Christian nurse killed by firing squad in WWI is celebrated

A Christian nurse who spoke of the resurrection in the final hours of her earthly life has been remembered, 100 years on.

Edith Cavell was killed by a German firing squad on 12 October 1915, aged 49, after she helped Allied soldiers to escape from Belgium to the Netherlands.

A £5 coin has been created to mark the centenary and a memorial sculpture has been unveiled in Belgium.


Edith was the daughter of a clergyman and began nursing in challenging environments such as workhouse clinics – rather than working privately.

She went to Belgium in 1907 and returned there following the outbreak of World War One, treating both Allied and German soldiers.

Later she helped Allied soldiers to escape, and was tried for treason. Catherine Butcher, who has written a book about Edith, said that she knew of God’s judgment and so could not die with any bitterness in her heart.

“She would stand before God and she wanted to be forgiven, so she would have to forgive”, Butcher said.


Records indicate that on her final day of life on earth, she was visited by Anglican chaplain Revd H Stirling Gahan.

Gahan said: “We partook of the Holy Communion together, and she received the Gospel message of consolation with all her heart.”

He added: “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-by,’ and she smiled and said, ‘We shall meet again.'”


A commemoration for Edith was held on Saturday at Norwich Cathedral – where her body is buried – and saw hundreds of people come out to mark her life.

Colonel Frank Hartwig, the representative for German forces in the UK, said: “Terrible things happened, and it must never happen again.

“It’s important for us that we remember and follow the example of Nurse Cavell.”