On This Day…in 1915

British nurse Edith Cavell is executed by a German firing squad in Brussels for helping Allied soldiers escape from German-occupied Belgium during World War I.

The 49-year-old Cavell first entered the nursing profession in 1895, and in 1907 she became the matron of the Berkendael Institute in Brussels. Following the German invasion of neutral Belgium, Cavell sheltered British, French, and Belgian soldiers at the Institute before helping them escape to Holland. In August 1915, Cavell and several others were arrested and tried by a court-martial. Cavell made a full confession and was sentenced to death on October 9. Despite protests from neutral governments such as the United States and Spain, which thought a death sentence too harsh, German authorities carried out the execution.

Cavell was idealized as a hero by the Allied press and was honored with a statue in St. Martin’s Place, just off London’s Trafalagar Square.


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