DCMS blog

Remembering the work of Edith Cavell

Following the announcement that work will go ahead to restore the grave of executed World War I nurse, Edith Cavell at Norwich Cathedral, Simon Knighton, Chairman of Cavell Nurse’s Trust, reflects on the work of the charity and the awarding of £91,900 of Heritage Lottery Fund money.

As Chairman of Cavell Nurses’ Trust, I am proud to be associated with the living legacy of Nurse Edith Cavell whose commitment and dedication to helping others inspired the nation. Our charity was founded in 1917 in memory of this great heroine who was executed during the First World War for helping more than 200 Allied soldiers to escape from German-occupied Belgium. The public subscriptions received in her name to help support nurses led to the establishment of the charity. And through those funds, Edith Cavell’s legacy lives on through our engagement with all nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants in the UK. We do this through caring, by giving welfare and financial support in times of desperate need, and through learning by giving student nurses and midwives the encouragement to enhance their professional education.

Edith Cavell  nurses at Belgium training school

Edith Cavell nurses at Belgium training school

As we approach the centenary of Edith Cavell’s death in 2015 the aim and focus of Cavell Nurses’ Trust is to re-establish this profound link with the public for today’s unsung healthcare heroes. There are more than 650,000 registered nurses and midwives in the UK, not including those who have retired, and along with their healthcare assistant colleagues they form the bedrock of the health system and play a vital role in ensuring a high standard of patient care is maintained.

Nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants often feel they should be able to manage their own problems and are trained to cope with situations that occur in their day-to-day working lives. However, they too can suffer from ill health, abuse, and disabilities and can find themselves facing hardship during their active career or into retirement. The Trust continues to help nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants in the form of advice and financial grants, and last year supported more than 1,000 healthcare professionals in times of hardship caused by ill-health or financial difficulties.

Sophie Ward at 2013 wreath-laying with nurses in period nurses costume

Sophie Ward at 2013 wreath-laying with nurses in period nurses costume

Almost 100 years on from the execution of Edith Cavell, the Trust has launched a Centenary Appeal to raise essential funds and the charity’s profile so it can continue its essential work caring for those who have given their lives to care for others. The centrepiece of the Centenary Appeal is a challenge event to Canada in August 2015 which will involve 100 Cavell Ambassadors from the UK taking part in a series of challenges in and around Mt Edith Cavell alongside their Canadian counterparts.

Cavell Nurses’ Trust also supports the next generation of nurses and midwives through its annual scholarship awards, which provide travel scholarships worth up to £2,000 to the winners. The Heritage Lottery Fund grant will help Cavell Nurses’ Trust to tell the story of Edith Cavell, her work in Belgium during the war, and her role as a key figure in the professionalisation of nursing in the early 20th century.

A variety of activities will explore Edith Cavell’s legacy, including volunteers undertaking extensive research that will be shared through events and workshops, and the public able to take part in guided walks and heritage trails. More information about the Trust is available by contacting the events team.

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