BRUSSELS (AP) — Belgium on Monday commemorated the heroism of British World War I nurse Edith Cavell a century after she was executed by the German forces that occupied the country.
The Belgian senate met in a special session with Princess Anne of Britain in attendance to mark the event.
Germany accused Cavell — the head of a nursing school in Brussels — of helping injured Britons escape, and shot her at dawn on October 12, 1915. Around much of the world she has largely been forgotten, but at the time the allied nations considered her a martyr in the war effort and saw her death as more proof of German brutality.
Princess Anne recalled at a ceremony of royals, parliamentarians and academics how Cavell had stood tall right up to her execution.
"On the night before she died, in a prison cell in St. Giles, Edith Cavell met with the Anglican priest to take her last communion. As he bid farewell, the priest said 'We will remember you as a heroine and as a martyr.' Edith replied: 'Don't think of me like that. Think of me as a nurse who tried to do her duty,'" Princess Anne said.
Cavell was the head of a nursing school in Brussels when Germany invaded Belgium in 1914. She was sentenced in the very rooms of the Belgian senate where the commemoration took place and which the Germans had occupied during the war.
"Her crime was that she had helped allied soldiers, British, French and Belgian escape to freedom across the Dutch border," said biographer Diane Souhami.
Earlier Monday, Princess Anne had also unveiled a statue of Cavell close to a Brussels hospital that bears her name.