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Celebrating the life of nursing hero Edith Cavell

WW1 brought fame, and death, to one of The London’s most famous nurses - Edith Cavell


A hundred years ago, a British nurse named Edith Cavell was executed for helping over 200 allied soldiers escape from Belgium.

Born in Norfolk on 4 December 1865, Cavell trained as a nurse at the Royal London Hospital subsequently becoming matron of the first nurse training school in Belgium in 1907. By 1911, she was a training nurse for three hospitals, 24 schools, and 13 kindergartens in Belgium.

Dating its history back over 120 years, City University London – through the School of Health Sciences - has historic links with the schools of the Royal London Hospital. Merging in 1994 with the respective school in St Bartholomew's Hospital to become the St Bartholomew School of Nursing & Midwifery, in 1995 the new school was incorporated into City University London.

In November 1914, after the German occupation of Brussels, Cavell began sheltering British soldiers and helping them escape occupied Belgium to the nearby neutral Netherlands. Over time the German authorities became increasing suspicious of her actions, and she was arrested on 3 August 1915 and charged with harbouring Allied soldiers.

Subsequently court-martialled, Cavell was found guilty of treason and sentenced to death by firing squad on 12 October 1915, leaving us with the immortal phrase: “Standing as I do in view of God and eternity, I realise that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.”

“She was a real nursing pioneer,” said Mark Jones, a nurse and senior Lecturer & Head of Practice Education at City University London’s School of Health Sciences. “Her actions during the war saved countless lives, and her famous quote ‘I can’t stop while there are lives to be saved’ serves as a great motto for all nurses. We’re proud to have named a room after her here and have her statue in our Clinical Skills Suite as it reminds us and our trainee nurses of the impact our profession can have on society.”

After the war, Cavell’s body was taken back to Britain for a memorial service at Westminster Abbey and then laid to rest in Norwich. Today, her memorial can be seen in St Martin's Place, London.

You can see the statue of Edith Cavell, and the Clinical Skills Suite room named after her, on level 1 of the Tait Building.

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