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Why are people talking about the execution of a nurse 100 years ago?

Edith Cavell’s death sparked outrage.

IF YOU HAVE spent any time on Twitter today, you may have noticed that the phrase “Edith Cavell” is trending.

You may also have wondered who she is.

Cavell was a nurse whose execution this day 100 years ago by German troops during World War I sparked a wave of outrage and was used widely in anti-German propaganda for the remainder of the war.

Cavell served as a nurse in German-occupied Belgium during the war, having been recruited to be the matron of a newly-established hospital in Brussels.

World War One - Nurse Edith Cavell - Dover The coffin of nurse Edith Cavell, who was executed by the German military during the First World War for harbouring Allied soldiers, landing in Dover for a reburial on Life's Green, at the east end of Norwich Cathedral. Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

When the war broke out, she began sheltering British soldiers out of Belgium, but cared for soldiers on both sides of the conflict.

Under German occupation in Brussels, Cavell was offered the chance to return to Britain, but chose to stay with her nurses. She helped countless allied soldiers escape, before being caught by German forces.

She was sentenced to death and, despite appeals from the Vatican and the US, was killed by firing squad.

Belgium WWI War Nurse A recently unveiled bust of World War I nurse Edith Cavell in Brussels. Source: Virginia Mayo

She is reported to have told a priest:

“Patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.”

Her last words were recorded as being:

Tell my loved ones later on that my soul, as I believe, is safe, and that I am glad to die for my country.

Her death sparked revulsion in Britain was used in anti-German posters around the UK, with the Germans saying her execution was “necessary”, despite many Germans feeling her life should have been spared.

Today, a bust of her was unveiled in a park in a Brussels suburb, with Princess Anne on hand to witness the memorial.

A statue of her stands in St Martin’s Place, near Trafalgar Square, in London.

In April last year, Prince William referenced her death in a speech marking the outbreak of the war.

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