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Nurse Edith Cavell

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Nurse Edith Cavell
Leonaur Original
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Author(s): William Thomson Hill
Date Published: 2011/03
Page Count: 144
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-508-7
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-507-0

I cannot stop while there are lives to be saved
Edith Cavell

Nurse Edith Cavell was a British Nurse and humanitarian who became famous during the First World War for not only nursing and saving the lives of battle casualties with no regard for the nationality of the combatants, but also for her work in assisting some 200 Allied soldiers to escape incarceration by the victorious German Army in Belgium during the early stages of the conflict. This middle aged nurse was discovered by the Germans, who considered her actions treasonable, abetting the escape of troops who might return to the battle front. Cavell was subsequently tried by court marshal, sentenced to be executed and shot by firing squad in October 1915, aged 50 years. The event was widely reported by the world press and the effect on the public at large was electric providing a propaganda triumph for the Allied cause and an equal disaster for the German cause—although they considered their actions fair and reasonable by the rules of war. Cavell's influence on nursing in Belgium has been an enduring one. This book contains two accounts brought together by Leonaur for interest and good value. The first, The Martyrdom of Nurse Cavell by William Thomson Hill, provides an overview of the Cavell story whilst the second, With Edith Cavell in Belgium by Jacqueline Van Til, was written by a young nurse who worked closely with Cavell and who had inside knowledge and personal experience of the dramatic events as they unfolded. Available in softcover and hardcover with dust jacket.

It happened, one afternoon, that Pauline came in looking white as a sheet, and informed us, in a low voice, that two German soldiers were in Miss Cavell’s office. We were quite upset at this, and we scarcely knew what to do about it. I decided to go to the parlour where I might perhaps find out something from hearing the conversation. Just as I reached the room, however, the two Germans left the house without even so much as looking around the place. Following them with my eyes, I saw them on the corner of the street talking to some of the people in the opposite field. I suddenly had a feeling that we were betrayed—that everywhere spying eyes were lurking, and that the men whom we had so carefully concealed were now menaced with serious danger.<br>
At this juncture, Madame came out of her office, looking very pale. Instantly I ran up to her and asked her if all was well. With a wan expression upon her face, Miss Cavell told me that the two German soldiers had brought a letter from the German commander, in which it was stated that on May 7th, 1915, Madame DePage had gone down with the Lusitania. That was all it said, nor had Miss Cavell anything to say regarding my fears and suspicions.
At this moment Gilles, the guide, came in, and I imparted to him the news which I had regarding the two German soldiers’ visit. He burst out into a forced laugh, and told me in his expressive Flemish language, that he thought we really were in danger—that Madame would tell us nothing about it, through fear of causing us any anxiety. Such was her greatness of character that throughout all those days of trial and care, she had kept her own sorrow and troubles to herself. It remained for the sudden fatal news of the tragic death of Madame DePage to tear away the mask of stoic indifference from that heroically determined face. It was with a sad voice and tearful eyes that she related the sad news to us.<br>
We were all of us very unhappy about this sad event; for we had known the good-hearted lady very well. She had shown so much interest in our work, and now, without her to interest herself in us, we felt that we would be left all alone to incur the expenses of our undertaking, because all the other members of the committee were too much engrossed in their own affairs, or were, perhaps, too much annoyed by the Germans, to be of much help to us.<br>
We began to be less gay, now, and we even did not dare to talk too loudly. We were also saddened by the war news, which reached us from time to time. We could hear the noise of exploding shells far away on the Yser River in Flanders. That was all the outside news we got, because nothing important was allowed to be published. But, we well knew that within a hundred feet from us, observant eyes were watching us, and quick ears were listening. We fully realized this; but, strange as it may seem, we dared not tell it to each other. To increase our plight, the food was becoming more and more scarce; meat and eggs were unobtainable, and we were reduced to the necessity of subsisting only upon bread and salads.<br>
We went on, however, cleaning our furniture and preparing everything for moving day, constantly dreaming of our future New Clinique. This week, too, as was not very often the case, we were all alone, for there were no English or French soldiers with us to lend us a helping hand.<br>
Mademoiselle Thuilliez had not yet returned, and Gilles was out with some other men that he was probably conducting to Antwerp. All that week, danger seemed to be lurking around every nook and corner of our dwelling; but, like thoughtless children, we too easily forgot our fears and sorrows.<br>
On the twentieth of June, about ten o’clock in the morning, Madame received a visit from two men who spoke to her in English. They asked to see the house, stating that they wanted to rent the place after we had moved out. This sounded plausible enough to us, but I saw Madame’s face become as pale as a sheet, as she allowed the strangers to enter. When they were mounting the stairs. Sister Wilkins noticed that one of the men wore army shoes, and had eyeglasses of German manufacture. She called little Mania Waschausky’s, a young nurse, attention to it, and the latter recognized the fact. Both of the women became uneasy, when showing the men one of the rooms, where many English magazines and a few numbers of the Libre Belgique newspaper were carelessly left lying around. But the two men seemed not to notice all these details; and although they went through all the rooms, and looked casually at every corner of the house, yet they showed no desire of making a special inspection of the cupboards and wardrobes.<br>
When we reached the bathrooms they examined the tanks. Madame was standing at the entrance of the room. Sister Wilkins and I were in one corner. Opposite the bathtub was a mirror and in that mirror I could plainly see the reflection of an English cap, which had carelessly been thrown into one corner of the room. At the sight of this object the blood seemed suddenly to stop in my veins—the room to swim round and round in my head. But no one noticed what I saw, and the two men soon left the room, engaged in deep conversation. Had they also noticed the cap? Who could tell?
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