Historian's shock over footprints on Edith Cavell tombstone

Richard Knight, military historian, with Edith Cavell's tombstone at Norwich Cathedral. Picture: Dan

Richard Knight, military historian, with Edith Cavell's tombstone at Norwich Cathedral. - Credit: Danielle Booden

A military historian is calling for greater protection of the gravestone for First World War heroine Edith Cavell after finding it covered in muddy footprints.

Richard Knight, 57, from Marsham, an experienced guide of First World War battlefield visits for school students in France and Belgium for Anglia Tours, said was shocked to see people had been disrespectful to the nurse's memory.

Edith Cavell's tombstone on Life's Green on the grounds of Norwich Cathedral. 

Edith Cavell's tombstone on Life's Green on the grounds of Norwich Cathedral. - Credit: Danielle Booden

The memorial next to Norwich Cathedral replaced the original gravestone on Life's Green, which was a cross and was surrounded by a garden, in 2015 on the centenary of nurse Cavell's death

He believed the updated gravestone, which includes a stone slab embedded in a newly-landscaped area, was bland and clinical compared to the warmth of the former grave which remains close by.

An event marking Edith Cavell's life at the former gravestone on Life's Green at Norwich Cathedral.

An event marking Edith Cavell's life at the former gravestone on Life's Green at Norwich Cathedral. - Credit: Richard Knight

Mr Knight said: "It was a beautiful gravestone with a neat hedge which spoke volumes about Edith Cavell but the new slab is so cold.

"When I saw the footprints over it my first thought was people don't take on board what they are looking at and trample over her.


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"This is a nurse who was working in Belgium and stood up against the German army and looked after wounded men.

"She is a rose of this country and should be remembered for her brave deed. When her grave changed I found that a bit disrespectful."

First World War nurse Edith Cavell, who died in 1915.

First World War nurse Edith Cavell, who died in 1915. - Credit: Archant

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Nurse Cavell, who was from Swardeston, was executed by the Germans in 1915 and originally buried in Brussels but her body was returned to Norwich in 1919.

The funeral procession of for Edith Cavell in Norwich in 1919.

The funeral procession of for Edith Cavell in Norwich in 1919 when her body was taken from Norwich Railway Station to Norwich Cathedral. - Credit: Supplied

The Rev Dr Peter Doll, canon librarian and vice dean of the cathedral, said: "The old grave was quite knocked about and the paving stones were uneven. In 2013 someone tripped over the paving at an event.

"We felt it was important we took a new approach to the grave."

The vice dean also said the family of nurse Cavell wanted her grave to be similar to a Commonwealth war grave.

Rev Dr Peter Doll, canon librarian of Norwich Cathedral and Richard Knight, military historian, by Edith Cavell's tombstone.

Rev Dr Peter Doll, canon librarian and vice dean of Norwich Cathedral and Richard Knight, military historian, by Edith Cavell's tombstone at Norwich Cathedral. - Credit: Danielle Booden

It also featured her own words as well as the badge depicting the Belgian nurses' training school she set up, which he said was important.

He added: "We did our best and I appreciate it looks different. I appreciate the character of the original grave. A lot of people are respectful towards it.

"Her memory is very dear to everyone in Norfolk. We are conscious we are guardians of her legacy."


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