Memorial to a First World War heroine
The story of Edith Cavell, a nurse executed by the Germans during the First World War, is well known, what isn’t as well known is how that story links to Beaconsfield. Donald Stanley finds out more
FOR more than 100 years Beaconsfield and The Daily Telegraph newspaper were linked by the Lawson family of the Hall Barn estate. At the time of the First World War both were owned by Edward Lawson who in 1903 had been created lst Lord Burnham.
In October 1915 the English nurse, Edith Cavell, daughter of a Norfolk clergyman, was executed by the German army.
After working in Belgium as a governess she had trained as a nurse at the Royal London Hospital before returning to Brussels where she founded a nurses’ training school which upon the outbreak of the First World War was taken over by the Red Cross.
As one of their nurses she treated allied and German wounded without distinction.
She also saw it as her Christian compassion and humanitarianmanitarian duty to join Belgium m civilians in shelteringg and assisting the escape to neutral Holland of British and allied soldiers and civilians of military age.
She was betrayed and executed by a German firing squad, a costly blunder with repercussions throughout the world, especially in the United States which hich had recently sufferedd the sinking of the Lusitania,nia and a spur to military recruitment.
It also gave rise to extensive propaganda in the form of posters, postcards and a movie. Almost imm immediately Lord Burnh Burnham started a fund to which readers of hi his new newspaper co could m make d donations to towards th the public m memorial w which sta stands tod today in St Mar Martin’s Place Place, London London. It is of Edith Cavell in nur nurse’s uniform and sculp sculpted from white marble.
The sculptor, Sir George Frampton, declined any fee. At the request of the National Council of Women there were added in 1924 her words when she received Holy Communion the night before her execution: ”Patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone”.
Money raised was also used to set up the Edith Cavell Trust which still trains nurses and assists those in need.
In 1919 her body was repatriated from Belgium. A horse-drawn carriage bore it to a state funeral at Westminster Abbey attended by King George V after which a special train carried her coffin to Norwich where she was reburied in the grounds of the Cathedral.
Edith Cavell day is commemorated each October 12 and the centenary of her death is marked this year by a commemorative £5 coin issued by the Royal Mint.
Queen Alexandra unveils the memorial to Nurse Cavell in 1920 and, above, the Royal Mint coin that marks the 100th anniversary of her death.
The remains of Nurse Edith Cavell, pictured above, were given a naval guard of honour as the coffin is brought a shore in Dover in May 1919