1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cavell, Edith

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CAVELL, EDITH (1865-1915), British nurse, was born Dec. 4 1865 at Swardeston, Norfolk, the daughter of the Rev. Frederick Cavell, vicar of that parish. She was educated at various schools in England and in Brussels, and entered the London hospital as a probationer in 1895. After five years at the hospital she was successively night superintendent at the St. Pancras infirmary, assistant superintendent at Shoreditch infirmary and matron at the Ashton New Road district home, Manchester. In 1907 she was appointed the first matron of the Berkendael medical institute, Brussels, a surgical and medical home founded by Dr. de Page as a pioneer training school for Belgian secular nurses. The institute became a Red Cross hospital on the outbreak of the World War, in which Belgian, German, French and English soldiers were nursed. From Nov. 1914 to July 1915 wounded and derelict English and French soldiers and Belgians and French of military age were hidden from the Germans and provided with false papers by Prince Reginald de Croy at his château of Bellignie near Mons; thence conducted by various guides to the houses of Edith Cavell, Louis Séverin and others in Brussels, and furnished by them with money to reach the Dutch frontier and with guides obtained through Phillipe Baucq. On Aug. 6 Edith Cavell was arrested at the Berkendael institute and sent to the prison of St. Gilles. She made three depositions to the German police, Aug. 8, 18, and 22, admitting that she had been instrumental in conveying about 60 English and 15 French derelict soldiers and about 100 French and Belgians of military age to the frontier and had sheltered the greater number in her house. Thirty-five persons were arrested. The court-martial was held, Oct. 7 and 8, before Dr. Stoeber and five judges, and a Belgian lawyer, M. Sadi Kirschen, defended Edith Cavell. On Oct. 9 Edith Cavell, Louise Thuliez, Phillipe Baucq, Louis Séverin and Countess Jeanne de Belleville were secretly sentenced to death; and of the remaining 30, 22 were sentenced to imprisonment and 8 acquitted. On the 10th the sentence was announced in secret to the prisoners. Gen. von Sauberzweig, the military governor of Brussels, ordered that “in the interests of the State” the execution of the death penalty against Baucq and Edith Cavell should be carried out immediately. At 7 A.M. on Oct. 11 they were shot at the Tir National, Brussels, in spite of the energetic attempts to secure delay made by the American minister, the secretary of the American legation and the Spanish minister, who first became aware of the sentence during the night of the 10th. The other three were reprieved. These were the first death sentences imposed by the Germans in Belgium for recruiting as opposed to espionage. On May 15 1919 the body was removed to Norwich cathedral, after a memorial service in Westminster Abbey. A memorial statue, by Sir G. Frampton, is erected opposite the National Portrait Gallery, London.

See The Case of Miss Cavell from the Unpublished Documents of the Trial, interpreted by Ambroise Got; Sadi Kirschen, Devant les Conseils de Guerre Allemands (1919); Correspondence with the United States Ambassador respecting the Execution of Miss Cavell at Brussels, Cd. 8013, Stationery Office (1915).