Edith Cavell Wreath-laying Ceremony - 12th October 2023
Nurse Edith Cavell trained at the London Hospital around 1900 during the years when Eva Luckes was Matron. Ms Cavell travelled to Brussels where she set up a school of nursing which was well established when the war broke out in 1914. She and her nurses looked after soldiers wounded in the battlefields in Belgium. When they were well enough Ms Cavell enabled approximately 200 men to escape the occupied territories and assisted with their repatriation back to Britain. The dangers of these exploits were great and she was captured in mid 1915.
Edith Cavell was executed on 12 October 1915 after she had been tried for treason by the Germans.
Her body was repatriated to England in May, 1919.
Edith Cavell was given a state funeral which only the reigning monarch can approve and it is only approved for “exceptionally distinguished persons”.
The state funeral was held on 15 May 1919 in Westminster Abbey after which her body was taken to Norwich where it is interred in the grounds of Norwich Cathedral.
The statue of Edith Cavell was unveiled on 17 March 1920 and it stands in the North East corner of Trafalgar Square in St Martin’s Place.
The nurses of The London Hospital have honoured Ms Cavell’s memory every 12 October from this year; 1920. Two nurses wear the traditional London Hospital uniforms which have been preserved carefully with the elaborate head-dresses plus tails and red-lined cloaks.
The London Hospital was honoured by the late Queen in July 1990 when she visited and announced that the hospital, from that day, would be known as The Royal London.
The Royal London Hospital wreath is always made of laurel leaves, quite simple and unadorned.
Until about 2005 the only wreath being laid each year was ours from The Royal London but during the last 15 years other bodies have joined us increasing the interest in what Edith Cavell stands for and raising her profile even though her legacy is from 100 years ago.
On 12 October 2023 there was a gathering of about 70 people. The Commemoration was led by the Rt. Revd. and Rt. Hon. Dame Sarah Mullally DBE, Bishop of London. Speeches were made and Ms Cavell’s favourite hymn, Abide With Me, was sung before the wreaths were laid by different groups including the Mayor of Westminster, the Belgium Ambassador’s representative, the Nursing & Midwifery Council, the Cavell Trust, the QA Nurses and more.
This year’s two Royal London nurses (Jeflyn Musariri & Megan Popplewell), followed the Ambassador’s representative and they walked forward looking so dignified and so appropriate in their elegant attire.
It was a very moving event for all of us who were able to attend.
Tosh Denholm. Outpatient Senior Sister, the Royal London Hospital & Friends Trustee.
Photographs courtesy of Mrs Sue Kopelman