This week’s postcard is a view of the Edith Cavell memorial in London:This monument was unveiled in 1920 and this card was posted in 1921, just a year later. The monument was designed by Sir George Frampton and is situated just outside Trafalgar Square. Frampton adopted a distinctively Modernist style for the memorial, which comprises a 10 feet (3.0 m) high statue of Cavell in her nurse’s uniform sculpted from white Carrara marble, standing on a grey Cornish granite pedestal:The statue stands in front of the south side of a larger grey granite pylon which stands 40 feet high and weighs 175 tons. The top of the block is carved into a cross and statue of a mother and child, sometimes interpreted as the Virgin and Child:On the pedestal beneath the statue of Cavell is an inscription which reads: “Edith Cavell // Brussels // Dawn // October 12th 1915 // Patriotism is not enough // I must have no hatred or // bitterness for anyone.” The last three lines of the inscription quote her comment to Reverend Stirling Gahan, an Anglican chaplain who was permitted to give her Holy Communion on the night before her execution. These words were initially left off, and added in 1924 at the request of the National Council of Women.
The face of the granite block behind the statue of Cavell bears the inscription “Humanity”, and higher up, below the Virgin and Child, “For King and Country”. Other faces of the block bear the inscriptions, “Devotion”, “Fortitude”, and “Sacrifice”. On the rear face of the block is a carving of a lion crushing a serpent, and higher up, the inscription, “Faithful until death”.
Edith Cavell was a British nurse who was working in German occupied Belgium in the first World War. She was responsible for helping up to 200 British soldiers escape capture by the Germans and when this was discovered she was executed by them as a traitor. This naturally made her a martyr to the British and her remains were repatriated to Great Britain after the war and following a service in Westminster Abbey buried in Norwich Cathedral.
The site chosen for the statue had previously been occupied by a monument to General Gordon which was relocated to Khatoum. The design of the memorial did not receive universal praise with the author Osbert Sitwell describing the memorial in his 1928 book “People’s Album of London Statues” wrote that:
with its absurd babies and all its apocryphal tackle of quite meaningless and sentimental allegory, further vitiated by a mistaken effort at German modernity, is an eyesore and atrocity of the most infamous kind.
The monument still stands near Trafalgar Square and is the site of pilgrimage for devotees of Edith Cavell on the anniversary of her death when floral tributes are laid for her.