British minister plants poppies in Brussels in memory of First World War nurse Edith Cavell

Posted on on 05 April 2014
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A British government minister has planted poppies at a memorial in Brussels to Edith Cavell, the First World War nurse executed by the Germans for helping Allied soldiers to escape. 

Children from the British School of Brussels joined Mark Simmonds, UK Minister for Africa, at the ceremony in the Belgian capital. The seeds will be kept at the school to help them bloom in time for the start of the Centenary commemorations in August 2014.

Mr Simmonds said: "Edith Cavell was an extraordinarily brave woman and gave the ultimate sacrifice trying to protect injured servicemen in Brussels during the First World War.

"It is absolutely essential that we commemorate the sacrifice both of Belgian people and of British people a hundred years on, and that we inform young people to ensure that there can be no repeat of the terrible trauma that was caused in that time."

Edith Cavell, a British nurse working in occupied Belgium, was sentenced to death by a German court martial for helping around 200 Allied soldiers escape to the Netherlands. 

Despite appeals for clemency by the neutral American and Spanish governments, she was shot by a firing squad in Brussels on 12th October 1915. Her last words were: "Patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness for anyone."

The Brussels memorial commemorates both Edith Cavell and her Belgian colleague, Marie Depage, who died five months earlier in 1915 when the transatlantic liner, Lusitania, was torpedoed by a German U-boat off the Irish coast.

Members of the Royal British Legion and the Director of the Edith Cavell Hospital, which is next to the memorial, also attended the planting ceremony. 

Source: British Embassy, Brussels

Date of press release publication: 4th April 2014

Images courtesy of British Embassy, Brussels

Posted by: Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News