Cat no. 295

Funeral of Nurse Edith Cavell

Running time9:16 Black & White Silent 1919 Norwich, Norfolk

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Crowds watching the funeral procession at Norwich Cathedral, and the burial of Nurse Edith Cavell.


Archive AliveWartime

This film opens with a long, static shot of wreaths and flower tributes. Some of these are displayed by army nurses. Crowds line up watching the funeral procession as it arrives at the Cathedral. The procession is led by mounted police. Preceding the coffin are soldiers with reversed rifles, a military band and a large number of army nurses and V.A.D.s. The coffin is on a wooden cart drawn by six horses. It is lifted off the cart by soldiers acting as pall bearers. As it is lifted down, a man pulls away from the crowd to take a photograph. The procession following the coffin comprises nurses and representatives of women's movements. There are also nuns, war wounded and various civic and military dignitaries. The next sequence shows clergy following the coffin as it leaves the Cathedral by the side entrance near the grave after the funeral service. The coffin is placed in the grave. The crowds are dense; some people climb trees and lamp posts to get a good look. A procession including the Bishop and clergy and the Lord Mayor and civic dignitaries leaves through the crowd.

Background Information:

Edith Louisa Cavell was born in Swardeston on December 4th, 1865, the daughter of the vicar. She worked as a governess at Colney and Keswick Halls before taking up nursing at the age of 30. She worked in the slums of London before moving to Belgium where she created a nursing school and became Matron of the Berkendale Medical Institute in Brussels. She is attributed with founding the Belgian nursing profession. In 1914 World War I broke out. The Berkendale Clinic was turned into a Red Cross Hospital. Edith Cavell was still in Brussels when it was occupied by the German army. She was offered an opportunity to return to England but declined, continuing to nurse wounded soldiers, German as well as Allied soldiers. She worked secretly to get French, Belgian and British soldiers out of occupied territory. The Germans discovered her activities and arrested her and the chain of people involved. She was tried, found guilty and shot by the German army on October 12th, 1915. She was buried in Brussels until the end of the war when it was decided to bring her body back to England. On the day of the funeral, the coffin had travelled from Dover to London, where there was a service in Westminster Abbey. It continued to Norwich. One of the pall bearers was Sergeant Jesse Tunmore of the Norfolk Regiment. He had been with Edith Cavell in 1914 in the Brussels clinic. His escape had been in no small measure due to her work. The other five bearers were Sergeant Majors Cocksedge, Goulder, M.C., Fisher M.C., Monument and Woodward. V.A.D.s., short for Voluntary Aid Detachment, were volunteer nurses who served during World War I. The most famous account of life as a V.A.D. was written by Vera Brittain in A Testament Of Youth. George Swain discusses making this film and the photograph taken by his father in the Archive's film Past Positive. This film also contains a still of the photograph taken. (East Anglia, 1979, Past Positive.)

Featured People:

George Green, Lord Mayor of Norwich; Rt. Rev Bertram Pollock, Bishop of Norwich; Sergeant Jesse Tunmore; Sergeant Major Cocksedge; Sergeant Major Goulder, M.C.; Sergeant Major Fisher M.C.; Sergeant Major Monument; Sergeant Major Woodward

Featured Organisations:

The Army; The Voluntary Aid Detachment; The Church of England

Featured Buildings:

Norwich Cathedral

George Swain

George Swain

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