Edith Cavell's monument

This monument to the memory of Edith Cavell in London (St Martin's Place) was sculpted by George Frampton in 1920.

"The city of Westminster offered a site in St Martin's Place north-east of Trafalgar Square, close to the Nelson's Column, the Lions of Victory, and national pride in the glory of conquest. Edith Cavell was to be a lone woman in this setting. Frampton, known for his statue of Peter Pan in Kensigton Gardens, took no fee and called it a labour of love. He began working in 1915, though the Italian marble for his ten-foot figure of her, incorporated into a high granite column, was not available until the war's end in November 1918. (…)

The monument itself, in modernist mode, was of large stepped blocks of Cornish granite with at the top a solid cross - the Geneva cross of nursing, symbol of help for all - and a woman protecting a naked baby - the Mother Country protecting poor little Belgium.


Beneath this FOR KING AND COUNTRY was chiselled large and then, on the four sides of the granite, HUMANITY DEVOTION FORTITUDE SACRIFICE. At the back was a lion - a British lion - 'crushing the serpent of envy, malice, spite and treachery' and above ita the words FAITHFUL UNTO DEATH.


The white marble figure of Edith Cavell was to face Trafalgar Square, ten feet high, manly, with HUMANITY etched over her head. Beneath her feet were engraved he hour and place of death: EDITH CAVELL DAWN BRUSSELS OCTOBER 12TH 1915.


Her words on the eve of her death - 'I realise that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone', were initially omitted. They questioned hegemony and the integrity of war. (…)
The London statue was completed in March 1920 then draped in the English an Belgian flags. Unveiling it was a grand event, under a crimson canopy to cover the royals and dignitaries. A large crowd, including nurses from the London Hospital and a delegation from the École Edith Cavell in Brussels, watched Queen Alexandra, the Queen Mother, pull the flags away.
In 1923 the National Council of Women of Great Britain and Ireland, which capaigned for women's rights, asked for Edith Cavell's words about patriotism not being enough to be added to the monument. They said the essence of her had been omitted. they hoped her words might contribute to world peace. They were accused of being pro-German and pacifists.
The following year the first Labour government, with Ramsay MacDonald as Prime Minister, authorised the adding of PATRIOTISM IS NOT ENOUGH. I MUST HAVE NO HATRED NOR BITTERNESS FOR ANYONE. The words were etched smaller than the other on the monument and looked like an afterthought. There were protests. How would it be known the words were Edith Cavell's, not the government's? Sir Lionel Earle, Permanent Undersecretary at the Office of Works, said inverted commas should be added, but this did not happen"1.

  • Photos by Luca Borghi ti.supmacinu|ihgrob.l#| (July 2011)

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License