Edith Cavell anniversary services

01 May 2019
The 100th anniversary of Edith Cavell’s final journey home to Norfolk will be marked by two poignant services later this month. The brave Norfolk nurse helped more than 200 soldiers escape from occupied Belgium during the First World War and for this she paid the ultimate price and was executed by the Germans on October 12 1915.
The Edith Cavell memorial outside Norwich Cathedral © Paul Hurst

Her body was returned to the UK after the war and a memorial service was held at Westminster Abbey in London on May 15 1919, the same day her body was taken from the capital to Norwich by train and buried at Norwich Cathedral.

A century on, Nurse Cavell’s final journey will be remembered on Wednesday 15 May 2019 with a midday service at Westminster Abbey followed by a 6.30pm service of commemoration at Norwich Cathedral.

The Dean of Norwich, the Very Revd Jane Hedges, will preach at the Westminster Abbey service which will also celebrate the life of Florence Nightingale.

Later in the day, the Dean of Westminster, the Very Revd Dr John Hall, will preach at the Norwich Cathedral service, part of which will take place beside Nurse Cavell’s grave.

All are welcome to attend the service at Norwich Cathedral.

The Dean of Norwich, the Very Revd Jane Hedges, said: “May 15 this year gives us the opportunity to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Edith being laid to rest in her beloved Norfolk and we are delighted to be doing this in partnership with Westminster Abbey; remaking the journey by rail that was made with her body 100 years ago.
We hope that many people will gather in the Cathedral at 6.30pm on May 15 for the service which will conclude with a gathering at Edith’s grave, as we remember with thanksgiving this remarkable woman who is an inspiration to us all.”

Nurse Cavell, who was born in Swardeston in 1865, nursed soldiers from both sides of the conflict in occupied Belgium during the First World War.

She was head matron of Belgium’s first nurse training school in Brussels and for nine months she worked with the Belgian and French resistance to shelter more than 200 soldiers from the German occupying forces, helping the soldiers escape to neutral Holland.

But she was betrayed, arrested, and ultimately executed by a German firing squad at 7am on Tuesday 12 October 1915 at the Tir National.

On the night before her death, she famously said: "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."

Nurse Cavell’s words are echoed on her grave which was restored with a new headstone and ledger as part of a series of commemorative events marking the 100th anniversary of Nurse Cavell’s death. Every October a memorial service takes place next to her final resting place.

Details of Nurse Cavell’s final journey home

Thousands of people lined the route of Nurse Cavell’s final journey home and there were many moving tributes to the First World War heroine along the way.

Her coffin, draped in a Union flag and covered in wreaths, was first carried by gun carriage from the Tir National to the Gare du Nord station in Brussels where it was taken by train to Ostend.

On May 14 1919, Nurse Cavell’s coffin was placed aboard HMS Rowena which, accompanied by HMS Rigorous, brought Nurse Cavell to Dover.

The following day her coffin was taken by train to London’s Victoria Station where it was once again carried by gun carriage, this time bound for Westminster Abbey where a memorial service took place. Afterwards, the procession continued on to Liverpool Street Station for the final part of Nurse Cavell’s journey to her final resting place at Norwich Cathedral.

A special service was held at Norwich Cathedral before Nurse Cavell was laid to rest at Life’s Green, outside the East end of the Cathedral.

For more information about Edith Cavell, visit www.edithcavell.org.uk

Picture: Paul Hurst