• Christine E. Hallett


From the earliest days of Cavell’s commemoration, the British government was careful to promote her as both a “heroine” and a “martyr”, whilst suppressing information on her resistance activities—the knowledge of which might have undermined the claim that she was a victim of German hatred and brutality. Events such as her state funeral at St Paul’s Cathedral on 29 October 1915 and the return of her body to Britain—to Westminster Abbey, and then Norwich—in May 1919 became foci for national mourning and commemoration, which enabled a greater sense of national unity. Some commemorations focused on hospital nursing; these included a “Cavell Bed” and a “Cavell Home” for nurses at The London Hospital and a “Cavell Ward” in Birkenhead. Stone monuments were unveiled in several countries, the most significant and best known probably being George Frampton’s stone memorial incorporating a marble statue, in St Martin’s Place, London. Two significant film dramatisations were produced, both directed by Herbert Wilcox: Dawn in 1927 and Nurse Edith Cavell in 1939. Both caused controversy, with Dawn being—at first—refused a certificate by the British Board of Film Censors. Cavell was also commemorated as a “legendary heroine” in the British Dominions: in Canada, a mountain was named after her; in New Zealand, a bridge. In the USA, a group of Boston philanthropists raised funds for an “Edith Cavell Memorial Nurse”, who served for over a year with the Reserve of the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service. A charity named the “Edith Cavell Homes of Rest for Nurses” was founded in 1916, with the support of Cavell’s family and friends, who saw the care of nurses as a cause Cavell herself would have wished to be remembered by. The charity was brought under the auspices of the National Fund for Nurses (NFN), but the NFN was, itself, renamed twice in the twenty-first century, eventually being given the name “Cavell Nurses’ Trust” in 2012, as interest in Edith Cavell re-emerged at the approach of the centenary of her death. The nursing professions in Britain and Belgium have continued to commemorate Cavell’s life and work. Every year, on 12 October, two nurses of The London Hospital lay a wreath at the foot of Frampton’s statue in St Martin’s place. The centenary of Edith Cavell’s death has coincided with several new works relating to her that portray her as, essentially, a patriot.


Edith Cavell Legend Commemoration Memorials George Frampton’s statue Herbert Wilcox Dawn Nurse Edith Cavell Cavell Nurses’ Trust 

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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christine E. Hallett
    • 1
  1. 1.Professor of HistoryThe University of HuddersfieldHuddersfieldUK

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