Edith Cavell's memorial near Trafalgar Square in London

Petition to honour executed nurse Edith Cavell on UK Centenary coin passes 50,000 names

Posted on centenarynews.com on 29 January 2014
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Almost 51,000 people have now backed a campaign to have the executed British nurse, Edith Cavell, honoured on a £2 coin being minted in the UK to commemorate the First World War Centenary.

An online petition is urging the British Government to remember Edith Cavell, who was condemned to death by a German court martial in 1915 for helping Allied soldiers to escape while she was working in occupied Belgium.

It passed 50,000 signatures on 24th January 2014, just over three weeks after being started by Sioned-Mair Richards, a Labour Party councillor in Sheffield in South Yorkshire.

"Absolutely delighted"

Ms Richards told Centenary News she was "absolutely delighted" with the response: "Edith Cavell has clearly struck a chord as an honourable woman who saw her duty as a nurse as being for all, not just a few on her side. I hope that the Treasury will listen to 50,000 voices calling for a counterbalance to Kitchener. A Cavell coin will do it."

As already reported in Centenary News, Ms Richards condemned the choice of Lord Kitchener for the first of the Centenary £2 coins, saying the War Minister who became the face of the first mass recruiting campaign in 1914 represented everything that she loathed about the First World War; "the jingoism, the sheer waste of men, the 'Lions led by Donkeys' mentality."

Edith Cavell, she wrote, was celebrated for saving the lives of soldiers from all sides in the Belgian capital, Brussels, without distinction.

Charity support

A charity set up in the executed nurse's memory in 1917  welcomed the campaign. Kate Tompkins, Chief Executive of the Cavell Nurses' Trust, said:"Edith Cavell nursed all wounded soldiers regardless of nationality, saying to her nurses each man is a son, husband, or father."

The historian Gary Sheffield, an authority on the First World War and Professor of War Studies at Wolverhampton University, tweeted Centenary News, to say Cavell would be a good choice for 2015, the 100th anniversary of her death.

One reader told us the story was "really great news."

Critics have attacked the decision to use Field Marshal Kitchener's image and the recruiting slogan 'Your Country Needs You' on the 2014 coin as a glorification of war. 

Kitchener defended

But the Royal Mint, which makes and distributes the UK's coinage, said the design was selected for the start of the Centenary because it had "come to be strongly associated with the outbreak of the war and is recognised by much of the population."

And a Centenary News reader robustly defended the War Minister's reputation, declaring: "Both General Kitchener and Nurse Cavell served their country honourably and both paid the ultimate sacrifice."

Kitchener himself was killed in June 1916 when HMS Hampshire, the Royal Navy cruiser taking him on a visit to Russia, hit a German mine off the Orkney Islands.

The UK Treasury says the coinage is an issue for the Royal Mint.

Independent panel

Designs are considered by an independent panel of specialists, known as the Royal Mint Advisory Committee, which makes recommendations to the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Britain's Finance Minister).

The Mint has again issued a statement, stressing that a series of coins will be announced over the next four years to mark the Centenary of the First World War from its outbreak to the Armistice.

It said: "These coins will tell the stories of the armed forces, individuals, key battles and cultural and technological developments of that period, before finishing with a poignant reflection on the Armistice and the ongoing legacy of the war."

The petition on the website Change.org in support of remembering Edith Cavell stood at 50,934 names on 29th January 2014. 

In 2013, a similar petition signed by more than 36,000 people resulted in the Bank of England announcing that the novelist, Jane Austen, would appear on a new British £10 note in 2017.

Sources: Change.org website, Royal Mint

Images: Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News

Posted by: Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News