Edith Cavell Reburied in Norwich

Following her execution by firing squad in Belgium in 1915, Edith Cavell's body was eventually brought back from Brussels to England on May 15th, 1919.

The First World War heroine was executed by firing squad in 1915 for helping Allied servicemen in German-occupied neutral Belgium to escape. As a hospital matron she had not hesitated to help German soldiers as well, on the principle that where a life could be saved it ought to be saved. ‘Patriotism,’ as she famously said, ‘is not enough.’ From a German point of view her death proved catastrophic in terms of propaganda.

After the war, moves were made to bring Edith Cavell back from Brussels to England. Exhumed on March 17th, 1919, her body was found to be well preserved and the features still recognisable. On May 13th, it was taken to the station, escorted by British troops on the initiative of a certain Major B.L. Montgomery (later Viscount Montgomery of Alamein), then to Ostend and from there was taken by HMS Rowena to Dover, where a peal of grandsire triples was rung with all bells muffled bar the tenor. With 5,040 changes, it took three hours and three minutes. A special railway carriage bore the coffin to London on May 15th, accompanied by members of the Cavell family, and a horsedrawn gun carriage took it through streets lined with spectators to Westminster Abbey, where a funeral service was attended by George V. Edith came from Norfolk and a proposal to bury her in the Abbey had been turned down by her family in favour of Norwich.

The next stage was to Liverpool Street Station and then by train to Norwich, where the coffin was placed on another gun carriage and escorted to the cathedral by soldiers of the Norfolk Regiment for burial outside the south transept, after a service with a sermon by the Bishop of Norfolk. London has a fine 1920 statue of Edith Cavell by Sir George Frampton near Trafalgar Square and a Cavell Street in Whitechapel. In France and Belgium, Edith was a popular name for girls born after her execution, Edith Piaf among them.

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