One of the deadliest conflicts, World War I recorded more than 37 million casualties, both civilian and military.
Despite the carnage and substantial death, there were those who were beacons of strength in the face of adversity — heroes who put the lives of others before their own.
Today, Google celebrates one of those heroes: Edith Cavell.
WHO WAS EDITH CAVELL?
Born in a village near Norwich, England on December 4, 1865, Cavell was a British nurse who worked in German-occupied Belgium throughout the war, and as well as nursing wounded servicemen, she helped smuggle soldiers out of Belgium into neutral Netherlands.
Nursing was not always Cavell’s chosen industry. As a young woman, she cared for her seriously ill father and it was this experience that inspired her to pursue a career as a nurse at the age of 30.
Cavell commenced training at the Royal London Hospital under the guidance of Matron Eva Lückes, a close companion to Florence Nightingale. Cavell continued to nurse patients across the UK before moving to Belgium. It was here she was appointed as the first matron of training hospital the Berkendael Institute in Brussels.
Nursing became her life. She never married. Rather, she was married to the idea of helping others, pioneering modern nursing in the process. She was recorded as stating: “I can’t stop while there are lives to be saved.”
Cavell was known for her heroism throughout World War I. At the time war broke out, she was visiting her family in the UK. But on hearing the news, Cavell packed her bags, returning to Brussels to aid those worst hit by the global carnage, treating casualties regardless of nationality.
Cavell became involved with a covert group which sheltered European soldiers, chiefly those from France and Britain. Through her actions, the lives of 200 men were saved.
But it was this work which would ultimately see her killed. In 1915, she was arrested and charged with treason. A confession in the German military court eventually led to her execution on October 12, 1915.
Despite her execution being legal under international law, it caused outrage in her native Britain and many neutral countries.
Shortly after her death, the Nation’s Fund for Nurses was launched, endeavouring to help those who “sought the health of others at the expense of their own”. Later, the fund would be dubbed the Cavell Nurses’ Trust.
Today, Google celebrates a nurse who sacrificed her own life for the benefit of countless others. Happy 153rd birthday to Edith Cavell!