Services to mark the centenary of the death of British nurse Edith Cavell are being held at Norwich Cathedral over the next three days.
And a new work by Sedgeford writer and performer Gareth Calway, “The Ballad of Edith Cavell” will be published in the commemorations.
Cavell was born in 1865 at Swardestone, the eldest daughter of a vicar, and later trained as a nurse. After the outbreak of the First World War, she nursed soldiers from both sides of the conflict, but for several months she worked with the Belgian and French resistance to shelter well over 200 soldiers and to help them escape to neutral Holland.
She was betrayed and arrested and shot by a German firing squad at 7am on Tuesday, October 12, 1915.
As Calway points out: “Her execution, along with the sinking of neutral shipping by U-boats turned world opinion against Germany and helped to bring the USA into the war on the Allied side.
“Cavell is surely a model of how to remember the First World War, not as a jingoists’ hurrah (too many millions sent to their deaths by blimps for that) but not as a conscientious objection to their sacrifice either. Hers is love of country indeed – but a love beyond country.”
This new ballad by Calway is a commemoration of her sacrifice; Norfolk-based composer Anthony Morrissey has put it to music and performed it on a slide tape film made with Norfolk-based artist Brian Whelan. Morrissey also gave the ballad its debut at Elsing Village Hall on September 26.
“It is an honour to work with artists like Morrissey and Whelan and we hope our collaboration honours Edith herself,” said Calway. “Her heroism deserves to be sung, especially in her home county.”
Like Calway, Morrissey is a performer with the Lynn theatre company Room at the Hanse and has just released an EP of Cavell songs (“Patriotism is not Enough”). He will perform one of these as part of the Sunday Worship at Norwich Cathedral (broadcast on BBC Radio 4) at 8.10am on Sunday, October 11.
At the end of the First World War Cavell’s body was brought back to Britain in 1919 and reburied at Norwich Cathedral following a funeral service at Westminster Abbey and procession through the streets of London.
The commemorations at Norwich Cathedral started on Wednesday with a Choral Evensong.
There will be a graveside commemoration tomorrow at 11am; the Sunday worship at 8.10am; and the Commemorative Service on Monday at 6pm.
A commissioned exhibition of 14 paintings by Brian Whelan on ‘The Passion of Edith Cavell: The Way of the Cross’ is on display at the cathedral until Thursday, October 22.
The story of Edith Cavell will also be re-told through words and music in Remember Edith Cavell, performed by Searchlight Theatre Co, the Cathedral Consort and Cavell orchestra tomorrow (3pm and 7.30pm); for ticket information call the Cathedral Gift Shop (01603 218323) or Prelude Records (01603 628319).
To view Morrissey’s performance at Elsing go to https://youtu.be/WqyXKbK_sAo
To view the slide tape film by Morrissey and Whelan, which features the ballad and also Whelan’s 14 paintings, go to https://youtu.be/Qsri9TjQdRQ