Edith Cavell Memorial Service - 1915

Today at the Cathedral View More
8:00am Morning Prayer
8:30am Doors open for sightseeing
8:30am Eucharist
12:30pm Eucharist
4:00pm Last entry for sightseeing
5:00pm Choral Evensong
5:30pm Cathedral closes

Edith Cavell Memorial Service - 1915

Whilst often seen as a place of great celebration, St Paul's is also known as a location for national mourning and remembrance.

In recent times, crowds have flocked to the Cathedral in the wake of terrorist acts in America (2001) and London (2005). Going back a century, the victims of the Titanic (1912) were remembered at St Paul's, as were Captain Scott and his team (1913), who perished in the Antarctic.

And it was in that period, as the Great War of 1914-1918 was raging across Europe, that the most famous female casualty of the war was remembered at St Paul's.

On 29 October 1915, hundreds of nurses and other mourners packed St Paul's to remember nurse Edith Cavell, executed by German forces after being found guilty of treason.


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Cavell had been working for the Red Cross in Belgium, treating soldiers from both sides without distinction. Holding strong Anglican beliefs, Cavell went about smuggling hundreds of British soldiers out of German-controlled Belgium into the neutral Netherlands, an act for which she was arrested and tried.

Despite widespread international outcry, Cavell was executed by firing squad on 12 October 1915, aged 49.

The British people were shocked at what was seen as an act of great barbarism and it is thought that recruitment into the Army had doubled within two months of her death.

With a nation in mourning for a 'martyred' nurse, an act of remembrance was arranged for St Paul's. On the day of the service, huge crowds gathered to get inside the Cathedral. One newspaper reported: "Countless people were turned away, and fifteen minutes after the doors were opened notices that the church was full were posted."

The service was based on readings, prayers and hymns, including Abide with Me, the words to which were reputedly recited by Cavell before her execution.
It would be another four years before Cavell's body was brought back to England. She received a funeral service at Westminster Abbey before being interred in Norwich Cathedral, close to her family home.

Today, Edith Cavell's legacy lives on. She is memorialised in many parts of the UK as well as around the world, as far afield as the USA and Australia. Numerous streets, schools and hospital wards also bear her name the world over.

Within the Church of England, 12 October is set as a day to remember Edith Cavell.