Cavell, 'l, Edith (1865–1915), an English nurse. She was put to death by a German firing squad for helping Allied soldiers to escape German-occupied Belgium during World War I. Her execution outraged the world and damaged Germany's reputation.
Early in the war, the Brussels clinic of which Cavell was matron (head nurse) became a Red Cross hospital for soldiers of all nationalities. She helped more than 200 Allied soldiers—some who had been wounded, others fugitives she had hidden in the hospital—to escape to the Netherlands, which was neutral. The Germans arrested her in August, 1915. She was tried by court-martial and sentenced to death. Despite efforts by neutral officials to obtain a reprieve, she was shot on October 12.
Cavell was born in Swardeston, Norfolk, England, and entered nursing in 1895.