'Heroine' war nurse coin petition

Relatives of a British nurse sentenced to death for saving the lives of hundreds of soldiers during the First World War will today deliver a 100,000-strong petition calling for her to be commemorated on a £2 coin.

The coffin of nurse Edith Cavell landing in Dover for a reburial in Norwich Cathedral
The coffin of nurse Edith Cavell landing in Dover for a reburial in Norwich Cathedral

Edith Cavell helped more than 200 Allied troops escape from German-occupied Belgium, mainly funnelling them into the neutral Netherlands.

She was known as the nurse who "saw no sides" because of the life-saving care she gave Allied troops and soldiers from the Axis powers alike.

But she was betrayed, arrested for treason and shot by firing squad in 1915.

The petition was started earlier this year after it was announced that former war secretary Lord Kitchener would feature on a coin to mark the Great War's centenary.

Sioned-Mair Richards, who launched the campaign, said the commemorative coins should also celebrate those, like Cavell, who advocated peace.

She said: "Lord Kitchener stands for that current of gung-ho, jingoistic spirit, and I thought there were other strands to the war.

"Edith Cavell was somebody who had been a heroine of mine since I was little.

"I thought we should have another coin that reflects another aspect of how people felt about the First World War.

"She embodies that great quality of selflessness.

"She would nurse anybody, regardless of their nationality, because that was the right thing to do.

"And she paid the ultimate price for her heroism."

The campaign follows last year's successful petition to put legendary female author Jane Austen on the back of £10 notes after a public outcry that every banknote featured a man.

But campaigners were bombarded with horrific abuse on the internet.

Two twitter trolls were jailed earlier this year for subjecting the feminist journalist Caroline Criado-Perez - who launched the petition - to a torrent of threats to rape and kill her.

Ms Richards said she had been warned to prepare herself for abuse, but said she had not received any and was overwhelmed by the support her campaign had received from men and women.

She will join relatives of the Norfolk-born nurse to take the petition to the Treasury today, which is also Edith Cavell Memorial Day.

Her descendants Pip, 14, and Kit, 10, who are the great-grandsons of Edith Cavell's cousin, will be among those handing the petition over, while comedian and former nurse Jo Brand backs the campaign.

Pip said: "I think more kids should know who she is, because she is a real role model who put other people's lives before hers.

"I want to be a nurse like her when I grow up.

"I hope that the Government will listen and commemorate my amazing relative."

The Cavell Nurses' Trust, which provides assistance to British nurses, also backs the campaign.

Their chief executive Kate Tompkins said: "Edith Cavell nursed all wounded soldiers regardless of nationality saying to her nurses each man is a son, husband or father.

"As the charity set up in her name in 1917, just two years after her death, we are delighted with the support and recognition through the petition of Edith's work as a nurse and for helping the 200 Allied soldiers escape from occupied Belgium."

A spokeswoman from the Royal Mint said it planned to produce a collection of coins over the next five years to mark the First World War.

But she said it would not be saying who it planned to feature on the coins until they were formally unveiled.