DESCENDANTS of a heroine credited with saving the lives of hundreds of soldiers during the First World War have taken the fight for her to be commemorated on a £2 coin to the Government’s doorstep.
Youngsters Pip and Kit Smith, relatives of Edith Cavell, made the journey from their home in north Yorkshire to Westminster to deliver a petition calling for her to be honoured as part of this year’s centenary.
More than 100,000 people have added their names to the list of signatures since it was set up by Sheffield councillor and lifelong admirer Sioned-Mair Richards.
Known as the “nurse who saw no sides”, Miss Cavell helped more than 200 Allied troops escape from German-occupied Belgium when she became part of an informal organisation which smuggled soldiers into neutral Holland.
But in 1915, the parson’s daughter was betrayed, arrested and later executed by firing squad for treason.
Pip, aged 14, and brother Kit, 10, whose great-grandfather was Miss Cavell’s cousin, and their mother Helen Payton added their weight to the campaign after seeing the online petition.
The family, from the village of Appletreewick in Craven, Coun Richards and campaigners in a march from Miss Cavell’s statue in Trafalgar Square to HM Treasury offices yesterday - coinciding with the heroine’s national memorial day.
Ms Payton said: “We’ve always known about Edith and what she did because of the family connection, but if you mention her to a lot of people they haven’t heard of her. She was an absolutely amazing woman and that’s why this drive to get her recognised is so important.
“Edith was a true humanitarian and we should be commemorating those people in the centenary year. I also think it would help to mark women’s contribution. The children are very proud of her. They’ve been very excited about how much support the petition has gained and I’m very proud they are part of this campaign.”
Pip, who plans to train to become a nurse after leaving school, added: “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 hope that the Government will listen.”
Coun Richards began her campaign after the Government announced plans to commemorate former war secretary Lord Kitchener. It has won backing from comedienne and former psychiatric nurse Jo Brand.
Coun Richards said: “The response has been overwhelmingly positive, I had no idea it would take off the way it has. I haven’t done this as a politician or councillor. Edith was a heroine of mine when I was young. She was a vicar’s daughter like me. We can be a determined lot.
“To me Lord Kitchener stands for that current of gung-ho, jingoistic spirit. There are other strands to the war.
“Women didn’t fight in the trenches, but they ran hospitals, worked in munitions and took over men’s jobs at home. Seeing women rise to the occasion and do work they’d never done before made men realise they were every bit as capable as them and should have the vote.
“Edith was doing what she saw as her duty to all wounded men regardless of nationality. She was a woman who rose to the occasion.”
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 would not say who will feature on the coins before they are formally unveiled.