UK

WW1: Put Nurse Edith Cavell On £2 Coin, Not Kitchener, Petition Calls

11/01/2014 15:37 GMT | Updated 25/01/2014 21:01 GMT

Field Marshall Lord Kitchener is not everybody's choice as the heroic figurehead of the First World War.

Yet it will be the War Minister's face on the new £2 coin, issued by HM Treasury to mark the centenary of the Great War, sparking much dissent on social media.

Labour councillor Sioned-Mair Richards, from Sheffield, has now begun a petition on Change.org to get nurse Edith Cavell, who was executed for providing medical assistance to all soldiers regardless of nationality, on the coin as well as Lord Kitchener.

edith cavell

English nurse, Edith Cavell, featured on vintage cigarette card produced during World War One

In just a week, the petition has gained just under 27,000 signatures, and rising.

Cavell is celebrated for saving the lives of soldiers in Brussels from all sides without thought for their nationality.

Trained as a nurse at the London Hospital, she became the first matron of the Berkendael Medical Institute in Brussels. After the German Army invaded Belgium in 1914, Berkendael became a Red Cross hospital for wounded soldiers regardless of their nationality.

In August 1915, she was arrested by the Germans and charged with having helped about 200 allied soldiers to escape to neutral Holland. Cavell was kept in solitary confinement for nine weeks, during which time she was tricked by the Germans into making a confession.

Cavell was tried by court-martial, and along with her Belgian accomplice, Philippe Baucq, was found guilty and sentenced to death. Despite pressure for mercy, she was shot by a German firing squad, to the horror of the international community.

Widely reported, her last words were: "I realise that patriotism is not enough, I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone."

Richards, a mother of one, told HuffPost UK she believed that putting Kitchener on the coin was a deliberately provocative political point. "He really doesn't represent me, although some people will of course think it is right. But there are many others like me who do buy the whole 'lions led by donkeys' analysis.

"Kitchener epitomises rampant jingoism."

Cavell was one of Richards' heroines. "We are both vicar's daughters too, I have always felt a connection."

Richards said she did not want the petition, aimed at HM Treasury, to be a party-political exercise. "I have had Lib Dems and Tories sign it. This is totally separate to me as a councillor.

"It was me who began it, but now other people are taking it on."

The Royal Mint has said that the Kitchener design is not the only design planned. “It is part of a series of designs which will be released, encompassing a number of different high profile individuals and events from the wartime period.”