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Famous for being executed for helping British and French servicemen to escape Belgium during World War One
Born – 4th December 1895 – Norfolk, UK
Reverend Frederick Cavell and his wife
Siblings – Florence, Lilian and John
Married – No
Children – No
Died – 12th October 1915

Edith Cavell was born on 4th December 1865 in Norwich, England. Her father was a local vicar and she was brought up to be charitable to those less fortunate than herself.


In 1891 she took up a post as governess to a family in Belgium. Five years later she returned to Norwich to look after her father who was very ill. While caring for her father she developed an interest in nursing and in 1900 she began nurse training at the Royal London Hospital.

In 1907 she was asked to become matron of a new teaching hospital in Belgium L’École Belge d’Infirmières Diplômées. Three years later she launched the nursing magazine L’infirmière.

She was back in Norfolk visiting her mother when world war one began in August 1914. She returned to Belgium where her hospital had been taken over by the Red Cross. At the end of August casualties from the Battle of Mons arrive at the hospital. Edith also heard stories of British soldiers who had been cut off from their regiments and were being helped to escape to Holland and back to Britain. Edith sheltered two displaced British soldiers and was later asked to join a group helping these men to escape Belgium.

Between September 1915 and August 1916 Edith Cavell sheltered and helped more than 200 men to cross the border and escape to Britain.

On 31st July 1916 the Germans arrested members of the escape group and found documents and letters incriminating Edith Cavell. She was arrested on 5th August and imprisoned. She made and signed a full confession believing that doing so would help herself and other arrested members of the group. At the end of August she was moved to solitary confinement. She was not allowed a representative.

Her trial, along with 30 other people began on October 7th. She admitted that she had helped and sheltered British and French soldiers and helped them to leave the country. On 11th October she was found guilty of treason and sentenced to death. Despite protests from a number of governments around the world the sentence stood and at 2am on 12th October Nurse Edith Cavell and three other men were executed by firing squad. She was buried next to the prison by the minister and some local people.

At the end of the war her body was exhumed and she was given a proper funeral before being buried in Norwich cathedral.

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