Thursday, 23 January 2014

The Other Side Of The Coin

This year marks the centenary of the outbreak of WW1, so the Royal Mint has announced it is producing a commemorative coin, based on the famous Kitchener Recruitment poster.

kitchener coinkitchener poster

Many of us are actually wondering if this is the best choice – and  one enterprising woman, Sioned-Mair Richards, has started an online petition for a different person to be represented [more details here] Rather than a man who summoned hundreds of young men to their deaths, this lady proposes we remember a woman who saved many of them, and helped them get safely back to England – but was then shot by the Germans for doing so.

edith cavell edp

Edith Cavell was a Pastor’s daughter from Norfolk, who trained as a nurse, and in 1907 became Matron of a hospital in Brussels – she was there at the outbreak of WW1. In the first year of the war,she helped over 200 British soldiers escape.

You can read lots about her life and work here, here, and here. I remember being taken, as a very small child, to see her memorial behind Trafalgar Square. My Dad compared her words, with those of Lord Kitchener – and said patriotism was not the highest goal.

cavell inscriptioncavell memorial

Edith Cavell knew from her youth that she wanted her life to mean something to other people. She reportedly wrote to a cousin that “Some day, somehow, I am going to do something useful. I don’t know what it will be. I only know that it will be something for people. They are, most of them, so helpless, so hurt, and so unhappy.” When she was urged to stop her work with the soldiers, because she was in danger of being caught and punished, she said “I can’t stop while there are lives to be saved.” When placed on trial for her life, she refused to lie to save herself.

She was said to be "quite the most famous woman to be killed in World War I." Piaf, the famous French singer, was born two months after Edith’s execution – and named after her. The Canadians have a particular respect for her, and even re-named a mountain in her honour [read this article from last week!]

The Royal Mint does appear to have backtracked a little, and say the Kitchener coin is the first in a WW1 series.  I do so hope that one of the coins will acknowledge this remarkable woman, whose life was one of service and bravery – full of love, faith and peace.

Patriotism is not enough, I must have no hatred or bitterness for anyone


  1. What a remarkable woman Edith was and in my opinion a war hero. thank you for sharing this with us as I'd not heard of her before.

  2. Fascinating post. It is good to remember that it wasn't only the soldiers who "fought" in the war who should be remembered but people like Edith too. I know we should be grateful to those who did fight and that we now have a country in which we can live in safely but I do often wonder at the way we tend to glorify wars especially those we have won! I love my country and missed it terribly when living in France but to me patriotism is not to say that I don't appreciate that others too may feel the same about their own countries and I don't feel like a football fan who wants to fight those who don't support my team as it were. The older I get the more I wonder at what as a child I was taught was our glorious past!!

  3. Thank you for that history lesson, Angela. I had never heard of Edith Cavell. What an inspiring woman!

  4. We have a town called Kitchener in S.Ontario...not as pretty as Mt Edith Cavell!
    Jane x

  5. What a wonderful history lesson! I'd never heard of Edith Cavell and am very glad now that I have.


  6. What an amazing life! Yes, definitely better choice than Kitchener!x


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