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.
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 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.
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