Commemorating WWI in Art-Edith Cavell-The Blanket of Poppies

If you have never heard of Edith Cavell before then thats all about to change! 2015 is a hundred years since she was executed in 1915 in Brussels during the First World War for helping allied soldiers to escape the german occupation and the consequences that capture would have brought upon them.

As part of my series of art commemorating significant events, people and places from World War I a hundred years on, I identified the work and execution of Edith Cavell as one of the significant people from 1915 who needs to be commemorated in my series of art.This is of particular interest as Edith Cavell has strong links with Peterborough where I am based.

The artwork that I am creating is THE BLANKET OF POPPIES-made of 49 felted poppies,leaves and stems  by 49 women(Edith Cavell was 49 when she died), in the equivalent of knitting circles and will be held together with silk cut in the shape of  WWI countries that will be crumpled by the blanket felting process-as war crumples countries that it touches.This art as well as being a beautiful colourful piece will connect people with her inspirational story which currently feels as if it has been lost as time has gone by!

I am looking for women to take part in this artwork in workshops or ‘knitting’/felting circles to be a part of connecting with other women in an international project connecting this inspirational story to the modern day. All tuition will be given and no experience is necessary. These workshops are likely to be in Peterborough but it is possible that 1 may be held in London/Norwich depending on those applying to take part.

Please email me if you would like to take part in creating a poppy in a workshop in June or July-dates to be confirmed- with your telephone number and why you would like to take part in commemorating Edith Cavell. PLEASE SEND YOUR EMAIL to: happy and we will contact you  if you have been selected to take part before the end of June.

The following is a concise version of her story and I will do further blogs with more details on parts of her life in the months until the centenary of her execution on 12th October 2015:

Edith Cavell was born near Norwich to an Anglican vicar in a strict victorian family where opportunities for women of her status in society where very limited. As she grew up she spent many hours drawing and painting animals children and flowers to raise money for the poor of the parish. Marriage or training to be a governess were in reality the fortune of someone of her position and as no marriage appeared she trained to be a governess. Part of that training was in a private school at Laurel Court in The Precincts of Peterborough Cathedral where she learnt to speak french- a crucial component of the later parts of her story as if she hadn’t spoken french she would not have been in Brussels in WWI.

Following her training she became a governess to a number of families in several locations. Meanwhile various professions were opening up to women of her status and when her 2 younger sisters became nurses she decided to follow in their footsteps and train to be a nurse at The London Hospital. This was a time of continuing change in medicine and nursing and Edith Cavell was a part of this process. After  gaining experience in nursing ultimately she was asked to take a job in Brussels training nurses and taking charges of various clinics/hospitals to improve the standards of nursing in Brussels.

When WWI was declared Edith was actually at home near Norwich visiting her widowed mother,having declared that she could be of more use in Brussels she returned to take charge as the germans occupied Brussels and military command took over.

Edith strongly believed that as nurses they should care for all nationalities who came to the clinics including the allied and german soldiers who were injured. Having been increasingly aware of what was happening to allied soldiers who were detained by the germans Edith became involved in helping allied soldiers escape the occupation through a series of safe houses and a network of guides to get the men to freedom and safety in Holland.

“Each man was father, husband or son. As nurses they must take no part in the quarrel. Their work is for humanity” Edith Cavell.

Ultimately she was betrayed along with many  others and after 10 weeks in solitary confinement was tried for treason. She was sentenced to execution,told the afternoon before she was to die and then shot at 7am at The National Shooting Range in Brussels on the 12th October 1915. Her body was hastily buried in a yellow coffin. She was returned to England after WWI and was buried at Norwich Cathedral.

Further blogs will be released about the project and her story over the next few months. Diana Souhami has written an intriguing book “EDITH CAVELL” which has been a major source of research for my work and I would highly recommend the book to those wishing to know more about her story!

If you would like to read more about the series of work commemorating WWI then please have a look at my other blogs and there are Limited Edition prints available to buy in the store section of my website from £50. Larger sizes available to order. Comments and questions are very welcome in the box below……..Love to hear your thoughts!   by  Charron Pugsley-Hill

Supported by Peterborough City Council, Peterborough Cathedral, Vivacity, Nucleus Events, Athene Communication.

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AND THEY MARCHED TO HILL 971-GALLIPOLI 1915-Original Painting by Peterborough Artist Charron Pugsley-Hill