Edith Cavell: 12 October

Edith Cavell is commemorated in the Church of England on this day – the date of her execution in 1915. She was born on 4 December 1865 in Swardeston, the village near Norwich, where her father was vicar. She had worked as a governess, but returned home to look after her father when he became seriously ill. After his recovery she resolved to become a nurse.

In 1906 she took a temporary post as matron of the Manchester and Salford Sick and Poor and Private Nursing Institution, and while there she worshipped at Sacred Trinity Church on Chapel Street, Salford. Before her father’s illness, she had worked as a governess at Avenue Louise, Brussels 1890-1895 and in 1907 she was recruited back to Brussels to be the matron of a nursing school in Ixelles (a district of Brussels). After the outbreak of WW1, she began sheltering British soldiers and funnelling them out of occupied Belgium to the neutral Netherlands. She was arrested on 3 August 1915 and charged with harbouring Allied soldiers. She was convicted and condemned to death by firing squad for treason. The evening before her execution she recited the hymn Abide with me with an English chaplain. This is one reason for the hymn’s enduring popularity in Britain.

Postscript: A hundred years after Edith Cavell’s first stay in Brussels, I was working at an office on Avenue Louise, Brussels from 1990-1995, and was living in Ixelles.
Dave Williams.

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