The City of Peterborough held a commemoration service for British nurse Edith Cavell on Monday at dawn-a hundred years exactly from when Edith was executed for helping hundreds of allied soldiers escape German occupied Brussels to freedom in Holland. She attended Laurel Court School in Peterborough where she learnt the fluent french that enabled her to work in Belgium firstly as a governess and then later as the head of nurse training in various clinics and hospitals.
The service began with 2 minutes silence in The Cathedral where hundreds of people gathered to remember a brave inspirational woman with links to the city. Following the silence a procession moved to the War Memorial where emotional poetry written by Keely Mills and read by her and artist Charron Pugsley-Hill gave a poignant emotional feel to the service. This was followed by a fusillade of shots by The Great War Society that commemorated the moment of execution a hundred years ago that stunned the gathered crowd.
THE BLANKET OF POPPIES was then lovingly laid on The War Memorial by artist Charron Pugsley-Hill, artisan felter Eve Marshall and Matthew Hill a school boy age 12. The blanket -a stunning artwork created by artist Charron Pugsley-Hill with Artisan Felter Eve Marshall and 49 ladies from Peterborough and beyond….to commemorate the life, work and execution of Edith Cavell.
Charron Pugsley-Hill Eve Marshall
My thoughts about the service follow:
The atmosphere at the commemoration was very moving and special and probably very different to other remembrance services. This I think was because of the number of women present including many of the ladies who made poppies from the blanket, nurses and councillors. There seemed to be a feminine aura that was caring and gentle.
Approaching the Cathedral as dawn was breaking and lights glowed from the stained windows gave me goosebumps and I really knew that we were right to have decided to have the commemoration at dawn despite the objections of some concerned about getting up early. This was Edith Cavell’s moment and we had shared it with her!
During the silence Keely and I stood with the blanket at the memorial to her in the Cathedral where a single candle was burning. It flickered and glowed reminding me of the sanctity of life taken so cruelly from Edith at the age of 49.
It was lighter as we left the Cathedral to walk the few minutes back to the War Memorial. The atmosphere was sombre but the glow of the sun rising gave a glow of hope for the future. Reading Keelys beautiful poem was a moment when I began to reflect back to the beginning of THE BLANKET OF POPPIES when as part of a series on WWI I am creating I never thought that it would end with such a special occasion. The sound of our voices echoed around the street in her memory.
As the shots brutally sounded I was taken back to Brussels when I stood earlier in the summer on the spot that Edith Cavell stood as 8 rifles pointed at her before taking her life in a split second of madness. It reminded me so vividly as to why I had begun this work in March to tell the story of a woman’s incredible bravery and commitment to do the right thing for others.
Laying the blanket with the help of Matthew and Eve brought for me an end to the mission I have been obsessed with for so many months. As I stood back tears were not far away as the blanket shone amongst the stone of the memorial. It looked as if it was made to fit the space!
Peace has come to me knowing that we and Peterborough have done Edith proud. And I was proud of every single person who has connected with my dream and her story and brought all to this ending. The first woman to be commemorated at this War Memorial.
Thank you to all those who have been involved with THE BLANKET OF POPPIES in a small or large way…you have made this so special and I hope that we can all work together on my next WWI project…but thats for another time…….
Rest in Peace Edith Cavell- a woman who has honestly changed my life for the better!