord Burnham, of the British Council of the Edith Cavell Memorial Fund; the British, American, and Belgian Ambassadors; and representatives of the City of Paris and of Red Cross Societies throughout Europe.31 Two significant film dramatisations of Edith Cavell’s life and death were produced in the inter-war period—in 1927 and 1939. Both were made by producer and director Herbert Wilcox, and yet they have very different emphases. The earlier of the two, Dawn, was based on a novel by Reginald Berkeley which was, itself, heavily influenced by wartime portrayals of Cavell as a Christian martyr.32 It presents Cavell’s faith as the origin of her courage, sense of duty, and honesty, and portrays her going to her trial and execution with a pained but resolute determination to tell the truth, knowing that such truthfulness will condemn her. Berkeley’s book carries a lengthy discussion of Cavell’s attitude to her inquisitors, following her arrest: She knew enough of police methods in countries where the guilt of the accused persons, and not their innocence, is the accepted presumption of the law, to be aware that every artifice would be employed to trap her, that her simplest answers would be twisted and made use of, not only against herself, but to implicate other people. … Was she then to fight these police with their own weapons of artifice and subterfuge? That would be indeed an ignominious conclusion to her work. Denial, as though she were ashamed of what she had done, as though, having broken rules, and braved the war machine for what she believed to be the higher humanism, and having chosen the path of sacrifice, she were now trying to sneak out without payment – that would be cheating. Any kind of evasion would be unworthy, would cheapen her acts. … If there was anything in Christianity, it meant facing the consequences of what one had done without deceit and without fear.33

Berkeley’s emphasis on Cavell as a helpless, yet fearless, woman in the face of a relentless “war machine” was carried through into Wilcox’s film. One of the most interesting features of Dawn is the detailed reconstruction of the apocryphal story of the German soldier referred to as “Private Rammler”, whose emotions, during the night before the



e­xecution, are traced in detail: “He lay there, half-exultant and halfchilled, as his emotions moved from the extreme of daring to the means of prudence. He saw himself a hero … and then he saw himself an ugly heap of limbs and clothing, after the sentence of the war machine had been carried out upon him”.34 At the end of the film, Rammler is condemned to die, and a look of understanding and compassion passes between the British matron and the German soldier who has refused to kill her. Just before the first showings of Dawn, a concerted campaign was launched to have the film banned. The German Ambassador to London complained—with some reason—to the Foreign Office that the film was repeating fabricated narratives about the conduct of the firing squad that had carried out the execution. The British Foreign Secretary, Sir Austen Chamberlain, viewed German complaints with some sympathy, and is reported to have, himself, argued that the film would “work untold mischief in the relationship between countries in western Europe”.35 An editorial in The Manchester Guardian commented on “this harking back to an incident that was twisted in its time to all manner of propagandist purposes, and that even now cannot be recalled without some danger to neighbourly understanding”.36 Such statements are difficult to read without a sense of irony, when one considers the powerfully accusatory editorials that were produced by the same newspaper in the months following Cavell’s death. It does, however, provide persuasive evidence of the powerful desire, a decade after the war, to rebuild relationships between European countries. In an Observer editorial, florid language is used to mythologise Cavell, even as an argument against blind patriotism is being developed: Because the spirt of Edith Cavell is still vital among us, the film of her heroism and her tragedy will not be shown. The objections to its display are all the greater if its episodes are accurately devised and movingly portrayed. NURSE CAVELL is of that immortal fellowship which includes ANTIGONE and ISEULT and JOAN OF ARC and FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE  – those heroic women decisive in action because serene in mind, who, amid the fierce clash of warring rights and wrongs, move surely along the path of eternal verities.37

Edith Cavell’s sister, Florence, was said to have objected to the film on the grounds that it would foment hatred. Reginal Berkeley responded that the film “does not indict Germany but the hideous war machine which



condemns decent men to do brutal things”.38 Wilcox himself complained that there had been no objections during the making of the film—but only when it was close to completion. Madame Bodart, one of Cavell’s former associates, who had played a role in the film, was said to have returned her OBE to the government in disgust at the Foreign Secretary’s intervention, and the Daily Mail printed several readers’ letters demanding that the film must be shown.39 George Bernard Shaw waded vigorously into the debate, commenting to a reporter from The Manchester Guardian: You might as well suggest that George Frampton’s monument should be demolished or veiled. Are you to commemorate Edith Cavell in stone and not in picture? … Both actress and author have felt, and will make us feel, that the law that Edith Cavell set above the military code and died for is an infinitely higher law than the law of war and the conceit of patriotism.40

Although the British Board of Film Censors withheld a certificate,41 the film was, nevertheless, shown in cinemas; the controversy surrounding it no doubt helped secure its success. Although the intentions of the film-makers were said to have been pacifist rather than patriotic or anti-German, the overall effect of the film—like that of the novel—is to accentuate the ruthless “Prussianism” of Cavell’s accusers. Cavell herself—played with stony resolve by famous British actress Sybil Thorndike—comes across as a heroic martyr figure. Although she is portrayed as a middle-aged professional woman rather than the youthful virginal and defenceless Red Cross nurse of wartime propaganda, the film’s portrayal of her ruthless persecution undoubtedly had the effect of bolstering the myth of the “martyr-heroine”. Wilcox’s second film, Nurse Edith Cavell—also based on Berkeley’s novel—was a much more lavish version, employing realistic cinematographic techniques, using sound, and casting Anna Neagle, already famous for her stage-musical performances, in the leading role.42 Neagle had played Queen Victoria in Wilcox’s Victoria The Great (1937), bringing both actress and director to the attention of Hollywood-based “RKO Radio Pictures”. Nurse Edith Cavell was their first Hollywood movie, reaching a worldwide audience shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War. Once again, the legendary Edith Cavell is to the fore a resolute, patriotic heroine with no character flaws: a model of compassion and altruism. The film is replete with Hollywood-style motifs: in addition to its splendid and beautiful heroine, it features an indomitable Countess; an



assortment of brave and cheery supporting characters; and a stereotypical cockney soldier, who jests his way to the Dutch frontier, only to surface again to end the film by looking suitably distraught at Cavell’s state funeral in 1919. A review in The Manchester Guardian seems to echo its earlier critique of Dawn, arguing that, for all the film’s fine qualities, it was “too topical, too apposite”.43 Months later, its “Tatler” column declared: Naturally the German authorities in Brussels could hardly have come very well out of a film of the death of Edith Cavell, even if the film had been treated by a more impartial producer than Mr. Wilcox. But how much more interesting it might have been if, instead of the ugly-faced, heavy-jowled automata who are the German authorities in this film, we had been shown human beings behaving inhumanly not from mere personal nastiness but from the compulsion of a war machine! … [T]he German characters are for the most part unsatisfactory, not only because of their rudimentary characterisation but also because Mr. Wilcox has not been able to make up his mind whether they should speak bad English or bad German.44

The stereotyping of German officers and the simplistic drawing of an association between “Prussianism” and the so-called war-machine continued to infuse portrayals of Cavell’s death. In 1941 a radio play, with Lillian Harrison in the role of Edith Cavell, was said to have had a “moving effect” on its listeners.45 Perhaps one of the most active ways in which Cavell was remembered was through the work of a young 24-year-old Belgian woman named Andrée de Jongh, who, effectively, re-enacted Cavell’s resistance work during the Second World War. De Jongh had been born in German-­ occupied Belgium in 1916, and brought up in the Schaerbeek suburb of Brussels. She had, by her own account, been inspired by stories her father had told her about Edith Cavell, to create, in 1941, an escape network stretching from Belgium to neutral Spain. De Jongh’s “Comet Line” guided more than 700 Allied airmen, who had been shot down over enemy territory, to safety, with the expressed purpose of enabling them to resume their fight for the Allied cause. She was captured in 1943 and sent to Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. She survived the war and went on to work as a relief-nurse in leper colonies in the Belgian Congo and Ethiopia.46 From the mid twentieth century onwards, biographers attempted to break through the monolithic legend of Edith Cavell—to see beyond the



granite monument. They found their vision distorted, peering, as they were, through a curtain of propaganda. Following the Second World War, members of the British middle classes were coming to view themselves not only as victors, but also as instruments of the social, economic, and moral reconstruction of European society. When they considered Edith Cavell at all, they took a dispassionate stance—the luxury, perhaps, of a people who saw themselves as the inheritors of a world finally at peace. In this context a pamphlet, authored by Noel Boston, was produced by Norwich Cathedral under the somewhat prosaic title The Dutiful Edith Cavell. Its author comments on the use of Cavell’s death by the allies as part of their propaganda, and observes that his own contemporaries were more likely to emphasise Cavell’s sense of duty than her martyrdom.47 A similar stance was taken by Elizabeth Grey in a 1960 article for the Mainly for Women section of The Guardian newspaper. Grey commented that “it is ironical that Edith Cavell should be remembered as a dramatic heroine. Sensationalism was entirely foreign to her nature. Duty was her guiding star; and her abiding wish was to serve her fellow men”.48 Biographer Adolphe Hoehling attempted to reach the “true” Edith Cavell by speaking to individuals who had known her during her lifetime.49 His interlocutors appear to have struggled to remember the woman herself, finding their own memories distorted by the legend of the victimmartyr. One of Cavell’s nurses commented that “next to Miss Cavell, other women seem so weak, so thin”, but Hoehling was left with the conclusion that Cavell was an “enigma”.50 He emphasised her wilful defiance, but also her innocence of any wrongdoing, and he gave the final words on his subject to three women: Mademoiselle Marie-Madeline Bihet, who was Director of the School which was the successor to Cavell’s “Ecole”, during the Second World War51; Marie de Croÿ, one of the leaders of the escape network; and Jacqueline Van Til, one of Cavell’s nurses. Bihet, in particular, conveyed a sense of how hard it was to be head of a nursing school in Brussels in wartime, and how easy it would be to slip into impassivity—to fail to make any effort to save oneself. In quoting the words of witnesses who had themselves been very clearly influenced by the propaganda surrounding Cavell’s death, Hoehling appears to be deliberately enhancing her mystique.52 He did offer a counterfoil to the more dramatic and emotive offerings, by quoting the view of Elizabeth Wilkins, Cavell’s deputy at the Ecole—a woman who was, herself, clearly implicated in the escape network, yet who managed to emerge from interrogation at St Gilles prison a free woman.



Wilkins considered her matron “too practical to imagine herself in a martyrdom role”.53 Hoehling also recalled a communication with another of Cavell’s associates, Georges Hostelet, who “[could] never forget her saying ‘c’est inutile’, when he suggested she appeal against the death sentence”.54 Both of these reports portray Cavell as a pragmatist whose honesty condemned her, but who had no personal agenda beyond offering help to those who needed it, and then facing the consequences of her actions. Both interpretations also highlight the authoritarian nature of the martial law under which Cavell and her associates were tried. Beyond this, Hoehling was also the first author to implicate the American Legation in her death, by pointing to the slowness of Whitlock’s intervention. Hoehling argued that Edith Cavell “was martyred, unquestionably”— but he did also capture the enigma of Edith Cavell in a way that offered a complex explanation for her death. Notwithstanding the clearly emotional tone of his text—or perhaps, even, because of it—he manages to break apart the granite monument, to reveal the complex and confusing human being behind it. Ultimately, despite Wilkins’ and de Croÿ’s protestations to the contrary, Hoehling presented Cavell as a woman who, on one level at least, sought martyrdom. His highly unusual biography was not well received by all at the time of its publication. One reviewer, Marghanita Laski, found it to be an “ill-written, emotional defence”, and she took particular exception to Hoehling’s “startling revelation … that Edith Cavell, alone of the thirty-five people brought to trial, made a full confession to the Germans, specifically implicating ten other people”.55 Two other mid-twentieth-century biographies are more clearly empirically based. The London Hospital consultant Archibald Clark-­Kennedy and Norfolk-based author Rowland Ryder both produced rigorously researched chronological life histories, each building a similar image of a complex human being.56 Although neither was able to draw on original German documentary evidence for Cavell’s arrest, interrogation, and trial, both used a collection of documents that had come into the possession of a Frenchman, Ambrose Got, during the inter-war period and are now lodged in the Imperial War Museum, London. As pieces of evidence, these documents contain intrinsic limitations: their translation from the original German, first into French and then from French into English, along with their doubtful provenance. They did, nevertheless, enable both ClarkKennedy and Ryder to underpin their arguments with primary source materials.57



Although, as Katie Pickles has observed, interest in Edith Cavell faded with the coming of second-wave feminism and the waning of Empire in the later twentieth century, portraits of many kinds continued to be drawn.58 In 1977 a television drama written by Andrew Davies was shown on the BBC.  It evoked an immediate response from biographer Clark-Kennedy: I might have written the play myself, which is not surprising in view of the fact that it is clearly based on my “Edith Cavell: Pioneer and Patriot” (Faber, 1965). … Historical fact cannot be copyrighted, but the research necessary to ascertain it and the work of transposing it into a readable book and forming judgements, is personal, expensive and laborious. I spent a great deal of time and money on my book, and here it is clearly transposed into a play without any acknowledgement of my work whatever. Nor did the Author even have the politeness to get in touch with me, my Publishers or with the authorities of The London Hospital where Miss Cavell was trained and where I have served on the Staff the whole of my life. Is this the kind of way the BBC ought to behave?59

At the Chichester Festival Theatre in the summer of 1982, a new play, Cavell, by Keith Baxter, presented what one reviewer referred to as a “dogged” recounting of the traditional narrative.60 The screenplays for numerous TV, radio, and theatrical plays about Cavell were clearly influenced by Clark-Kennedy’s and Ryder’s biographies. And through these biographies, Edith Cavell became more human— less a symbolic martyr. And over 30 years later, in 2010, Diana Souhami’s Edith Cavell continued that trend, going so far as to adopt what appear to be novelistic devices to paint a rounded portrait of Cavell and bring a meaningful and satisfying trajectory to her life story. Souhami deliberately chose to present narratives relating to Cavell’s childhood and youth to create a tragic heroine, whose character traits would seal her fate. It was Cavell’s honesty and altruism, argues Souhami, that led to her death. Had she not been compassionate in helping her fellow countrymen, and then honest in admitting to her actions under interrogation, she would not have died prematurely at the hands of a firing squad.61 Souhami draws a deliberate contrast between an idyllic childhood and a harsh adulthood culminating in a bitter death. She quotes a letter written by Cavell from her prison cell to her cousin Eddy in which she muses about her childhood as a time when “life was fresh and beautiful and the



country so desirable and sweet”.62 She stresses the bleakness and constraint of a governess’s life, but also makes it clear that Cavell left the profession because it did not permit her to do as much good as she would have liked. Again, a letter to Eddy is mobilised to make the point. Still, Souhami is also careful not to paint too saintly a picture, including detail such as Cavell’s declaration—again, in a letter to Eddy—that he should not come to visit on a Sunday because the entire day was spent at church or in family devotions, with the added comment “and father’s sermons are so dull”.63 Such nuances, including Cavell’s occasional rebelliousness— such as the report that she was sent to school at the age of 16 because her father had caught her smoking—seem designed to provide a flesh-and-­ blood heroine for a modern world. Souhami appears to have based her biography on primary sources, although these are not referenced in any detail, and it is possible that she was heavily influenced by Hoehling, Clark-Kennedy, and Ryder. The response to Cavell’s death was almost as rapid in the self-governing Dominions as it was in Britain itself. Historian Katie Pickles demonstrated how powerfully gendered and imperialist this response was. Cavell’s identity as both a woman and a patriot was at the heart of her commemoration in countries such as Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.64 One of the more extraordinary acts of remembrance was the naming of a mountain in the Canadian Rockies “Mount Edith Cavell”. Now located in the Jasper National Park, the mountain and its “Angel Glacier” were, for several years, the focus of an annual service of remembrance; an interdenominational memorial church was built close to the mountain in 1927.65 Yet, as Pickles has pointed out, even though the commemoration of Edith Cavell might have been at its most powerful in Britain and the British Dominions, it was by no means contained within the bounds of the British Empire. Britain’s closest ally, France, was quick to join the drive to create permanent memorials. As early as 1916, “The Edith Cavell Hospital and Training School for Nurses” was founded in the Rue Desnouettes, Paris.66 And citizens of the still-neutral USA were anxious to honour what they saw as Cavell’s extraordinary courage and humanity. In Boston, on 11 December 1915, a group of wealthy philanthropists held a memorial service in Cavell’s honour and began to discuss the ways in which they might make a personal and civic response. They wrote to the editor of the Boston Transcript:



We admit that this heroic woman was sentenced and shot according to the German military code which makes it “treason” even for the natives of occupied territory to “give aid to the enemy” … [but] Edith Cavell’s story is of a singular beauty … at Brussels she nursed her enemy’s wounded. At her trial she made no specious defence. With unclouded soul, she consented to her own death by giving the court the truth. … For the enemy she had no condemnation. “We must have,” she said, “no hatred or bitterness” … her execution struck at the heart of Christianity and of chivalry – we, American citizens, have asked the English director of military surgery to accept, for the rest of the war, the services of the Edith Cavell Memorial Nurse from Massachusetts.67

An “Edith Cavell Nurse” was duly appointed, and her services offered to an initially reluctant Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS). Alice Fitzgerald, the chosen nurse, soon demonstrated that her expertise matched that of the British “imperials” and she remained with the QAIMNS as a “Reserve” nurse, until soon after the USA entered the war, when she resigned the service, and began work for the American Red Cross.68 As this chapter has shown, many of those who called for memorials to Edith Cavell demanded the construction of visible monuments: landmarks that would imprint themselves not only on the geography of the civilised world but also upon the consciousness of its inhabitants. Yet, Cavell’s own close family and friends looked for something very different: the creation of a memorial that would represent what Cavell had, in their minds, really stood for—the profession of nursing. They may have been moved by Cavell’s own words on the night before her death—as reported by Gahan—that she had been glad of the rest afforded by her time in St Gilles prison. The idea that prison could be a relief perhaps impressed upon them how exhausting and thankless the work of a nurse—particularly a nurse-leader in a hostile environment—could be. Cavell’s mother and sisters therefore supported a scheme to fund a series of refuges for nurses who had been worn down by their work, and who needed a place in which to recuperate from illness.69 Cavell’s youngest sister, Florence Cavell, matron of the Hull and East Riding Sanatorium and Convalescent Home at Withernsea, led the appeal for funds, publishing a letter in The Manchester Guardian in December 1915: Building a home for sick, old, tired, or convalescent nurses – not a club or hotel for nurses, in which they can live between appointments or cases, but



a home of mental and physical rest before starting again. Such a home is badly needed. To be satisfactory it must be free: to be free means a large sum collected and extended by those interested in the welfare of working women. It means an appeal to all who love and respect the memory of Edith Cavell, whose life and death were given to her profession.70

The charity came to be known as the “Edith Cavell Homes of Rest for Nurses”; it was founded in 1916, registered under the War Charities Act, 1916, and received the patronage, first, of Queen Elisabeth of the Belgians, and then, from 1918, of Queen Alexandra.71 Appeals for funds were published in the national press and in professional journals.72 Gaston de Laval, who had been legal adviser to the American Legation in Brussels in 1915, gave lecture tours in 1917 and 1919 to promote the cause of the charity.73 A report in the Monthly Pictorial for August 1934 declared that these homes met “a very real need in providing practising trained women nurses and probationers with the means of obtaining restful holidays amid cultured surroundings”. At that time there were three guest houses: “The Hollies” near London, “Coombe Head” in Surrey, and “The Crossways” in Windermere, Cumbria. Each, it was said, was run “on the lines of a first-­ class guest house”. It was declared that “bonafide nurses desirous of taking advantage of the amenities afforded by the Homes will find that admission is a very simple procedure. … Nurses who, through illness or special distress are unable to meet the expenses incurred for travelling and residence in the Homes can be helped by the Committee of the National Fund for Nurses which, with its subsidiary funds, is administered from the same office”.74 The “Edith Cavell Homes of Rest for Nurses” had a complex history— its name changing frequently over the following 100 years, perhaps reflecting the waning of interest in Edith Cavell—followed by its sudden resurgence just before the centenary. The charity continued in an independent capacity until 1922, when it was brought under the auspices of the National Fund for Nurses (NFN), another charity borne out of a desire to support women’s wartime nursing work.75 NFN had grown out of the work of the British Women’s Hospital Committee, which had endowed the “Star and Garter Homes” for disabled ex-servicemen and had, in 1916, offered support to both the Scottish Women’s Hospitals and the newly founded College of Nursing. When the “Edith Cavell Homes of Rest for Nurses” were brought under its auspices, they continued to be



administered as a separate entity, until the name “Edith Cavell and Nation’s Fund for Nurses” was coined for the joint charity in 1992. Subsequently, the name was dropped and the title “NurseAid” was used, until a decision was taken in 2012 to rename the charity again. The Trust was gearing up for the centenary of Edith Cavell’s death, and a decision was taken to rename it the “Cavell Nurses’ Trust”.76 The Cavell Nurses’ Trust is referred to on its own website as “a charity set up in Edith Cavell’s name that supports nurses, midwives and HCAs [health care assistants] suffering hardship”.77 The Trust website offers a narrative of Cavell as humane, neutral, and apolitical—emphasising that her only concern was to save lives. A simplistic story is told in brief terms: Edith Cavell was a British nurse during the First World War. She is celebrated for saving the lives of soldiers from both sides and in helping over 200 Allied soldiers escape from German-occupied Belgium. … Her childhood was in some ways idyllic, drawing and painting flowers in the summer months and ice skating in the winter months. … At the time of the outbreak of the First World War, Edith was at home in Norwich visiting her family. She told those closest to her that “at a time like this, I am more needed than ever” and made plans to return to Belgium. Edith cared for all the wounded regardless of nationality. She was greatly criticised by many at the time for assisting the German and Austrian soldiers, when they were fighting against the British. Edith soon began to work with others to smuggle the Allied soldiers under her care, out of the hospital and across the border to neutral Holland. It is believed that she saved the lives of over 200 men thanks to her bravery. … At dawn on 12th October 1915, despite international pressures for mercy, Edith Cavell was put to death by a German firing squad.78

This carefully sanitised narrative—replete with comments that glide over the surface of some of the realities of Cavell’s work in Belgium—is undoubtedly designed to construct a safe image of Cavell, and to neutralise any potential controversy. The repetition of the statement that she “saved the lives” of the men she helped across the border into the Netherlands reveals the understandable desire of the Cavell Nurses’ Trust to present a neat and entirely positive story of its namesake. Its answer to the question “who was Edith Cavell?” is an impressive piece of succinctly persuasive storytelling. It ends with an appeal: At the time, millions of soldiers and civilians owed their lives to the dedication, self-sacrifice and hard work of nurses. In 1917, the Daily Telegraph



and The Mirror newspapers launched a national appeal for funds in her memory, raising £12,500. The fund was intended to be used for nurses “shattered mentally and physically, who have sought the health of others at the expense of their own”. The fund came to be known as the Nation’s Fund for Nurses, which later became Cavell Nurses’ Trust.79

This persuasive piece, written on behalf of the charity, ends with the advertisement of a new book by Diana Souhami, Edith Cavell: A Legacy of Caring and Learning, with forewords by the Princess Royal and the Belgian Ambassador.80 The enveloping of Cavell’s legacy in clear and simple storytelling, promoted by national and international elites might be viewed as a return to the methods of the early twentieth century: the creation of a well-ordered “Cavell Legend”. Yet, the differences between that early-twentieth-century legend and the one created by the Cavell Nurses’ Trust are quite marked. The Trust’s “Edith Cavell” is an entirely neutral life-saving nurse, and is, therefore, quite unusual in the twenty-first century, at a time when the patriotic and religious elements of Cavell’s personality are, increasingly, being brought to the fore. The Cavell Nurses’ Trust’s portrayal of a carefully neutral Edith Cavell notwithstanding, the centenary of Cavell’s death appears to have coincided with a remarkable return to a more simplistic account, which presents her as, essentially, a patriot. In reporting on Stella Rimington’s Radio 4 broadcast in October 2015, Daily Mail reporter, Keiligh Baker, chose, for example, to highlight the putative quotation attributed to Cavell on the night before her execution: “I am glad to die for my country”, suppressing Gahan’s more nuanced account of her famous words about patriotism being “not enough”.81 Other remarkable features of the recent resurgence of interest in Edith Cavell are the adoption of highly—and often deliberately—novelistic styles; and the repetition of apocryphal and mythological detail, such as the story of “Rammler”, the German soldier who was said to have refused to shoot Cavell.82 Cavell is frequently included in anthologies of famous heroines, some of which are specifically designed to meet the requirements of the British National Curriculum.83 The emphasis on Cavell’s Christianity formed a continuous thread in her commemoration and was a feature of biographies produced to coincide with the centenary of her death. Indeed, this religious perspective appears to have regained its currency in the twenty-first century. Particularly insistent in their focus on a religious core to Cavell’s motivations are Nick



Miller’s Edith Cavell: A Forgotten Heroine and Catherine Butcher’s Edith Cavell: Faith Before the Firing Squad.84 In 2014 an online petition was started by Sioned-Mair Richards, a Sheffield Councillor, to urge the British Royal Mint to issue a commemorative “Edith Cavell” £2 coin. It rapidly gained 103,272 signatures, and the coin, bearing an image of Cavell caring for a wounded soldier, and the inscription “she faced them gentle and bold” was duly struck, and made available in 2015.85 The centenary of Cavell’s death, that year, was marked by a large number of events, including commemorative services, lectures, and theatrical and musical performances in Norwich, the University of East Anglia, Swardeston, London, Brussels, Manchester, Peterborough, Thrussington, and Cheshunt. New sculptures were unveiled in Peterborough Cathedral and in Brussels.86 Resources for secondary schoolchildren were created. There were exhibitions at The Royal London Hospital, the Florence Nightingale Museum, UNISON Headquarters (in collaboration with the Cavell Nurses’ Trust), and the church of St-Martinin-the-Fields. An oratorio, Eventide, was composed by Patrick Hawes to mark the centenary, and was premiered at St Clement Dane’s church on 12 October.87 In Canada, 70 supporters of the Cavell Nurses’ Trust walked and climbed in the Rockie Mountains, and a small group ascended 11,000 feet to the summit of “Mount Edith Cavell”.88 Professional nurses have continued to take inspiration from the story of Edith Cavell—even as they have received essentially simplistic versions of that story.89 Every year, since the unveiling of Frampton’s memorial in St Martin’s Place, two nurses of The Royal London Hospital have attended a commemorative ceremony to lay a wreath. And Cavell’s memory—along with that of Marie Depage—has been preserved at the “Ecole Edith Cavell-Marie Depage”, the school they helped to found in 1907. In the mid twentieth century former matron, Marie Bihet, wrote a short biography of Cavell, prefaced with the words she is reputed to have said to Gahan.90 In June 1954, a glossy and highly illustrated special edition of a magazine entitled Edelweiss was produced by a group calling itself “Les Amis de L’Ecole Edith Cavell-Marie Depage”, recounting the history of the school and giving prominence to Cavell’s work. A brief history of Cavell fronts the magazine, ending with the “famous last words”: “Je réalise que le patriotisme n’est pas tout. On ne peut avoir ni haine ni amertume.”91 And on the 70th anniversary of Cavell’s death, several bronze medals were struck, depicting the heads of Cavell and Depage. Engraved on the reverse are the words “1915 N’Oublions Jamais”.92



When the British Foreign Office released the news of Edith Cavell’s execution in October 1915, great care was taken to de-emphasise her willing participation in the work of the Belgian resistance movement during the war. As indicated in Chap. 3, this meant that the world’s press was offered a narrative of victimhood that was already carefully tailored to highlight the humanitarian nature of Cavell’s work (including the fact that she had cared for German soldiers in 1914). It was, subsequently, easy for governments, organisations, and individuals to memorialise and commemorate her as both a “heroine” and a “martyr” and it was this dual identity that formed the essence of the “Cavell Legend” that emerged. Large-scale national events such as the commemorative service at St Paul’s Cathedral in 1915 and then her state funeral in 1919 both enacted and amplified the sense of national unity that had followed the news of her death. The strength of feeling that accompanied the process of remembrance enabled a range of commemorations—from the building of stone monuments and the making of cinematic films to the naming of a mountain in Canada and a bridge in New Zealand. There was, however, a marked divergence between the routes to remembrance taken by the British government—which carried most of the British population with it—and Cavell’s own family and friends. Where the former emphasised Cavell’s status as a heroic martyr, suggesting that her death was the most important event in her life, the latter supported schemes that would emphasise the significance of her work as a nurse. Hence, Cavell’s mother and sisters gave particular support to schemes such as the “Edith Cavell Homes of Rest for Nurses”, a charity which eventually formed one component of the present-day “Cavell Nurses’ Trust”. One hundred years after Cavell’s death, the Trust itself appears to have been inclined to oversimplify her story: descriptions of her life, work, and death on its website imbue her with an innocence and neutrality that belie the complexity of her own self-presentation as one who was said to have been “glad to die for her country” but for whom “patriotism” was, nevertheless, “not enough”.

Notes 1. Peter Buitenhuis, The Great War of Words: Literature as Propaganda, 1914–18 and After (London: B.T. Batsford, 1989, first published 1987); David Welch, Germany, Propaganda and Total War, 1914–18 (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2000); Nicolas J.  Cull, David



Culbert and David Welch, Propaganda and Mass Persuasion: A Historical Encyclopedia, 1500 to the Present (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC Clio, 2003); Philip M. Taylor, Munitions of the Mind: A History of Propaganda from the Ancient World to the Present Day, Third Edition (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003); David Welch and Jo Fox (eds.) Justifying War: Propaganda, Politics and the Modern Age (Reston VA: AAIA, 2012); David Welch, Propaganda, Power and Persuasion (London, The British Library, 2013). 2. Alison S.  Fell, “Remembering French and British First World War Heroines”, In Christa Hammerle, Oswald Uberegger and Birgitta Bader Zaar (eds.) Gender and the First World War (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), 108–26: 109. See also: Maggie Andrews, Alison Fell, Lucy Noakes and June Purvis “Representing, Remembering and Rewriting Women’s Histories of the First World War”, Women’s History Review, online 15 March 2017. 3. On First World War women’s writings, see Miriam Cooke and Angela Woollacott (eds) Gendering War Talk (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993); Margaret Higonnet, Jane Jenson, Sonya Michel and Margaret Collins Weitz (eds) Behind the Lines: Gender and the Two World Wars (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1987); Margaret Higonnet, Lines of Fire: Women Writers of World War I (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1999); Angela Smith, The Second Battlefield: Women, Modernism and the First World War (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000); Margaret Higonnet, Nurses at the Front: Writing the Wounds of the Great War (Boston, MA: Northeastern University Press, 2001); Alison S.  Fell and Christine E. Hallett (eds) First World War Nursing: New Perspectives (New York: Routledge, 2013); Christine E. Hallett, Nurse Writers of the Great War (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2016). 4. Tammy Proctor, Female Intelligence: Women and Espionage in the First World War (New York and London: New  York University Press, 2003), 106. 5. Claire Daunton, Edith Cavell: Her Life and Her Art (London: The London Hospital, 1990), 7. 6. Anonymous, ‘Miss Cavell, The Memorial Service in St. Paul’s. Great Gathering of Nurses’, The Manchester Guardian, 30 October 1915: 11. Copies of the order of service for this event are available at: Edith Cavell, Private Papers; Documents 2482; File EC9, Printed items (Mainly Orders of Service) concerning the memorial and funeral services for Edith Cavell in London and Norwich, 1915 and 1919; microfilm copy at PP/MCR/ C39. 7. A.R. Grant, Letter written on behalf of Queen Alexandra. These royal messages found their way into the public consciousness through their repro-



duction in biographies such as that of Herbert Leeds: Herbert Leeds, Edith Cavell. Her Life Story. A Norfolk Tribute (Jarrold & Sons, London, 1915), 9. 8. Anonymous, ‘Miss Cavell. The Memorial Service in St. Paul’s. Great Gathering of Nurses’, The Manchester Guardian, 30 October 1915: 11. The service was reported in detail by a correspondent of the Nursing Times: Anonymous, “Service in St Paul’s – Memorials and Funds”, Nursing Times, Saturday, 6 November 1915, Vol XI (549): 1359. 9. Anonymous, ‘Miss Cavell. The Memorial Service in St. Paul’s. Great Gathering of Nurses’, The Manchester Guardian, 30 October 1915: 11. 10. Ibid., 11. 11. Copies of the order of service for this event are available at: Edith Cavell, Private Papers; Documents 2482; File EC9, Printed items (Mainly Orders of Service) concerning the memorial and funeral services for Edith Cavell in London and Norwich, 1915 and 1919; microfilm copy. 12. Katie Pickles, Transnational Outrage: The Death and Commemoration of Edith Cavell (London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 1. 13. Anonymous, ‘Edith Cavell’, The Manchester Guardian, 16 May 1919: 6. See also: Anonymous ‘Edith Cavell Funeral’, The Manchester Guardian, 1 May 1919: 3; and the longer account of the event printed in The Manchester Guardian on the day itself: 15 May: Anonymous, “From our Special Correspondent: The English Funeral of Edith Cavell”, The Manchester Guardian, 15 May 1919: 6. The event was reported in the nursing press throughout the world. See, for example: Anonymous, “Edith Cavell’s Body Taken to England”, American Journal of Nursing, 19 (9), 1919: 678. 14. Anonymous, “London’s Tribute to Nurse Cavell”, The Manchester Guardian, 16 May 1919: 7. 15. Anonymous, “Nurse Cavell’s Death”, The Manchester Guardian, 17 May 1919: 8. 16. Anonymous, “The Tragedy of Nurse Cavell”, The Manchester Guardian, 22 November 1930: 14. 17. Anonymous, ‘The Betrayal of Nurse Cavell’, The Manchester Guardian, 25 August 1919: 7. Quien’s trial appears to be the only one to gain such public attention. It had been reported in the British MI5 file on Cavell that two other spies who had denounced Cavell had been killed by the Belgian Resistance during the war. Se: File KV2/822; 22; The National Archives, Kew, London, UK. 18. Anonymous, ‘Forms of Memorial: Readers’ Suggestions’, The Times, 25 October 1915, Issue 40994: 6. Ideas about how Cavell might be commemorated took many forms. Some wanted Cavell to be posthumously awarded the Order of Merit. See, for example, the letter from ‘Englishman’



in: Anonymous, ‘Forms of Memorial: Readers’ Suggestions’, The Times, 25 October 1915, Issue 40994: 6. 19. Anonymous, “Edith Cavell Window”, Nursing Times, 4 August 1917: 912. 20. Anonymous, “The Edith Cavell Bed”, Nursing Times, 22 January 1916, Vol XII (560): 84. See Chap. 3 for further detail. 21. Anonymous, “The Memorial at Birkenhead”, Nursing Times, 19 October 1918; Volume XIV (703): 1070. Frampton carved these busts as memorials to Cavell as part of a larger project to create his monument in St Martin’s Place, London. 22. Anonymous, Column, The Manchester Guardian, 21 December 1927: 11. 23. Edith Cavell personal papers and memorabilia; LH/Z/1/29/1 CAVELL Box 1; The London Hospital Archives, London, UK. 24. Anonymous, ‘Queen Alexandra and Nurse Cavell’, The Manchester Guardian, 18 March 1920: 10. See also: Anonymous, ‘The Edith Cavell Memorial; Letter’, The Observer, 17 June 1928: 5; as early as July 1917, the Nursing Times was reporting on the plans for the design of the monument: Anonymous, “The Edith Cavell Memorial”, Nursing Times, 28 July 1917: 893. 25. Anonymous, ‘Queen Alexandra and Nurse Cavell’, The Manchester Guardian, 18 March 1920: 10. 26. Ibid., 10. 27. C.E. Bechhofer Roberts and C.S. Forester, Nurse Cavell: A Play in Three Acts (London: John Lane The Bodley Head Limited, 1933), 97–98. 28. Anonymous, “Memorial at Norwich”, Nursing Times, 19 October 1918: 1070. 29. Anonymous, ‘Nurse Edith Cavell. The Cathedral Tablet’, The Manchester Guardian, 30 June 1916: 12. 30. Anonymous, “Brussels Memorial to Nurse Cavell”, The Manchester Guardian, 20 May 1919: 8. 31. Anonymous, ‘Parisian Memorial to Edith Cavell’, The Manchester Guardian, 10 June 1920: 14; Anonymous, “France and Nurse Cavell”, The Observer, 13 June 1920: 13; Anonymous, “France Honours Nurse Cavell: A Paris Monument”, The Manchester Guardian, 14 June 1920: 12. 32. Dawn, 1927; produced by Herbert Wilcox; directed by Herbert Wilcox. For a contemporary comment on the film, see: Anonymous, ‘The Film of Edith Cavell’, The Manchester Guardian, 13 December 1927: 4. 33. Reginald Berkeley, Dawn (London: The London Book Co. Ltd., undated), 114–15. 34. Ibid., 218. 35. The debate between Foreign Office representatives, German diplomats, and film-makers was conducted very publicly, and it was reported in news-



papers throughout the British Dominions that members of the British Government were concerned at the effect the film would have on diplomatic relations between Britain and Germany. See, for example: Anonymous, Column, The News [Adelaide], 13 February, 1928: 7; available online at: National Library of Australia: https://trove.nla.gov.au/ newspaper/article/129308979 [accessed 15 May 2018]. 36. Anonymous, Editorial, The Manchester Guardian, 10 February 1928; cited at: https://greatwarfiction.wordpress.com/2015/10/26/dawnedith-cavell-and-the-censors/ [accessed 09/10/2017]. 37. Anonymous, Editorial: “Patriotism Is Not Enough: A Double Opportunity”, The Observer, 26 February 1928: 16. 38. Anonymous, Column, The News [Adelaide], 13 February 1928: 7; available online at: National Library of Australia: https://trove.nla.gov.au/ newspaper/article/129308979 [accessed 15 May 2018]. The original letter to The Times, published in February 1928, was worded slightly differently, referring to “the hideous obligations which the rules of war throw upon unwilling people”; available at: https://greatwarfiction. wordpress.com/2015/10/26/dawn-edith-cavell-and-the-censors/ [accessed 09/10/2017]. See also: Anonymous, “War Films. Only Londoners still Fond of Them. Author of “Dawn” on the Ban”, The Manchester Guardian, 22 February 1928: 6. 39. https://greatwarfiction.wordpress.com/2015/10/26/dawn-edithcavell-and-the-censors/ [accessed 09/10/2017]. 40. Anonymous, “G.B.S. sees the Cavell Film”, The Manchester Guardian, 20 February 1928. 41. Anonymous, “‘Dawn’ Banned by Film Censors”, The Manchester Guardian, 21 February 1928: 11. See also: Anonymous, “Film Censorship. Difficulties and Dangers”, The Manchester Guardian, 26 February 1928. It was reported that the film had been licensed for exhibition in New York: Anonymous, “Cavell Film ‘Dawn’ Licensed for Exhibition in New York”, The Manchester Guardian, 14 April 1928: 11. 42. Nurse Edith Cavell, 1939; produced by Herbert Wilcox and Merrill G.  White; directed by Herbert Wilcox, James Anderson, and Lloyd Richards. 43. Anonymous, “New Nurse Cavell Film”, The Manchester Guardian, 12 October 1939: 4. 44. “The Tatler”, The Manchester Guardian, 9 January 1940: 8. See also: Anonymous, “Nurse Cavell”, The Manchester Guardian, 14 August 1939: 13; Anonymous, “Music, Drama and Film”, The Manchester Guardian, 6 January 1940: 4. 45. Anonymous, “Broadcasting Review”, The Manchester Guardian, 30 April 1941: 6.



46. Airey Neave, Little Cyclone (London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1954); Anonymous, “Andrée de Jongh” (Obituary), The Times, 15 October 2007: 56. For a popular interpretation of the links between Cavell’s work and that of the “Comet Line”, see: http://www.ww2escapelines.co.uk/ belgium-france/edith-cavell/ 47. Noel Boston, The Dutiful Edith Cavell (Norwich: Norwich Cathedral, undated): 3–4. Available at the Wellcome Library, London, UK. 48. Elizabeth Grey, ‘Nurse Edith Cavell’, The Guardian, 12 October 1960: 6. Grey’s article was probably written much later than Boston’s (undated) pamphlet. 49. Some of these conversations took the form of correspondence by letter. A.A. Hoehling, Edith Cavell (London: Cassell & Company, 1958). 50. Hoehling, Edith Cavell, 15. 51. This was the “School of Nursing of the Institut Edith-Cavell-Marie Depage in Brussels”. 52. See Chap. 3 for a more detailed discussion of these witness testimonies. 53. Hoehling, Edith Cavell, 147. 54. Ibid., 148. 55. Marghanita Laski, ‘Strange Heroine: Review of ‘Edith Cavell’ by A.A. Hoehling’, The Observer, 19 March 1958: 16. 56. A.E. Clark-Kennedy, Edith Cavell: Pioneer and Patriot (London: Faber & Faber, 1965); Rowland Ryder, Edith Cavell (New York: Stein & Day, 1975). 57. A French translation of what was said to be the original German documents and an English translation from the French are available at: Edith Cavell, Private Papers; Documents 2482; Box 2; Imperial War Museum, London. 58. Katie Pickles, Transnational Outrage: The Death and Commemoration of Edith Cavell (London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). 59. Edith Cavell personal papers and memorabilia; LH/Z/1/29/2 CAVELL Box 1; The London Hospital Archives, London, UK.  Clark-Kennedy demanded both and apology and financial compensation for the use of his work. My researches have not revealed whether either was forthcoming. 60. Michael Billington, “When heroism is not enough”, The Guardian, 8 July 1982: 10. This was the latest of a number of theatrical commemorations of Cavell’s life and work. See also: Light in the Deepening Dark, by Lowell L. Manfull; Edith Cavell personal papers and memorabilia; LH/Z/1/29/1 CAVELL Box 1; The London Hospital Archives, London, UK. 61. Diana Souhami, Edith Cavell (London: Quercus, 2010). 62. Ibid., 13. 63. Ibid., 15.



64. Katie Pickles, “Mapping memorials for Edith Cavell on the colonial edge”, New Zealand Geographer, 62 (1), 2006, 13–24. 65. Anonymous, ‘In Memory of Edith Cavell’, The Manchester Guardian, 4 August 1927: 7. 66. Anonymous, ‘Edith Cavell’s Memory in Paris’, The Manchester Guardian, 12 October 1916: 4. 67. Anonymous, ‘Echoes from the War Zone: The Edith Cavell Memorial Nurse’, Johns Hopkins Nurses’ Alumnae Magazine; 15; May 1916: 109– 12: 111–12; Anonymous, ‘The Origin of the Cavell Memorial Nurse in Massachusetts’, Johns Hopkins Nurses’ Alumnae Magazine; 15; August 1916: 161–62. 68. Anonymous [Alice Fitzgerald], The Edith Cavell Nurse from Massachusetts: A Record of One Year’s Personal Service with the British Expeditionary Force in France Boulogne  – The Somme 1916–1917, with an Account of the Imprisonment, Trial and Death of Edith Cavell (Boston, W.A. Butterfield, 1917). 69. The records of the “Edith Cavell Homes of Rest for Nurses” are held at the Archives of the Wellcome Library, London. Annual reports for the years 1916 to 1925–26 are available at: SA/NFN/C/1, through to SA/ NFN/C/1/10; Wellcome Library, London. 70. Miss F.M. Scott Cavell, ‘Edith Cavell Memorial Home of Rest for Nurses’; Letter, The Manchester Guardian, 16 December 1915: 9. See also: Anonymous, “Nurse Cavell and Manchester: The Dean and The Memorial”, The Manchester Guardian, 22 November 1915: 3; Lady Haig, “Edith Cavell Homes of Rest for Nurses”, The Manchester Guardian, 9 November 1916: 7; Lady Jellicoe, ‘Edith Cavell Homes of Rest’; Letter, The Manchester Guardian, 17 November 1916: 5. 71. Reports relating to the “Edith Cavell Homes of Rest for Nurses”; SA/ NFN/C/1, through to SA/NFN/C/1/10; Wellcome Library, London, UK. See, for example: Correspondence relating to the Management of the Edith Cavell Home at Coombe Head, Haselmere, Surrey; Box 12; SA/ NFN/C/8; Wellcome Library, London, UK; Miss Mary Bull, Superintendent of the Edith Cavell Home in Coombe Head, Haselmere; Box 12; SA/NFN/C/16; Wellcome Library, London, UK. On life in one of the earliest homes, see: Anonymous, “Little Wych”, Nursing Times, 7 July 1917: 801–2. On Coombe Head, see: Anonymous, “The Edith Cavell Home of Rest at Coombe Head, Nursing Times, 15 December 1917: 1499. 72. Arthur Conan Doyle, ‘The Edith Cavell Homes of Rest for Nurses’, Appeal, The Manchester Guardian, 3 November 1916: 10; Anonymous, Advertisement, “Edith Cavell’s Life Desire was to Establish Homes of Rest for Nurses”, The Manchester Guardian, 14 May 1919: 5; Anonymous,



Column, “The Edith Cavell Homes of Rest for Nurses”, The Lancet, 25 November 1916, 912. 73. Anonymous “Our London Correspondence”, The Manchester Guardian, 17 May 1919: 8; Anonymous, “Edith Cavell Homes of Rest”, Nursing Times, 29 September 1917: 1140; Anonymous, “The Death of Edith Cavell: Lecture by Gaston de Leval”, Nursing Times, 20 October 1917: 1246. 74. Clipping from Monthly Pictorial, August 1934; SA/NFN/C/11; Wellcome Library, London, UK.  See also: letters of appreciation and reports from those in charge at SA/NFN/C/8–14. 75. Files relating to the “Nations [sic] Fund for Nurses (1915–1988)”: British Women’s Hospital Committee (1915–1920), SA/NFN/A; Nation’s Fund for Nurses (1917–1995), SA/NFN/B; Edith Cavell Homes of Rest for Nurses Annual Reports (1917–1972); SA/NFN/C1; Photographs; SA/ NFN/C/15–16; Council Minutes with some joint meetings regarding properties, SA/NFN/C/2; Finance Committee Minutes, SA/NFN/C/4; Homes Committee Minutes, SA/NFN/C/5; Correspondence and Memorabilia, SA/NFN/C/8–14; Other organisations incorporated into the Nation’s Fund for Nurses (1919–1979), SA/NFN/D; Approval of a scheme for applying surplus funds of Edith Cavell Fund to relief generally of practising female nurses and nurses in training in need of mental or physical rest (1982), SA/QNI/E/7/5, Wellcome Library, London, UK. 76. Edith Cavell Homes of Rest for Nurses Annual Reports (1917–1972); SA/NFN/C1; Approval of a scheme for applying surplus funds of Edith Cavell Fund to relief generally of practising female nurses and nurses in training in need of mental or physical rest (1982); SA/QNI/E/7/5; Wellcome Library, London, UK. The Cavell Nurses’ Trust gives a timeline of its own history at: https://www.cavellnursestrust.org/history [accessed 10 June 2018]. 77. Cavell Nurses’ Trust website: https://www.cavellnursestrust.org/edithcavell [accessed 24 April 2018]. 78. Cavell Nurses’ Trust website: https://www.cavellnursestrust.org/edithcavell [accessed 24 April 2018]. 79. Cavell Nurses’ Trust website: https://www.cavellnursestrust.org/edithcavell [accessed 24 April 2018]. 80. Diana Souhami, Edith Cavell: A Legacy of Caring and Learning (London: Pitkin Guides, Pavilion Books, 2015). 81. Keiligh Baker, “Heroic nurse Edith Cavell whose execution by firing squad outraged First World War Britain WAS spying on Germans says ex-MI5 chief Stella Rimington” Daily Mail, available at: http://www.dailymail. co.uk/news/article-3232675/Heroic-nurse-Edict-Cavell-spyingGermans.html



82. Many of these books were published within the last ten years in the USA.  See, for example: Terri Arthur, Fatal Decision: Edith Cavell WW1 Nurse (Park Rapids, Minnesota: Beagle Books, 2011), which was later republished as: Terri Arthur, Fatal Destiny (Milwaukee: HenschelHAUS Publishing, 2014); Christine Farenhorst, A Cup of Cold Water: The Compassion of Nurse Edith Cavell (Presbyterian and Reformed, 2012). 83. See, for example: Charlotte Guillain, Brave Nurses: Mary Seacole and Edith Cavell (London: Collins, 2015); Nick Hunter, Mary Seacole, Florence Nightingale and Edith Cavell: Comparing People from the Past (Oxford: Raintree, 2015). 84. Nick Miller, Edith Cavell: A Forgotten Heroine (Cambridge: Grove Books, 2014); Catherine Butcher, Edith Cavell: Faith Before the Firing Squad (Oxford: Monarch Books; Lion Hudson, 2015). 85. The appeal was referred to on the website of the Cavell Nurses’ Trust: https://www.cavellnursestrust.org/edith-cavell [accessed 30 September 2015]. On the production of the coin itself, see: Baker, “Heroic nurse Edith Cavell”. 86. The sculpture in Brussels, a bust of Edith Cavell by Natalie Lambert, in the Montjoie Park in Uccle, was unveiled by Princess Anne, the British Princess Royal, and Princess Astrid of Belgium: John Roberts, “Remembering wartime heroine Edith Cavell 100  years after her death”, Yorkshire Post, 12 October, 2015 [available at: http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/ r e m e m b e r i n g - w a r t i m e - h e r o i n e - e d i t h - c a v e l l - 1 0 0 - y e a r s - a f t e rher-death-1-7510545] 87. Patrick Hawes, Eventide (London: Novello & Co., 2014). 88. Cavell Nurses’ Trust website: https://www.cavellnursestrust.org/edithcavell [accessed 24 April 2018]. 89. Sandra Lewenson, “Edith Cavell: Traitor or Saviour?” Nursing Research, 41 (6) November/December 1992; Marcena Walker, “Edith Cavell: WW1 Nurse, Hero, Martyr”, Journal of Christian Nursing, 20 (4), 2003: 38–40; Terri Arthur, “The Life and Death of Edith Cavell, English Emergency Nurse Known as ‘The Other Nightingale’”, Journal of Emergency Nursing, 32 (1), February 2006: 30–35; Rosemary Cook, “Edith Cavell: ‘The poor man’s Nightingale?’”, British Journal of Community Nursing, 18 (4), 2013: 193; Anonymous, “Driven to nurse, at all costs”, Nursing Times, 110 (42), 2014: 27; Ruth Stone, “Looking to the past and learning for the future”, British Journal of Nursing, 25 (6), 2016: 6. 90. Mlle Bihet, Histoire du Nursing (Liege: Editions Desoer, 1947); available at: Edith Cavell personal papers and memorabilia; LH/Z/1/29/1 CAVELL Box 1; The London Hospital Archives, London, UK. 91. Copies of Edelweiss are lodged in The London Hospital Archives and the National Archives. See: Edith Cavell personal papers and memorabilia;



LH/Z/1/29/1 CAVELL Box 1; C1/4/14; The London Hospital Archives, London, UK. 92. One of these has a woman’s name carved into it, implying that these medals/badges might have been given to successful students as they graduated from the school. A version in English—“1915 Remember”—has been donated to The London Hospital. Edith Cavell personal papers and memorabilia; LH/Z/1/29/1 CAVELL Box 1; C1/4/15; The London Hospital Archives, London, UK.



Abstract  The Conclusion (Chap. 5) reiterates and summarises the main points made in the book, the main purpose of which is to analyse the ways in which Edith Cavell’s life, work, and execution were understood and interpreted in the approximately one hundred years after her death. It discusses the ways in which, in a broader sense, such analysis enables an understanding of the processes of memory, memorialisation, and commemoration. In the days and weeks immediately following Cavell’s death, the governments of Britain and its self-governing dominions made use of her execution in powerfully propagandist ways. In this, they were supported by the most powerful communicators within their societies—notably newspaper editors and clergymen. Cavell was presented as both a heroine and a martyr. The clamour of outrage which followed her death all but drowned out her own voice—as a professional woman who expressed the belief that “patriotism was not enough”, and stated that she wished to be remembered as a nurse who “did her duty”. The Conclusion ends by reflecting on the “audacity of commemoration” and the “impossibility of history”. Keywords  Edith Cavell • Legend • Commemoration • Memorialisation Memorialisation and commemoration are, of necessity, simple processes which exist to fulfil certain public expectations, the most powerful of which is that only those traits of an individual that are seen as “positive” © The Author(s) 2019 C. E. Hallett, Edith Cavell and her Legend, https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-54371-4_5




will be celebrated. As a consequence, the cultural expectations of the time in which a person is most powerfully remembered are fossilised, as if within the very stone out of which their effigies are carved. In the powerfully evocative statue of Edith Cavell in St Martin’s Place, London, there is no hint of the cigarette-smoking teenager, who, according to one later narrative, wrote to her cousin of the dullness of her father’s sermons, or of the woman who, some believed, had willingly entered into clandestine resistance activities. The image is that of both nurse and martyr—a combination of stern gravity and resolute determination. Cavell is dressed in a nurse’s uniform—even though she declined to wear such a uniform during her trial and execution—emphasising duty, service, and self-sacrifice. Cavell’s execution was made public in powerfully propagandist ways. Although the events of her death, as laid down by Brand Whitlock, Hugh Gibson, and other members of the American Legation in Brussels, were presented in purely factual terms by the British Foreign Office, they were accompanied by journalistic commentary and letters from the public describing Cavell’s execution as a criminal act. Following a first wave of grief, shock, and disgust, Cavell’s story was then kept alive in the public consciousness, giving her legendary status. By the 1920s a small number of memoirs, along with a film, Dawn, made by director and producer Herbert Wilcox and based on a novel by Reginald Berkeley, began to attempt to reorient the collective memory of Cavell into one of compassion and forgiveness, as her words “Patriotism is not enough” were brought to prominence.1 During the inter-war period a fluidity in the telling of narratives about Cavell emerged. Yet, Cavell’s earlier biographers were heavily influenced by wartime propaganda. Most were fulsome in their praise, presenting her as a paragon of female virtue. Herbert Leeds had written of how, at the Shoreditch Infirmary, “memories of numerous quiet acts of charity cling fragrantly about her stay there”, adding that “the extent of her sympathy had in it something truly divine”,2 and subsequent biographies—even though their styles might be less florid—sustained, unbroken, the thread of this narrative. As one stark, official narrative dissolved into many stories, in the years following the Second World War, a handful of carefully-researched, fulllength biographies was produced. Yet, the interleaving stories that emerged in the 50 years following Cavell’s death had already ossified into a single dominant narrative—hardening into a legend that the biographers could only partially dismantle. And, as if to mirror this process, stone monuments of all kinds were being unveiled all over the world.



In an article published in the American Journal of Nursing just as he was completing his biography of Edith Cavell, Adolphe Hoehling commented: “Edith Cavell is long dead. … Where do you begin the almost clinical task of re-weaving the complex web that is any human being?”3 The accumulation of historical knowledge is an incremental process, and 60 years later, some of the missing threads of Hoehling’s complex web are becoming evident. Although he declared that “this writer does not believe that any more first-hand or original source material could have been found”, subsequent biographers have unearthed a range of different perspectives, including some eyewitness testimony that appears to refute that provided by Hoehling’s main witnesses. Successive generations have attempted to understand the life, work, and execution of Edith Cavell in different ways. Some of the biographies— including those of Archibald Clark-Kennedy, Rowland Ryder, and Diana Souhami—have emphasised Cavell’s own self-identification as a ­professional nurse, who appears to have desired neither heroic status nor martyrdom. Others—particularly propagandists and some journalists— chose to deliberately subvert her story, sometimes consciously distorting the evidence to produce a particular emotional, often nationalistic, response. Most chose to identify her as either a heroine or a martyr—often as both. In 2005, historian Anne-Marie Hughes commented that Cavell was most useful to the British government if she were portrayed as a naïve victim, completely innocent of involvement in espionage, whilst in 2014, Alison Fell similarly pointed out that Edith Cavell had been “the representative par excellence of the virtuous virgin-victim”.4 This representation has a long history. In some ways, the only real difference between the earlier and the later interpretations is that the latter present Cavell as a victim not only of the German high command but also of the British and US governments (Image 5.1). On 11 May 1967, the daughter of Fanny Edgecombe, a nurse who had been a particular friend of Edith Cavell at The London Hospital in the last years of the nineteenth century, wrote to Rowland Ryder offering what she knew of her mother’s perspective: “After Nurse Cavell had been executed mother was given a ticket to the memorial service in the Abbey. She always said when speaking of her ‘I cannot believe all this happened to the Cavell we knew’. Until my mother’s death in 1951 we had a very large picture of Nurse Cavell and the dogs hanging up in our home.”5 The words attributed to Edith Cavell’s former friend reveal the



Image 5.1  “Edith Cavell, 1865–1915, Photograph, Daily Mirror”; Quote reads: “I have seen death so often that it is not strange or painful to me. I am glad to die for my country. Brussels, October 12th 1915”. (Credit: Wellcome Collection CC BY 4.0)



complex nature of remembrance. Edgecombe could not resolve the national heroine, Edith Cavell, who had defied the might of the Kaiser’s army and died a martyr’s death, with her quiet, unassuming, and sometimes bullied former friend at The London Hospital. Yet, a well-known image of Cavell was given prominence in her home. Perhaps Edgecombe’s awed realisation that she had never really known her friend illustrates both the audacity of commemoration and the impossibility of history: it is all too easy to construct a legend, but totally impossible to recapture a real human being.

Notes 1. Dawn, 1927; produced by Herbert Wilcox; directed by Herbert Wilcox; Reginald Berkeley, Dawn (London: The London Book Co. Ltd., undated). 2. Herbert Leeds, Edith Cavell. Her Life Story. A Norfolk Tribute (Jarrold & Sons, London, 1915), 14; 17–18. 3. A.A. Hoehling, “The Story of Edith Cavell”, American Journal of Nursing, 57 (10), October 1957, 1320–22. 4. Anne-Marie Claire Hughes, “War, Gender and National Mourning: The Significance of the Death and Commemoration of Edith Cavell in Britain”, European Review of History, 12 (3), 2005, 425–44; Alison S.  Fell, “Remembering French and British First World War Heroines”, In Christa Hammerle, Oswald Uberegger and Birgitta Bader Zaar (eds.) Gender and the First World War (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), 108–26: 109. 5. Rowland Ryder, Private Papers; File 1, Box 3566, Misc 263; Imperial War Museum, London, UK.


Primary Sources Archive Materials The Royal London Hospital Archives, Prescott Street, London, UK Edith Cavell personal papers and memorabilia; LH/Z/1/29/1 CAVELL Box 1. Register of Probationers, Entry for Edith Louisa Cavell, Sept 3rd, 1896. Register of Sisters and Nurses, Entry for Edith Scott [sic] Cavell, 1901.

Imperial War Museum, London, UK Edith Cavell, Private Papers; Documents 2482; two boxes. [Files available on microfilm at PP/MCR/C39]. EC1; Extract from Edith Cavell’s Diary, April 1915. EC2: Letters written by Edith Cavell, December 1911 – October 1915. EC3: Miscellaneous papers in Edith Cavell’s hand. EC4: Letters relating to or concerning Edith Cavell. EC5: Official and semi-official correspondence concerning the arrest, execution and burial of Edith Cavell. August 1915–October 1915. EC6: Further official and semi-official correspondence, November 1915–August 1919. EC7: Official and other correspondence relating to the exhumation and reburial of Edith Cavell’s remains and subsequent, undated correspondence, January 1919–October 1920. © The Author(s) 2019 C. E. Hallett, Edith Cavell and her Legend, https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-54371-4




EC8: Miscellaneous documents relating to Edith Cavell, May 1896–December 1921. EC9: Printed Items (Mainly Orders of Service) concerning the memorial and funeral services of Edith Cavell, 1915 and 1919. Mrs Millicent Battrum, Private Papers; File MB/7; Box P367. Dr A.E. Clark-Kennedy, Private Papers; Documents 10855; Box P14. Rowland Ryder; Private papers; Documents 3566, Misc 263. Typescript account, written by Elisabeth Wilkins, of her experiences at the Ecole Belge des Infirmières Diplomées. Letter from Mrs L. Osborne, dated 20 Feb 1963. Transcript from the “Kent Messenger”, undated. Letters from Ruth Hellyer; Mrs Millicent Battrum (Sister White); Margaret Brand; the daughter of Fanny Edgecombe; Constance Henniker; Delaheine Buck; Eileen Harrison. D.J. Tunmore, Private Papers; Documents 7501; Box 75/93/1.

The National Archives, Kew, London, UK File KV2/822: Edith Cavell.

The Wellcome Library and Archives, London, UK Files relating to the Nations [sic] Fund for Nurses (1915–1988): British Women’s Hospital Committee (1915–1920), SA/NFN/A. Nation’s Fund for Nurses (1917–1995), SA/NFN/B. Edith Cavell Homes of Rest for Nurses Annual Reports (1917–1972): SA/NFN/C1. Council Minutes with some joint meetings regarding properties, SA/NFN/C/2. Finance Committee Minutes, SA/NFN/C/4. Homes Committee Minutes, SA/NFN/C/5; Correspondence and Memorabilia, SA/NFN/C/8-14. Photographs: SA/NFN/C/15-16. Other organisations incorporated into the Nation’s Fund for Nurses (1919–1979): /SA/NFN/D. Edith Cavell Homes of Rest for Nurses Annual Reports (1916–1972); SA/ NFN/C/1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. Correspondence relating to the Management of the Edith Cavell Home at Coombe Head, Haselmere, Surrey: SA/NFN/C/8. Clipping from Monthly Pictorial, August 1934: SA/NFN/C/11. Letters of appreciation: SA/NFN/C/8-14. Correspondence of Miss Mary Bull, Superintendent of the Edith Cavell Home in Coombe Head, Haselmere: SA/NFN/C/16.



Approval of a scheme for applying surplus funds of Edith Cavell Fund to relief generally of practising female nurses and nurses in training in need of mental or physical rest (1982): SA/QNI/E/7/5.

Newspaper Columns, Articles, and Letters Anonymous. 1915a. The Execution of Miss Cavell. The Times, Monday October, 5. ———. 1915b. House of Lords. The Times, Thursday October 21, 15. ———. 1915c. Miss Cavell’s Death. The Times, Friday October 22, 9. ———. 1915d. Merciless Execution of Nurse Cavell. The Manchester Guardian, October 22, 7. ———. 1915e. Nurse Cavell’s Last Hours. The Manchester Guardian, October 23, 9. ———. 1915f. Public Protests. The Times, Monday October 25, 6. ———. 1915g. Forms of Memorial: Readers’ Suggestions. The Times, Monday October 25, 6. ———. 1915h. The Enemy’s Defence, “Plot to Enlist Belgians” Amsterdam, Oct 24. The Times, Monday October 25, 6. ———. 1915i. Italian Condemnation. The Times Issue 40994, Monday October 25, 6. ———. 1915j. The Martyrdom of Miss Cavell. The Times, Monday October 25, 9. ———. 1915k. The Martyrdom of Miss Cavell. The Times, Monday October 25, 9. ———. 1915l. Miss Cavell’s Death. German Attempts at “Defence”. A Sneer at the Victim. The Manchester Guardian, October 25, 9. ———. 1915m. Why Miss Cavell was Shot. The Times, Tuesday October 26, 9. ———. 1915n. Nurse Cavell. The Manchester Guardian, October 27, 14. ———. 1915o. Miss Cavell’s Soldier Refugees. German Account of the Conspiracy. The Manchester Guardian, October 29, 6. ———. 1915p. “A Masculine Force of Mind”. German Excuse for Treating Miss Cavell as a Man. The Manchester Guardian, October 30, 11. ———. 1915q. Miss Cavell, The Memorial Service in St. Paul’s. Great Gathering of Nurses. The Manchester Guardian, October 30, 11. ———. 1915r. Sacrifice. Nursing Times XI (548): 1323, Saturday October 30. ———. 1915s. Service in St Paul’s  – Memorials and Funds. Nursing Times XI (549): 1359, Saturday November 6. ———. 1915t. Nurse Cavell and Manchester: The Dean and The Memorial. The Manchester Guardian, November 22, 3. ———. 1915u. Cavell Bed for a Paralysed Soldier. Nursing Times XI (550): 1460, Saturday November 27. ———. 1915v. Cavell Bed for Paralysed Soldier. Nursing Times XI (552): 1586, Saturday December 18.



———. 1915w. Edith Cavell. Further Information. American Journal of Nursing 16 (3): 169–170. ———. 1916a. The Edith Cavell Bed. Nursing Times XII (560): 84, Saturday January 22. ———. 1916b. Echoes from the War Zone: The Edith Cavell Memorial Nurse. Johns Hopkins Nurses’ Alumnae Magazine 15: 109–112. ———. 1916c. Nurse Edith Cavell. The Cathedral Tablet. The Manchester Guardian, June 30, 12. ———. 1916d. The Origin of the Cavell Memorial Nurse in Massachusetts. Johns Hopkins Nurses’ Alumnae Magazine 15 August, 161–162. ———. 1916e. Edith Cavell’s Memory in Paris. The Manchester Guardian, October 12, 4. ———. 1917a. Miss Cavell’s Last Hours. Nursing Times XIII (627): 536, May 5. ———. 1917b. Little Wych. Nursing Times XIII (633): 801–802, July 7. ———. 1917c. The Edith Cavell Memorial. Nursing Times XIII (635): 893, July 28. ———. 1917d. Edith Cavell Window. Nursing Times XIII (636): 912, August 4. ———. 1917e. Edith Cavell Homes of Rest. Nursing Times XIII (641): 1140, September 29. ———. 1917f. The Death of Edith Cavell: Lecture by Gaston de Leval. Nursing Times XIII (644): 1246, October 20. ———. 1917g. The Edith Cavell Home of Rest at Coombe Head. Nursing Times XIII (652): 1499, December 15. ———. 1918a. The Memorial at Birkenhead. Nursing Times XIV (703): 1070, October 19. ———. 1918b. Memorial at Norwich. Nursing Times XIV (703): 1070, October 19. ———. 1918c. Nurse Cavell’s Grave. The Observer 8, November 24. ———. 1919a. Edith Cavell Funeral. The Manchester Guardian 3, May 1. ———. 1919b. From our Special Correspondent: The English Funeral of Edith Cavell. The Manchester Guardian 6, May 15. ———. 1919c. Edith Cavell. The Manchester Guardian 6, May 16. ———. 1919d. London’s Tribute to Nurse Cavell. The Manchester Guardian 7, May 16. ———. 1919e. Nurse Cavell’s Death. The Manchester Guardian 8, May 17. ———. 1919f. Our London Correspondence. The Manchester Guardian 8, May 17. ———. 1919g. Brussels Memorial to Nurse Cavell. The Manchester Guardian 8, May 20. ———. 1919h. Miss Cavell’s Murder. The Observer, June 8. ———. 1919i. Betrayer of Miss Cavell. The Observer, August 24, 9. ———. 1919j. The Betrayal of Nurse Cavell. The Manchester Guardian, August 25, 7. ———. 1919k. Edith Cavell’s Body Taken to England. American Journal of Nursing, 19 (9): 678, September.



———. 1920a. Parisian Memorial to Edith Cavell. The Manchester Guardian 14, June 10. ———. 1920b. France and Nurse Cavell. The Observer, June 13. ———. 1920c. France Honours Nurse Cavell: A Paris Monument. The Manchester Guardian, June 14, 12. ———. 1920d. Queen Alexandra and Nurse Cavell. The Manchester Guardian, March 18, 10. ———. 1922. King’s Tribute to Nurse Cavell. The Manchester Guardian, May 11, 7. ———. 1927a. In Memory of Edith Cavell. The Manchester Guardian, August 4, 7. ———. 1927b. The Film of Edith Cavell. The Manchester Guardian, December 13, 4. ———. 1928a. G.B.S. sees the Cavell Film. The Manchester Guardian, February 20. ———. 1928b. ‘Dawn’ Banned by Film Censors. The Manchester Guardian, February 21, 11. ———. 1928c. Film Censorship. Difficulties and Dangers. The Manchester Guardian, February 26. ———. 1928d. Cavell Film ‘Dawn’ Licensed for Exhibition in New  York. The Manchester Guardian, April 14. ———. 1928e. The Edith Cavell Memorial; Letter. The Observer, June 17, 5. ———. 1930a. Miss Cavell’s Death. The Observer, November 30, 10. ———. 1930b. The Tragedy of Nurse Cavell. The Manchester Guardian, November 22, 14. ———. 1939a. New Nurse Cavell Film. The Manchester Guardian, October 12, 4. ———. 1939b. Nurse Cavell. The Manchester Guardian, August 14. ———. 1940a. Music, Drama and Film. The Manchester Guardian, January 6, 4. ———. 1940b. The Tatler. The Manchester Guardian, January 9, 8. ———. 1941. Broadcasting Review. The Manchester Guardian, April 30, 6. ———. 2007. Andrée de Jongh (Obituary). The Times, October 15, 56. ———. 2014. Driven to Nurse, at All Costs. Nursing Times 110 (42): 27. Anonymous. British and German Methods: Sir J.  Simon’s Contrast. The Times, Monday October 25, 6. Anonymous [Edith Cavell]. 1915. Brussels under the German Rule: From Our Nurse Correspondent. Nursing Mirror and Midwives Journal 63, April 24. Anonymous, Advertisement. 1919. Edith Cavell’s Life Desire was to Establish Homes of Rest for Nurses. The Manchester Guardian, May 14, 5. Anonymous, Column. 1916. The Edith Cavell Homes of Rest for Nurses. The Lancet, November 25, 912. ———. 1927. The Manchester Guardian, December 21, 11. Anonymous, Editorial. 1915a. Nursing Times XI (547): 1287, Saturday October 23. ———. 1915b. The Martyrdom of Nurse Edith Cavell. Nursing Times XI (548): 1327–1329, Saturday October 30.



———. 1928. Patriotism is Not Enough: A Double Opportunity. The Observer, February 26, 16. Anonymous, News in Brief. 1915. The Times, Saturday October 16, 8. Billington, Michael. 1982. When Heroism Is Not Enough. The Guardian, July 8, 10. Bowcott, Owen. 2002. British War Leaders Urged to Execute Women Spies. The Guardian, May 9, 8. Cavell, Miss F.M. Scott. 1915. ‘Edith Cavell Memorial Home of Rest for Nurses’; Letter. The Manchester Guardian, December 16, 9. Conan Doyle, Arthur. 1916. ‘The Edith Cavell Homes of Rest for Nurses’, Appeal. The Manchester Guardian, November 3, 10. Grey, Elizabeth. 1960. Nurse Edith Cavell. The Guardian, October 12, 6. Haig, Lady. 1916. Edith Cavell Homes of Rest for Nurses. The Manchester Guardian November 9, 7. Hobson, Florence Edgar. 1915. Letter. The Manchester Guardian, November 5, 5. Hoehling, A.A. 1957. The Story of Edith Cavell. American Journal of Nursing 57(10): 1320–1322, October. Inglis, Matron. 1915. Shoreditch Infirmary, Letter. Nursing Times XI (547): 1291, Saturday October 23. Jeger, Lena. 1965. A Nurse’s Ghost. The Guardian, July 2, 20. Jellicoe, Lady. 1916. ‘Edith Cavell Homes of Rest’; Letter. The Manchester Guardian, November 17, 5. Laski, Marghanita. 1958. Strange Heroine: Review of ‘Edith Cavell’ by A.A. Hoehling. The Observer, March 19, 16. Speck, Jocelyn Henry. 1915. Letter: ‘The Execution of Miss Cavell.’ The Times, Tuesday, October 19, 9. Swanwick, H.M. 1915. ‘Edith Cavell Memorial’, Letter. The Manchester Guardian, November 3, 4. Ward, Mary A. 1915. Letter. The Times, Saturday October 23, 8.

Published Primary Sources à Kempis, Thomas. Of the Imitation of Christ Four Books. The “Edith Cavell Edition” With an Introduction by Bishop Herbert E, Ryle. London: Humphrey Milford, Oxford University Press, 1920; first published 1470. Anonymous [Alice Fitzgerald]. 1917. The Edith Cavell Nurse From Massachusetts: A Record of One Year’s Personal Service with the British Expeditionary Force in France Boulogne – The Somme 1916–1917, with an Account of the Imprisonment, Trial and Death of Edith Cavell. Boston: W.A. Butterfield. Arthur, Terri. 2006. The Life and Death of Edith Cavell, English Emergency Nurse Known as ‘The Other Nightingale’. Journal of Emergency Nursing 32 (1): 30–35.



———. 2011. Fatal Decision: Edith Cavell WW1 Nurse. Park Rapids: Beagle Books. ———. 2014. Fatal Destiny. Milwaukee: HenschelHAUS Publishing. Beck, James M. 1916. The Case of Edith Cavell: A Study of the Rights of Non-­ Combatants. New York: G.P. Putnam’s. Berkeley, Reginald. Undated. Dawn. London: The London Book Co Ltd. Boston, Noel. Undated. The Dutiful Edith Cavell. Pamphlet printed in Norwich (Available at The Wellcome Library: P3030). Butcher, Catherine. 2015. Edith Cavell: Faith Before the Firing Squad. Tolworth: Monarch Books/Lion Hudson. Farenhorst, Christine. 2012. A Cup of Cold Water: The Compassion of Nurse Edith Cavell. Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed. Garrett, Richard. 1974. Piccolo Book of Heroines. London: Macmillan. Grant, Sally. 1995. Edith Cavell: Nurse and War-Heroine. Dereham: Lark’s Press. Grey, Elizabeth. 1960. Friend Within the Gates. London: Constable and Co Ltd. Guillain, Charlotte. 2015. Brave Nurses: Mary Seacole and Edith Cavell. London: Collins. Hawes, Patrick. 2014. Eventide; Music Score. London: Novello and Co. Hunter, Nick. 2015. Mary Seacole, Florence Nightingale and Edith Cavell: Comparing People from the Past. Oxford: Raintree. Leeds, Herbert. 1915. Edith Cavell. Her Life Story. A Norfolk Tribute. London: Jarrold and Sons. Miller, Nick. 2014. Edith Cavell: A Forgotten Heroine. Cambridge: Grove Books. Nutting, M. Adelaide, and Lavinia L. Dock. 1907. A History of Nursing. 4 Vols. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons. Peachment, Brian. 1979. Ready to Die: Story of Edith Cavell (Faith in Action). London: Elsevier. Richardson, Nigel. 1987. Edith Cavell. London: Puffin. Roberts, C.E. Bechhofer, and C.S. Forester. 1933. Nurse Cavell: A Play in Three Acts. London: John Lane The Bodley Head Limited. Souhami, Diana. 2015. Edith Cavell: A Legacy of Caring and Learning. London: Pitkin Guides/Pavilion Books. Stone, Ruth. 2016. Looking to the past and learning for the future. British Journal of Nursing 25 (6): 6. Tooley, Sarah A. 1906. The History of Nursing in the British Empire. London: S. H. Bousefield and Co. Van Til, Jacqueline. 1922. With Edith Cavell in Belgium. New York: H.W Bridges. Walker, Marcena. 2003. Edith Cavell: WW1 Nurse, Hero, Martyr. Journal of Christian Nursing 20 (4): 38–40.



Cinematographic Films Dawn. 1927. Produced and directed by Herbert Wilcox. Nurse Edith Cavell. 1939. Produced by Herbert Wilcox and Merrill G.  White; directed by Herbert Wilcox, James Anderson and Lloyd Richards.

Secondary Sources: Books and Articles Andrews, Maggie, Alison Fell, Lucy Noakes, and June Purvis. 2017. Representing, Remembering and Rewriting Women’s Histories of the First World War. Women’s History Review, online March 15. Buitenhuis, Peter. 1989. The Great War of Words; Literature as Propaganda, 1914–18 and After. London: B.T. Batsford (first published 1987). Clark-Kennedy, Archibald. 1965. Edith Cavell: Pioneer and Patriot. London: Faber and Faber. Cook, Rosemary. 2013. Edith Cavell: ‘The poor man’s Nightingale? British Journal of Community Nursing 18 (4): 193. Cooke, Miriam, and Angela Woollacott, eds. 1993. Gendering War Talk. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Cull, Nicolas J., David Culbert, and David Welch. 2003. Propaganda and Mass Persuasion: A Historical Encyclopaedia, 1500 to the Present. Santa Barbara: ABC Clio. Daunton, Claire, ed. 1990. Edith Cavell: Her Life and Her Art. London: The Royal London Hospital in Collaboration with the Association “The Friends of Edith Cavell”. De Groot, Jerome. 2016. Consuming History: Historians and Heritage in Contemporary Popular Culture. 2nd ed. London: Routledge. Debruyne, Emmanuel. 2015. Le réseau Edith Cavell: Des femmes et des hommes en resistance. Bruxelles: Editions Racine. Evans, Jonathan. 2008. Edith Cavell, The Royal London Hospital. London. Fell, Alison S. 2014. Remembering French and British First World War Heroines. In Gender and the First World War, ed. Christa Hammerle, Oswald Uberegger, and Birgitta Bader Zaar, 108–126. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Fell, Alison S., and Christine E. Hallett, eds. 2013. First World War Nursing: New Perspectives. New York: Routledge. Gregory, Adrian. 2008. The Last Great War: British Society and the First World War. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Hallett, Christine E. 2012. Nursing 1830–1920: Forging a Profession. In A Handbook of Nursing History, ed. Anne Borsay and B. Hunter, 65–84. London: Palgrave. ———. 2013. “Intelligent Interest in Their Own Affairs”: The First World War, the British Journal of Nursing, and the Pursuit of Nursing Knowledge. In The



Routledge Handbook of the Global History of Nursing, ed. P.  D’Antonio, J. Fairman, and J. Whelan, 95–113. New York: Routledge. ———. 2016. Nurse Writers of the Great War. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Higonnet, Margaret. 1999. Lines of Fire: Women Writers of World War I. Harmondsworth: Penguin. ———. 2001. Nurses at the Front: Writing the Wounds of the Great War. Boston: Northeastern University Press. Higonnet, Margaret, Jane Jenson, Sonya Michel, and Margaret Collins Weitz, eds. 1987. Behind the Lines: Gender and the Two World Wars. New Haven: Yale University Press. Hodgson, Guy Richard. Nurse, Martyr, Propaganda Tool: The Reporting of Edith Cavell in British Newspapers 1915–1920. Media War and Conflict 10 (2): 239–253. Hoehling, Adolph A. 1958. Edith Cavell. London: Cassell and Company. Hughes, Anne-Marie Claire. 2005. War, Gender and National Mourning: The Significance of the Death and Commemoration of Edith Cavell in Britain. European Review of History 12 (3): 425–444. Lewenson, Sandra. 1992. Edith Cavell: Traitor or Saviour? Nursing Research 41 (6), November/December. McGann, Susan. 1992. The Battle of the Nurses: A Study of Eight Women Who Influenced the Development of Professional Nursing, 1880–1930. London: Scutari Press. Monger, David. 2012. Patriotism and Propaganda in First World War Britain: The National War Aims Committee and Civilian Morale. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. ———. 2014. Nothing Special: Propaganda and Women’s Roles in Late First World War Britain. Women’s History Review 23: 4. Neave, Airey. 1954. Little Cyclone. London: Hodder and Stoughton. Pennell, Catriona. 2014. A Kingdom United: Popular Responses to the Outbreak of the First World War in Britain and Ireland. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Pickles, Katie. 2006. Mapping Memorials for Edith Cavell on the Colonial Edge. New Zealand Geographer 62 (1): 13–24. ———. 2007. Transnational Outrage: The Death and Commemoration of Edith Cavell. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Pinto, Pedro Ramos, and Bertrand Taithe. Doing History in Public? Historians in the Age of Impact. In The Impact of History? Histories at the Beginning of the Twenty First Century, ed. Pedro Ramos Pinto and Bertrand Taithe, 2015. London: Routledge. Proctor, Tammy. 2003. Female Intelligence: Women and Espionage in the First World War. New York/London: New York University Press.



Rafferty, Anne Marie. 1996. The Politics of Nursing Knowledge. London: Routledge. Randall, Anthony. 2015. Edith Cavell: Brussels via Yorc. Oxford: The Cloister House Press/Blackwells. Rayner, Jonathan. 2014. The Carer, the Combatant and the Clandestine: Images of Women in the First World War in War Illustrated Magazine. Women’s History Review 23: 4. Ryder, Rowland. 1975. Edith Cavell. New York: Stein and Day. Samuel, Raphael. 2012. Theatres of Memory: Past and Present in Contemporary Culture. Rev. ed. London: Verso (First published 1994). Sanders, Michael, and Philip Taylor. 1982. British Propaganda during the First World War, 1914–18. London: Palgrave. Smith, Angela. 2000. The Second Battlefield: Women, Modernism and the First World War. Manchester: Manchester University press. Souhami, Diana. 2010. Edith Cavell. London: Quercus. Tate, Trudi. 1998. Modernism, History and the First World War, 41–62. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Taylor, Philip M. 2003. Munitions of the Mind: A History of Propaganda from the Ancient World to the Present Day. 3rd ed. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Tesseyman, S., C.E. Hallett, and J. Brooks. 2017. Crisis at Guy’s Hospital (1880) and the Nature of Nursing Work. Nursing Inquiry 24: 4. Welch, David. 2000. Germany, Propaganda and Total War, 1914–18. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. ———. 2013. Propaganda, Power and Persuasion. London: The British Library. Welch, David, and Fox Jo, eds. 2012. Justifying War: Propaganda, Politics and the Modern Age. Reston: AAIA.

Internet Sources Anonymous, Column. 1928. The News (Adelaide), February 13, 7. Available online at: National Library of Australia. https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/ article/129308979 Anonymous, Editorial. 1928. The Manchester Guardian, February 10; Anonymous, “War Films. Only Londoners still Fond of Them. Author of “Dawn” on the Ban. The Manchester Guardian, February 22, 6. Both cited at: https://greatwarfiction.wordpress.com/2015/10/26/dawn-edith-cavell-and-the-censors/. Baker, Keiligh. Heroic nurse Edith Cavell whose execution by firing squad outraged First World War Britain WAS spying on Germans says ex-MI5 chief Stella Rimington. Daily Mail. Available at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3232675/Heroic-nurse-Edict-Cavell-spying-Germans.html.



Burgess, Katy. Nurse Cavell ‘Was Involved in Spying’. The Times, online. Available at http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/article4555812.ece. Cavell Nurses’ Trust: https://www.cavellnursestrust.org. Escape Lines; Edith Cavell: http://www.ww2escapelines.co.uk/belgium-france/ edith-cavell/. Gahan. 1915. The Reverend Stirling, Account; reproduced by Charles F. Horne and Walter F.  Austin, Source Records of the Great War, Vol. 3, Alumni Association, University of California, Oakland. Available at http://archive. org/details/sourcerecordsofg03horn Rimington, Stella. 2015. Secrets and Spies: The Untold Story of Edith Cavell; BBC Radio Documentary, aired on 16 September. Available at https://www.bbc. co.uk/programmes/b069wth6 Roberts, John. 2015. Remembering Wartime Heroine Edith Cavell 100 Years after Her Death. Yorkshire Post, October 12. Available at http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/remembering-wartime-heroine-edith-cavell-100-yearsafter-her-death-1-7510545 Singh, Anita. Revealed: New Evidence that Executed Wartime Nurse Edith Cavell’s Network Was Spying. The Telegraph, online. Available at http://www. telegraph.co.uk/news/bbc/11861398/Revealed-new-evidence-thatexecuted-wartime-nurse-Edith-Cavells-network-was-spying.html.


A à Kempis, Thomas, 24, 25, 31 American Journal of Nursing, 117 American Legation, in Brussels, 30, 42, 43, 45, 101, 116 Anglo-Belgian Union, 86 B Battrum, Millicent, vi, 19, 20, 34n36, 34n37, 56–58, 77n68 Baucq, Philippe, 18, 20, 23, 25, 30, 68 Beaumont, Harry, 56 Becher, Ethel Hope, 12 Beck, James M., 51 Belgian resistance movement, 57, 67, 105 Belleville, Comtesse Jeanne de, 68 Bellevue Hospital, New York, 15 Bergan, Lieutenant, 24, 64 Berkeley, Reginald, 92–94, 116

Bihet, Mademoiselle Marie Madeline, 61, 62, 96, 104 Biography, vi, 3, 8, 13, 18, 29, 31, 54–56, 58–61, 63–65, 72, 97–99, 103, 104, 107n7, 116, 117 Bodart, Ada, 18, 22, 94 Boger, Dudley, 19, 20, 54, 57 Boston, Noel, 41, 55, 59, 60, 69, 71, 96 Brand, Margaret, 12 British Bureau of Propaganda, 40, 72n2, 82 British Foreign Office, 3, 31, 40, 72, 105, 116 British Journal of Nursing, 15 British Secret Service Bureau, 20 British Women’s Hospital Committee, 101 Buck, Delaheine, 29, 56 Buitenhuis, Peter, 82–83 Bull, Tollemache, 18, 20, 22, 35n51, 69

 Note: Page numbers followed by ‘n’ refer to notes.


© The Author(s) 2019 C. E. Hallett, Edith Cavell and her Legend, https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-54371-4




C Capiau, Hermann, 18–20, 22, 68, 69 Cavell, Eddy, 29, 31, 60, 66, 98, 99 Cavell, Florence, 18, 93, 100 Cavell, Lilian, 18 Cavell Nurses’ Trust, 102–105, 112n76 Chamberlain, Sir Austen, 93 Clark-Kennedy, Archibald, vi, 4, 8, 20, 22, 56–58, 67, 97–99, 117 College of Nursing, 101 “Comet Line,” 95 Commemoration, v, 2–5, 53, 84, 87, 88, 99, 103, 105, 110n60, 115, 119 Copeland, Donald J., 55

Edith Cavell Hospital and Training School, Paris, 99 Edith Cavell Memorial Fund, 42, 92 Edith Cavell Memorial Nurse from Massachusetts, 100 Evans, Jonathan, 63

D Daily Telegraph, 102 Daunton, Claire, 13, 63, 65, 69, 84 Dawn (film), 92, 93, 95, 116 de Croÿ, Marie, 18, 55, 62, 68, 96, 97 de Croÿ, Reginald, 18 de Jongh, Andrée, 95 de Laval, M., 30, 43, 44 Debruyne, Emmanuel, 18, 67, 68 Depage, Antoine, 14, 16, 31, 35n51 Depage, Marie, 104 Desart, Earl of, 42 Deschanel, M., 53 Dock, Lavinia, 15

G Gahan, Reverend Stirling, 28, 29, 31, 45, 59, 64, 69, 70, 74n17, 91, 100, 103, 104 Gibson, Hugh, 30, 43–45, 116 Gibson, Margaret, 9 Got, Ambrose, 65, 97 Governess, 9, 10, 14, 24, 30, 60, 66, 99 Grant, A.R., 85, 106n7 Grey, Elizabeth, 59, 64, 96 Grey, Sir Edward, 43, 44 The Guardian, vi, 57, 67, 86, 88, 96

E Ecole Belge Des Infirmières Diplomées, 14 Ecole Edith Cavell-Marie Depage, 104 Edelweiss, 14, 104 Edith Cavell Homes of Rest for Nurses, 86, 101, 105

F Fell, Alison, vi, 83, 117 Fenwick, Ethel Gordon, 48 Fountains Fever Hospital, 11, 31 Frampton, George, 87, 88, 90, 91, 94, 104 François family, 9–11, 14, 31, 60 François, Marguerite, 14

H Harmsworth, Alfred, Baron Northcliffe, 44 Hawes, Patrick, 104 Heroine, 2–5, 28–30, 48, 53, 69, 83, 94, 96, 98, 99, 103, 105, 117, 119 Heroism, 45, 63, 83, 93


Hines, Walter Page, 43 Hobson, Florence Edgar, 42 Hoehling, Adolphe, vi, 3, 4, 8, 43, 54–56, 59, 61–63, 67, 73n16, 96, 97, 99, 117 Humphry, Frederick, 10 I The Imitation of Christ, 24, 25, 29, 31 Imperial War Museum, v, vi, 8, 21–23, 26, 31n1, 35n45, 58, 64, 65, 97 Inglis, Matron, 13, 48 Institut Médical Edith Cavell, Brussels, 88 International Council of Nurses, 16, 48 Iron Cross, 52, 53 J Jemmett, Grace, 16 Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, 15 K Kell, Colonel Vernon, 51 Kent, Annie, 61 King George V, 53 L La Libre Belgique, 20, 68 Laurel Court School, 9, 30 Le Cateau, Battle of, 18 Le Seur, Pastor, 28, 70, 71 Leeds, Herbert, 56, 107n7, 116 L’Infirmière, 16 Lloyd George, David, 44


The London Hospital, 11, 14, 27, 31, 48, 56, 63, 87, 88, 97, 98, 117, 119 Luckes, Eva, 11–15, 48 M Maidstone, 11, 12 Manchester and Salford Sick Poor and Private Nursing Institution, 13 Manchester Cathedral, 91 The Manchester Guardian, vi, 42, 45, 84–88, 93–95, 100 Martyrdom, 30, 48, 87, 96, 97, 117 Meachin, Fred, 19, 54, 57 Mellish Ward, 12, 33n19, 48 Memorialisation, 2, 4, 61, 90, 115 Memory, v, 2, 3, 5, 10, 19, 42, 53, 54, 61, 84, 87, 91, 96, 101, 103, 104, 116 Meyer, Rev. Dr. F.B., 26, 49 Meyrick, Cannon, 49 MI5, 20, 36n63, 51 MI6, 20, 69 The Mirror, 103 Mons, Battle of, 18, 21 Moriamé, Henriette, 18, 68 Moss, Ottilie, 50 Mount Edith Cavell, 99, 104 N Neagle, Anna, 94 Neuhaus, Sergeant, 64 Nightingale, Florence, 15, 61 Norwich Cathedral, 21, 55, 86, 96 Nurse Edith Cavell (film), 94 NurseAid, 102 Nursing Mirror and Midwives Journal, 14, 15 Nursing profession, v, 4, 5, 16, 48, 49, 55, 62, 85



Nursing professionalisation, vi, 72 The Nursing Times, 15, 47, 48, 70, 87 Nutting, Adelaide, 15 O Observer, 38n87, 93 Oral history, 59 Osborne, Mrs., 11 P Pennel, Catriona, 41 Pennsylvania Hospital, Philadelphia, 15 Pickles, Katie, 4, 41, 53, 66, 67, 98, 99 Pinkhoff, Sergeant, 64 Presbyterian Hospital, New York, 15 Proctor, Tammy, 67, 84 Q Queen Alexandra, 84, 85, 88, 100, 101 Queen Elisabeth of the Belgians, 101 Queen Mary, 53 Queen’s District Nurse, 13 Quien, Gaston, 22, 87 R Rammler, 71, 82, 93, 103 Randall, Pauline, 16 Remembrance, v, 2, 3, 82, 84, 99, 105, 119 Resistance, 3, 18–20, 22–25, 30, 31, 57, 63, 65, 67–69, 83, 84, 95, 105, 116 Reuters news agency, 50 Rimington, Stella, 20, 68, 69, 103

Rowena (British destroyer), 86 Royal London Hospital Archives, v, 8, 63, 88, 104 Rue de la Culture, 14, 16, 19, 22, 53–54, 57, 58 Ryder, Rowland, vi, 4, 8, 10, 20, 29, 55, 56, 60, 61, 63, 97–99, 117 S St. Gilles Hospital, 26, 63 St. Gilles Prison, 8, 24, 96, 100 St. Pancras Infirmary, 12 St. Paul’s Cathedral, 84, 85, 105 St. Thomas’s Hospital, 15 Samuel, Raphael, 2 Sauberzweig, General, 30 Schmidt, Margarete, 50 Scottish Women’s Hospitals, 101 Selbourne, Lord, 42 Severin, Louis, 18, 68 Shoreditch Infirmary, 13, 116 Simon, Sir John, 49 Souhami, Diana, vi, 4, 8, 11, 43, 56, 60, 61, 64–66, 98, 99, 103, 117 Speck, Jocelyn Henry, 41 Star and Garter Homes, 101 Steeple Bumpstead, 10, 63 Stober, Herr (prosecutor), 24 Storytelling, 102 Swanwick, H.M., 42 Swardeston, 8, 63, 66, 87, 104 T Thorndike, Sybil, 94 Thuliez, Louise, 18, 23, 68 The Times, vi, 40, 41, 43, 45, 47, 87 Tir National, 25, 30, 53, 71 Tooley, Sarah, 15


Tunmore, D. Jesse, vi, 21, 22 Typhoid fever, 11, 12 U United States Legation in Brussels, 45 V van Doren, Eugene, 20 Van Til, Jacqueline, 53–55, 62, 96 Villalobar, Marquis de, 29, 30, 43, 44, 87 von Bissing, General Baron Moritz, 22, 29 von der Lancken, Baron, 30, 44, 45, 65

W Wainwright, Lilian, 23, 47 Wainwright, Longworth, 16 Ward, Mary A., 47 Welch, David, 83, 105n1 Westminster Abbey, 53, 86 White, Millicent, 16, 17 Whitlock, Brand, 30, 43, 44, 97, 116 Wilcox, Herbert, 92, 94, 95, 116 Wilkins, Elisabeth, 16, 23, 47, 55, 57–59, 96, 97 Women’s International League, 42 Z Zimmerman, Arthur, 50


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