Yesterday, I found an envelope with some three dozen postcards concerning her death. I am posting a small number here to show the propaganda aspect and then the reality of death.
Nurse Edith Cavell is pictured with here dogs in her garden in Brussels in 1915. Thousands of Britons purchased this souvenir postcard at the time.
Cavell's grave was covered in floral tributes. The photographer has captioned the postcard with the date of her death as 12 August 1915. She actually died on 12 October.
News reports of her execution were discovered to be true only in part. The American Journal of Nursing, at the time, repeated the fictional account of Cavell's execution in which she fainted and fell due to her refusal to wear a blindfold in from of the firing squad. Supposedly, while she lay unconscious, the German commanding officer shot her dead with a revolver. A printed account on the reverse of this propaganda card records: "The fiend takes his revolver and, leaning upon his victim, deliberately blows her brains out." I leave you to guess how many patriotic Britons rushed to the recruiting office to enlist for service at the Front . . .
After the war, many troops visited her grave. Here, two American doughboys pay homage.
After the war, her remains were recovered and transported back to England for reburial in the grounds of Norwich Cathedral. Here British troops load the coffin on to a gun carriage during the removal of her body from the Tir National. The Union Flag, the wooden cross from her grave and a host of other material is preserved at the Royal London Hospital. More details of the collection can be found here
Her simple grave, pictured here, is in the grounds of Norwich Cathedral.
So, here is her grave before exhumation. The reality is quite different.
Here is the exhumed body of Rammler, a German soldier shot (without trial -the card records) at the same time as Philip Baucq (who assisted Cavell) and Miss Cavell, for refusing to fire on this nurse. His coffin was found between these two patriots.
Many of you will remember my so-called 'ability' to spot things that are often unnoticed. Probably from my picture editing days. Please note the well-preserved uniform and the buttons on his right sleeve. Take a look at Rammler's left boot. The shape of it seems to indicate that his boots are on the wrong feet. I presume this must have happened when his body was prepared for burial? Perhaps the undertaker was in a hurry?
This final image records the scene shortly after officials carried out the exhumation of Edith Cavell. Thankfully, she appears to have been buried in a shroud. It provides a grim contrast to some of the sanitised photographs published elsewhere in this post.