I suppose that it was not surprising that my mother wanted to be a nurse.  She told me that she had spent so much of her early childhood in hospital, so much so that she got to think of it as home and as a place of safety.  As a child my mother suffered both physical and mental abuse as at the hands of her stepfather and mother.  She and her elder brother were regularly beaten by my grandmother’s second husband both when he was in a drunken stupor and when sober and without money.  Once he married my grandmother, he apparently never did a day’s work again.  My mother and her elder brother were also starved of food, which eventually brought about their removal from their home, if you can call it that, with my mother being sent to a hospital at Herne Bay in Kent in order to be fattened up.  It needs to be remembered that at this time there was no such thing as Social Services and for the authorities to actively remove my mother from her home proves that the harsh treatment she had received and the condition that she was in had reached a critical point.  It took almost a year to get her to a reasonable weight and another six months after that for her to get over her fear of going home upon discharge.  Little changed once she returned home.  My mother said that she lost count of the number of times she woke up in the hospital bed next to that of her mother following a rampage by her stepfather.

As I said, my mother spent much of her early childhood at the Royal London Hospital on Whitechapel Road, so much so that she was allowed to help the nurses in their duties.  At first, this meant helping the nurses with the care of the aged women that were on the wards.  My mother said that she helped wash and dress those that were unable to do so themselves.  She also was given the job of brushing and combing their hair.  My mother spoke of one particular old lady that she was fond of and who would love to sit in a chair and have my mother comb her hair.  My mother could not but think of this lady as a grandmother and indeed the old lady obviously thought kindly of her as she always shared the little gifts of sweetmeats that her family brought with her.  Tragically, one day while my mother was grooming the lady’s hair, my mother said that she failed to answer a question when asked.  My mother said that she stopped brushing and turned to look at the old lady only to discover that she had passed away.  Since my mother was very young, this was a shock to her and she was very upset at the loss of this old lady.  It took my mother a good while to come to terms with her death.

Sadly this was not the only death that my mother was to experience at first hand.  While at the rehabilitation hospital at Herne Bay, she became friendly with a little girl close to her own age.  This poor child suffered with epilepsy and was subject to sudden convulsions.  Seemingly one evening, the two children were sitting on the inner ledge of one of the windows of their ward when suddenly the little girl began to have a convulsion.  My mother says that before she could grab her friend and pull her off the ledge, the little girl fell out of the window and onto the stone patio below.  The little girl died instantly.  Again my mother was very upset by the death of a friend.

Fortunately my mother was able to cope with the passing of her friends despite her young age and gained solace in her nursing duties.  With time, my mother graduated from helping with patient ablutions to helping the nurses dress wounds and other care.  My mother said that despite the sadness caused by illness, she was happy to help and enjoyed being a part of the team.  She said that she was often complimented by the sisters and doctors for her work.

My mother was made to leave school when she reached eleven years of age and sent out to work.  Since her stepfather did not work, she and her brother were required to supplement the various handouts that were given to help the family survive.  As a result, her formal education came to an abrupt and painful end, as did her dreams of becoming a nurse.  My mother left school unable to read and write well.  Despite these inabilities, she had a remarkable ability to add up huge sums of money without the use of paper and pencil – and I am talking about old British money – pounds, shillings and pence.  This ability served her well when she and my father had a pie ‘n’ mash shop and she served the customs.  She was able to tot up the cost of the purchases with speed and quickly calculate the necessary change in her head without making an error.  At the end of the day, what was sold equaled exactly the money in the till.  It was a rare day when she was a penny or two short.  My mother always maintained that when such a mismatch occurred, it was the result of an error of my father who took over for the time my mother needed to attend to me.


Despite her unfulfilled wish to become a nurse, my mother maintained an interest in medicine and was always interested in any radio or television programme that presented important medical or scientific advancements.  When I was older and began to study the sciences, she was always interested to listen to me tell her about my studies and once I went to college, whenever I came home to visit, she remained eager to hear about what I had learned.  I remember that she had a remarkable quick and agile mind despite her lack of formal education.  However her interest truly blossomed once I entered medical research.  I had just started working with patients suffering from von Willebrand’s Disease and Haemophilia A.

von Willebrand’s disease is a bleeding disorder where patients demonstrate prolonged bleeding and clotting times when tested (what is meant by the clotting time is in actuality, the partial thromboplastin time or aPTT) and is inherited by an autosomal (i.e. not sex-linked) dominant route.  Although Haemophilia A is also a bleeding disorder, it is sex-linked and recessive and finds expression in males while females act as carriers.  Patients with Haemophilia A demonstrate a normal bleeding time, but demonstrate a prolonged clotting time  (i.e. aPTT) when tested in the laboratory.

I recall explaining the characteristics of each condition and noting how quickly she came to grasp the characteristics of each malady.  However what really surprised me was her ability to understand how to distinguish von Willebrand’s Diseasefrom Haemophilia A in the laboratory setting.  I soon realised that she not only appreciated what I was saying, but was able to ask well thought out questions on the subject.  I have met medical students who found such the distinction taxing.

von Willebrand's Disease and Haemophilia A
  Top Left: von Willebrand; Top Right: Inheritance of Haemophilia
Bottom Left: The Russian Royal Family; Bottom Right: World Haemophilia Federation Logo

Haemophilia is often called the disease of kings because it was carried by many members of Europe’s royal family. Queen Victoria of England was a carrier of haemophilia and passed the disease to many of her descendants (including the Russian emperor’s family and the Spanish royal family). Many people say that this played a small role in the downfall of the Russian royal family during the Russian Revolution. 

I remember an occasion in Paris when I accompanied my parents on a visit to the laboratory of Louis Pasteur.  While my father spent the whole visit with a glazed look over his eyes, my mother was enthralled by the laboratory and was fascinated to learn how he had confirmed the importance of bacteria in fermentation and in many illnesses.  She was also fascinated to learn that he is considered the father of stereochemistry, which led to the understanding and significance of the arrangement of atoms about a carbon atom in space. 

Top Left: Louis Pasteur; Top Right: Experiment to show growth of organisms
Bottom Left: Scientists who led to the understanding of stereochemistry
(Blot, discovered optical activity; Pasteur, separated enantiomers; van't Hoff (and LeBell) who proposed the tetrahedral carbon atom; Fisher, who identified 16 aldohexoses; & Prelog)
Bottom Right:  An example of a compound with the same formula but with two distinct forms  

The importance of this concept is clearly illustrated with the two structural forms of the drug Thalidomide: although both forms are chemically identical, the arrangement of the atoms in space allows one form to appear safe when taken by pregnant women, while causing the second form to induce birth defects in the fetus.   Tragically when the safe form was given to human subjects, it was converted into a mixture of the two forms and so proved to be also unsafe.

Thalidomide - Structure & Capsules

And so it is perhaps not surprising that my mother was a great admirer of those involved in scientific and medical research and their applications.  And the one person that she most admired was Nurse Cavell.


Edith Louisa Cavell was born in 1865 in the village of Swardeston, near Norwich where her father was a vicar.  After being employed as a governess both in England and Belgium, she entered training to be a nurse at the Royal London Hospital (1900-1905) under the direction of Matron Eva Luckes.  In 1907, she became the matron of L'École Belge d’Infirmières Diplômées, a newly established nursing school in Brussels and in 1908 she launched the nursing journal, L’Infirmiere.  Once the First World War was declared in 1914, the nursing school and associated clinics were commandeered by the Red Cross. 

Edith Cavel as nurse (left, graduation from nursing school), sister and Matron

Once the German occupation of Brussels began in November 1914, Nurse Cavell began sheltering British troops and helping them escape to The Netherlands.  This service was extended to allied troops and to Belgian and French boys of military age.  The German authorities became suspicious of her activities, which was fuelled by her outspoken opinions and led to her arrest in August 1915 and being charged with the harbouring of Allied soldiers.  According to records, she admitted to helping 60 English and 15 French soldiers along with some 100 French and Belgians of military age to escape and was prosecuted for these actions at her court-martial.

Nurse Cavell was found guilty of the charges laid against her.  According to German Military Code, which was applicable to both Germans and foreigners in times of war, guilt of treason was to be punished by death.  She is well known for making the statement, Patriotism is not enough, I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone and for her strong Christian ideals.  Her beliefs led her to help anyone in need, which included both German and Allied soldiers.  She is also known for stating, I can’t stop while there are lives to be saved.

Although Baron von der Lancken, the German civil governor at the time, stated that Nurse Cavell should be pardoned because of her complete honesty and because she had helped save so many lives including both German and Allied, General von Sauberzweig, the military governor of Brussels, ordered the  immediate execution of the death penalty.

Baron, General von Sauberzweig

Once Nurse Cavell was sentenced to death, the British Foreign Office said that it was powerless to intervene on her behalf.  However, the Americans who were not at present at war with Germany tried to apply diplomatic pressure on her behalf.  In addition, not all German officials were in favour of her execution since she had been known to help German soldiers as well.

Despite these and the efforts of others, Nurse Cavell was executed on the 12th October, 1915, at 6 o’clock in the morning at Tir National Shooting Range in Schaerbeek by a German firing squad.  Her last words to the prison chaplain were, Ask Father Gahan to tell my loved ones later that my soul, as I believe, is safe, and that I am glad to die for my country.  Her execution was greeted by condemnation throughout the world along with extensive press coverage.

Following the execution a group of Belgian women buried Nurse Cavell in a grave adjacent to St. Gilles Prison.  Once the war ended, her body was returned to England and a memorial service was held at Westminster Abbey.  After this, it was then transported to Norwich and finally to Life’s Green where she was laid to rest.

Left: The wagon that transported Nurse Cavell remains; Right: Arrival at Westminster Abbey

Nurse Cavell is remembered by the memorials built in her memory throughout the world.  In addition there are numerous medical and nursing facilities named in her honour including a wing of Homerton Hospital in Hackney and the School of Nursing at the University of East Anglia in Norwich.  There are also a number of streets, schools, gardens and bridges named in her honour in Britain and other countries.  It is said that Edith Piaf, the famed singer, was named after her and in fact it is believed that Nurse Cavell is responsible for the name Edith becoming popular in France. 


Since my mother admired Nurse Cavell, it is not surprising that she liked to visit her memorial at St. Martin’s Place, close to the North-East corner of Trafalgar Square.  Whenever we went to the West End, at some time we seemed to find ourselves standing in front of the memorial.  My mother would stop and linger there for a while.  She always gave me the impression that each time she came across the memorial it was as if it was for the first time.  At each visit, she used to stop, look at the plinth and mouth the words of the inscription and shake her head and complain bitterly about those that had Nurse Cavell shot.  Next, she mentioned her half-brother, George whom she loved very much and who had been killed in the Second World War.   Her eyes always filled with tears as she remembered him.  Once she wiped them away, she sighed deeply and turned to the statue and made the same comment regarding Nurse Cavell’s height.  When I was young, I had the habit of reminding my mother that she followed this routine each time she came to the memorial.  She always denied it and told me that I was too smart for my own good.  As I got older, I developed more compassion and understanding, as well as the habit of standing beside her and shaking my head in agreeing with her feelings. 

In the meantime, my father was disappearing in the distance.  He had the habit of walking a head and seemed oblivious most of the time that he had left home with us.  Eventually it must have dawned on him that he had a wife and son and would stop and smoke a cigarette while he waited for us to catch up.  And once we did, he grumbled for a while telling us how slow we were and then take off again.
My mother was very much offended at my father’s behaviour and tried to tell him that he should be walking with us.   He never listened and was soon seen way off in the distance once more.  My mother learned to get her own back on my father in a number of cleverly thought out ways.  One of her favourites was to take us shopping on Oxford Street on a Thursday evening especially during the pre-Christmas season.
In those days, the West End shops closed on Saturday afternoons.  This is hard to imagine in this day and age where shops are open every day and until late into the evening.  West End shops kept this routine until the mid-1970s when half day closing disappeared.  Meanwhile, the shops on Oxford Street remained open for late night shopping until 7 p.m. on Thursday evenings.  At that time, Oxford Street, and especially the stretch between Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Circus, was a much classier street than it is today and was home to a large number of department stores and people came there to shop when they required something special.

St. Giles Circus - junction of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road
Top left: looking north to Tottenham Court Road during the 1930's;  
Top middle: looking south to Charring Cross Road;  
Top right: Dominion Theatre, 2010;
 Bottom left: Astoria Cinema (there was a dance hall in the basement);
Middle Left: following demolition of the Astoria cinema and shops for the new train station;
Bottom right: Centre Point, which now dominates the area

The weeks before Christmas always found Oxford Street jammed with people especially on late night shopping evenings.  My father was never overly fond of shopping especially when it meant going with my mother and me, but came to Oxford Street since he was told that we needed things and, to him, this meant things for him.  I am sure that he believed that my mother was shopping specifically to buy his Christmas present and he did not want to miss out on this.  I must add that it was not my father’s habit to shop for presents for my mother and me.  My presents were bought by my mother although I was told they were from them both.  My father, when he had money, gave my mother a few coppers and told her to buy yourself something.  Once I got older, he tried to give these few coppers to me to buy her something.  I used to tell him that the cost of living had gone up and that one could buy nothing with his few coppers!  I also tried to convince him to choose my mother’s gift himself, as I knew she would much prefer something that he had actually gone out and looked for rather than something I had chosen in his place.  He never listened to me and ended up giving her those initial few coppers on Christmas Day.

On those Thursday evening shopping jaunts, we used to take a number 25 bus from Mile End Gate to the junction of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street.  We generally arrived at 5.30 p.m., which was just when most workers were rushing to catch buses or underground trains.  Oxford Street was always a mass of people and the noise of the traffic was often ear-piercing.  It always proved difficult to move along the street and there lay the seed of my mother’s revenge.  Normally my father walked ahead of us oblivious to our presence.  However, at such times when the street was filled with people, it was he and not us that had difficulties moving forward.
My mother was very good at moving towards the gaps between walkers as we made our way along Oxford Street.  Although she was good at finding gaps and moving into them, she never seemed to remember that I was holding on to her arm and that the chosen gap was more often than not too small for us both to squeeze through.  My mother glided into the space with ease while I crashed into some poor innocent pedestrian out for an evening’s shop.  Whenever one of these innocents complained at my rudeness and inability to look where I was going, my mother would apologise for my bad behaviour and scold me and tell me to be more careful.  Although I tried to explain that it was she who was at fault and not me.  Naturally she denied it and said that I should not make up stories.

As we progressed along Oxford Street with me being flung into shoppers, my father was having an even harder time behind us.

In those days, men wore hats.  Most wore trilbies.  My father was always most particular about his hat.  He had several – one for each suit that he owned – a grey hat to go with his grey suit – a dark blue hat for his dark blue suit and a dark brown hat for his dark brown suit and so on.  He never went out without first steaming his hat.  This process was an extremely serious ritual and was not to be rushed.  He would allow a kettle of water to come to a boil and wait until a good head of steam was gushing out of the spout.  Once this was achieved, he held the hat at the area where the steam was just escaping the spout.  Here, it was invisible and truly at the temperature of boiling water.  He held the hat in the steam for a minute or so and then slowly rotated the remainder of the hat through the stream.  He generally passed the brim through the steam first followed by the head of the hat.  Throughout this procedure, he stopped periodically to brush the steamed area and then returned it for continued treatment.  He also took short breaks to take a gulp of tea that he had prepared before embarking on this ritual.  I used to love watching him steam his hat.  It was truly something to see and totally hypnotizing to watch.

The Hat Shop at the Flinders Street Station, Melbourne, Victoria - an oasis

Once my father was dressed, the last thing that he did was to place his hat on his head.  This procedure was also a ritual.  He did not just take hold of the hat and plob it on his head!  No, the hat had to be positioned.  He liked to have his hat placed in such a way so that the brim came down and almost covered his left eye.  This was the style at that time.  Placing the hat on his hat generally took two, perhaps three, attempts before he was content with the look.  The reader may think that my father was an especially vain man – a Dandy even – and perhaps he was, but it was normal for men to take such excessive pride in their appearance in those days.

My Father

Meanwhile, as my mother and I made our way along Oxford Street, we could my father behind us complaining about being pushed, punched, hit, kicked and shoved!  My mother pretended to not hear him and ignored me when I pointed out his plight.  Occasionally my mother looked back to see where he was and would quickly turn away and stifle a laugh.  Whenever I tried to look back, I found myself crashing into yet another shopper while being dragged through a small gap, onwards and upwards along the road.

I remember once actually catching a glimpse of my father at such a time.  What I saw was indeed funny – funny since it was happening to him and not to me!  He was complaining about the rudeness of people and looked hot and bothered!  What made the scene funny was that his hat had been pushed out of its position and was practically over both eyes.  I remember telling my mother about my father problematic journey and she laughed loudly and told me to be quiet!

My Father always said that the ideal dress ware for shopping on Oxford Street was a suit of armour

Eventually my father could continue no further along the street.  We knew when this moment arrived since we heard him called out for my mother.  Kour!  Kour!  This was the shortened formed of the name Carrie, which was in turn the shorten form of Caroline.  Obviously my father was now in a desperate position.  My mother generally ignored the first two or three yelps for help, but once they reached a certain level of pain and a suitable quality of pathetic-ness, she would stop and listen and then turn and search out my father in the crowd.  While this was going on, the passing shoppers were batting me first to the left and then to the right.  Once my mother spied my father, we began the task of battling our way against the flow of shoppers to be with him.

My father, looking very much the worst for wear, was generally slumped against a shop window or else in the doorway of a shop.  The placement of his hat on his head was even more skewed and his temper even more frayed.  My mother, now ready to fully get her own back, lacked sensitivity for his plight and instead of being sympathetic, complained that he was holding us back and that we needed to get going since we have a lot to do!  She then told him to keep up and suggested that he if was having a hard time walking on the pavement then perhaps he should walk in the road and avoid the pedestrians.  Of course this was not a sensible suggestion since Oxford Street at that time was jammed with buses, taxes and cars and it would be very dangerous to try to walk in the road.

Eventually we arrived at Oxford Circus and I hasten to add that invariably we had bought nothing.  At Oxford Circus, we had a choice – either we could turn left and tackle the crowds of Regent Street or else continue on our merry way along Oxford Street to Marble Arch.  Whichever way my mother chose, I continued to be flung about the pavement and my father continued to suffer further indignities. 

Oxford Circus
It is perhaps cruel to laugh, but occasionally my father’s frayed temper got the better of him.  It was women who proved themselves his most brutal adversaries on our walk.  Most men avoided shopping, especially in the West End, and those that did not tended to be meek creatures.  Sadly something happened to the women that went shopping on Oxford Street at Christmas.  All tenderness, shyness and motherly qualities were left at home and they became stalking predators.

As I said, occasionally my father’s frayed temper got the better of him.  The straw that broke the camel’s back generally came when he received a particularly vicious and unwarranted blow from a large woman intend on passing him.  We knew when this moment came, as immediately we could hear him somewhere behind us telling his combatant that she did not have to be so vicious.  My mother knew that she needed to get to his side and end the disagreement that was about to take a nasty turn.  Immediately we set off against the flow of shoppers until we came to his side.  I remember on one occasion we arrived a little late and he and this rather large woman were exchanging remarks.  With each remark, the tone was becoming more aggressive and some unpleasant words had already been used by both parties.  We arrived to hear my father telling this woman that if she had been less fat then she would not have crashed into him!  The woman was obviously stunned into silence by my father’s remark and stood with her mouth open.  My mother took this lull in the battle to grab my father and hurl him into the road.  This caused a bus to screech to a halt and only just avoid hitting him.  My mother, totally ignoring the bus, took hold of his arm and with him now safely in tow and me hanging onto her other arm, she dragged us across the road and deposited us on the other side.  The traffic immediately began to flow again, which obviously stopped the large woman from following my father and renewing their battle.

Once across the street, my mother told my father that it was unforgiveable that he should have told that nice lady that she was fat!  Didn’t he realise that it was insulting to say what he did, as well as being hurtful?  My father was in no mood to listen to my mother and said that this nice lady had sent him flying and never bothered to apologise.  Being young and not fully realizing the full impact of the word, I tried to tell my mother that the lady was indeed fat and that my father had been correct in his assessment of her girth.  My mother told me to be quiet and I realised that silence was the better part of valour.

Once my father had recovered sufficiently, he announced that we all needed a drink to sooth our nerves.  My mother realising that this might be wise agreed and we made our way off to the nearest public house.  Once my parents came out after having had a drink, my father’s mood had returned to one of tolerating in silence his plight and we continued on our way along Oxford Street.  My mother wasn’t going to let him off that easily!!!

I seem to remember that once we neared Marble Arch, we generally stopped outside of the C and A store that used to there and my mother would instruct my father to take care of me for a minute while she went inside.  Naturally my mother’s idea of a minute meant that she would be lost for some thirty minutes or so while she and the hordes tried on the multitude of hats found in the enormous bins on the ground floor.  This was a great pastime for middle-aged and recently married young women of the time.

This left my father and me to wait for her in the night air.  We generally stood next to one of the huge store windows and hoped not to be pushed through it by the oncoming pedestrian traffic.  While we waited, I passed the time trying to stay in place as I was battered and beaten by the masses and my father enjoyed a cigarette.

I can honestly say that I do not remember my parents ever buying anything on those jolly evenings out!   Once my mother came out of C and A’s, she would announce that she was never able to buy a thing with us present!  She behaved as if we, my father and I, had somehow impeded her and state that she would just have to come again – and this time on her own!!!

Of course, later, once I was older, I realised that my mother never had any intention of buying anything and that the whole exercise had been undertaken to annoy my father and for her to gain some revenge for the multitude of things that he did to us.  Naturally she refused to admit to this.  Still, I could not but admire the devious side of her nature.

Years later, once my father had died and my mother had come to live with me, whenever Christmas approached, I would remind her of those jolly evenings out that caused my father such grief.  My mother always shook with laughter, as she remembered them, and I did too.


Unveiling of the Memorial in 1920

The Nurse Cavell Memorial was one of the first of such memorials that I remember seeing in London as a child.  Naturally I was very impressed and remembered the austerity associated with the lady.  I remember my mother telling who the lady was and how she had been a heroine and had been shot for helping soldiers escape.  I was greatly affected by what I was told.  Throughout my childhood, I visited the memorial numerous times and it became a great favourite of mine along with the Gladstone Memorial at the Aldwych.  

The Gladstone Memorial

A point aside, I remember the first time that I saw the Gladstone Memorial.  I was being taken to the Stoll Theatre in Kingsway.  I was being taken to my first West End theatre and about to see the original London production of Oklahoma!  I was especially taken with the smaller statues around the central one of Gladstone and really liked the curved sword held by one of the figures who was about to kill a snake. 

The Nurse Cavell Memorial was the work of Sir George Frampton R.A., P.R.B.S. (1860-1928) and is of white marble and was unveiled in 1920.  I have read that it is 7.6 metres high and of grey granite.  The statue of Nurse Cavell stands on a plinth before a cross in the nursing uniform that she wore as she stood before the firing squad at her execution.  The representation of Nurse Cavell shows her exactly as I believe she was: serene, stoic and without fear.  Who could not but admire her?  A woman and child appears at the top of the cross and symbolizes humanity and in particular to symbolise the allies coming to the aid of Belgium during the First World War. 

The memorial was not well received at the time of its unveiling.  It differed greatly from Sir George’s other works.  The major criticism was not of the figure of Nurse Cavell, but that it was dwarfed by the mass of granite behind it.  In addition, the figures representing Humanity did not escape critique.  Many found such criticism to be unwarranted especially since Sir George did not charge for his work and time.


At the end of the First World War, Nurse Cavell’s remains were brought to London for a state funeral at Westminster Abbey.  The railway van that carried that transported her remains from Dover to London is maintained as a memorial to her and is open for viewing at Bodiam Railway Station in East Sussex.  Following the state funeral, her remains were taken to Norwich and finally laid to rest on the 19th May, 1919 on the east side of Norwich Cathedral where a graveside service is held in remembrance each October.

One of the first memorials to Nurse Cavell was by Henry Alfred Pegramin, which is found in the grounds of Norwich Cathedral.  It was unveiled by Queen Alexandra in October 1918.

Norwich is an interesting city with a long history.  I lived there at one time and used to enjoy going to the cathedral and visiting Nurse Cavell’s grave and memorial each time.  What I always liked about Nurse Cavell grave was its simplicity of style, which is where its charm and grace lies.

Norwich Cathedral is a beautiful structure with fine cloisters and is constructed from flint and mortar and faced with a Caen limestone.  Building began in 1096 and was completed in 1145 and the original wooden Norman tower can still be seen with the stone spire being erected in 1480.  The cloisters is the second largest in England, those of Salisbury Cathedral being the largest. 


Unfortunately the cathedral was partially in ruins in the early 17th century and in 1643 an angry Puritan mob invaded the building and destroyed all everything associated with the Catholic Church.  During the Civil War, the cathedral was left to decay and was abandoned for almost twenty years.  It was not until after the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 that plans began to be put together to return the cathedral to its former glory.  Norwich is one of only three English cathedrals to lack a ring of bells, the others being Salisbury and Ely Cathedrals.

I enjoyed exploring the cathedral and especially liked to sit and admire the remarkable fan-vaulted ceiling.  I used to walk around the cloisters and always spent some time at the grave of Nurse Cavell before making my way out into the cathedral grounds.  The cathedral grounds house a number of fine buildings, some of which were covered with creeper that were especially colourful during the autumn months.  The cathedral also has a fine organ and I remember attending a number of recitals during my time in Norwich.  

The area surrounding the cathedral has great charm.  Elm Hill is especially delightful.  It is a winding cobbled street filled with the usual bookshops, curio establishments and tea rooms to attract visitors.  However, at certain times of the year and at particular times of the day, the area is relatively free of people and it was at such times that I liked to walk here and allow my information to run wild.

Elm Hill, named for the Elm Trees that were once there.  The last Elm Tree died from Dutch Elm Disease in the 1970.


Close to the cathedral is another wonderful treasure of Norwich, the Maddermarket Theatre.  The theatre stands on the site of the medieval market where the scarlet dye called madder was sold during the days when Norwich was the centre of the wool trade.  As a result, the area became known as the Maddermarket in the 13th Century.  The theatre building was originally a Roman Catholic Chapel and later became a hostel and finally a warehouse.   Eventually, it was abandoned and became derelict.  It was rediscovered by Walter Nugent Bligh Monck who was impressed by the domed vaulted ceiling and appreciated the acoustic quality that it gave to the building.   Mr. Monck purchased the building and after its restoration made it the home to his band of amateur actors known as The Norwich Players who are still in residence today.  I attended a number of productions at the theatre during my stay in Norwich and enjoyed them immensely.

 Top Left: Maddermarket Theatre; Top Right: Norwich Castle;
Bottom Left: Cathedral of St. John the Evangalist; 
 Bottom Right: Ziggurats (Halls of Residence) at the University of East Anglia

There are numerous other memorials to Nurse Cavell in various parts of the world.  One that I especially like is close to The Shrine, the War Memorial in Melbourne.  The memorial is of a marble bust with bronze panels mounted on a granite pedestal and was executed in 1926.  It was produced by Margaret Baskerville who studied sculpture at the Royal College of Art in London and who became one of Australia’s most accomplished sculptors.  Money for the memorial was raised by donation, which proved to be so well-patronised that the additional monies was used to inaugurate the Edith Cavell Trust Fund and used to help injured war nurses.  The Trust remained active until 1974.

The Shrine, Melbourne

Memorial close to The Shrine

There is a monument to Edith Cavell and Marie Depage in Brussels and an inscription on a war memorial in the German municipality of Schaerbeek at Tir National naming the 35 people executed by the German army during the First World War.  There are also memorials in Peterborough Cathedral and at the U.S. Headquarters of the Red Cross in Washington, D.C. and a dedication on the war memorial on the grounds of Sacred Trinity Church in Salford in Lancashire.

It is some consolation to know that her name continues to live on and that her sacrifice is not forgotten.


One last memory is associated with a less than happy time of my life.  I remember that it was about 10 p.m. on an early spring evening in 1953 and my mother and I were making our way to the Cavell Memorial in Trafalgar Square before getting a bus home.  We were walking along Charing Cross Road and were in a sad state.  We were on the verge of having to move home and had been up until then unsuccessful in finding a new place to live.  Our plight was of great concern to my mother, as it was not a time when there were many vacant places available at that time.

I remember we were walking along and had reached the point where the Garrick Theatre was on the opposite side of the street.  We were about to walk passed a little garden and come to the entrance of the National Portrait Gallery when my mother suddenly stopped and looked down at the ground.  I did too and as she moved her right foot, there beneath it was a pound note.  My mother quickly picked it up.  In those days, a pound was indeed still worth a pound and was able to buy a reasonable amount.  My mother looked around to see if anyone was looking for their lost money, but the street was practically empty.  My mother said that we were lucky to have found the note, as we were in dire need of it at that precise moment.  We then continued our walk and made our way to the Cavell Memorial.  As we did, I noticed that we had an added spring in our step.

Bottom Left: Entrance to the National Portrait Gallery; Bottom Right: The Garrick Theatre


Final Note: whenever I go to London, I never fail to visit the Nurse Cavell Memorial and, just like my mother, I linger there a while.  I am happy to see that there are always others there no matter what the hour.  I like to think that they are fully aware of who the tall woman with the austere look was and what she did.