PETER FROST suggests a more worthwhile role model for a commemorative £2 coin.
I’m not sure who is the most insensitive, Education Minister Gove or the Royal Mint. It isn’t just those of us on the left who see the slaughter of the First World War as lions led by donkeys.
The history of insensitive and incompetent officers, the donkeys, sending brave men to an unnecessary early death are well documented in establishment histories as well as Oh What a Lovely War and Blackadder goes Forth.
Now the Royal Mint is planning to honour one of the most insensitive of the Donkeys. Lord Kitchener convinced thousands of working class lads to sign up.
We shouldn’t forget that many very young lads lied about their age to answer Kitchener’s jingoistic appeal.
Quite simply Kitchener was a warmonger with the blood of millions on his hands.
Even before the WW1 he had a reputation for atrocities. He led the Omdurman massacre in Sudan in 1898 and expanded the network of concentration camps in South Africa. Many civilians died in the unhealthy conditions.
No wonder there has been a huge campaign to stop the issue of the new Kitchener coin, over 20,000 people have added their names to a petitions seeking to do just that.
I think a coin to mark WW1 would actually be a good idea but can I suggest a much more suitable candidate as the hero who should be on the coin?
My candidate for the coin is nurse Edith Cavell. The message on the coin her famous last words;
“Patriotism is not enough, I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone”.
I’m not the only one backing Edith Cavell for the new WW1 coin there is already an online petition with thousands of signatures.
Sioned-Mair Richards, a Labour city councillor in Sheffield, who launched the petition, told us, “It’s really struck a chord with people,” she said.
Ms Richards a former mayor of Carmarthen, said she had admired Cavell since she was a girl.
“Lord Kitchener represents all that I have always loathed about the First World War – the jingoism, the sheer waste of men, the ‘lions led by donkeys’ mentality,” she said.
“And then I thought of Edith Cavell, a heroine of my early childhood. The nurse who was executed for giving succour to all wounded soldiers regardless of nationality.
Edith Cavell was a vicar’s daughter, an English matron of a teaching hospital in Belgium. She had already built a huge reputation as an influential pioneer of modern nursing
When World War One broke out she was visiting her mother in Norfolk. She hurried back to Belgium where she knew her nursing skills would be urgently needed.
Edith’s hospital became a Red Cross station for wounded soldiers. She ensured all nationalities were equally treated in her wards. “I can’t stop while there are lives to be saved” she said.
When a number of wounded British soldiers, cut off from their comrades, arrived at the hospital, Edith faced a dilemma.
Should she help the British soldiers and put at risk the neutrality of the Red Cross and endanger those working with her?
If she refused to help the soldiers they would be in danger of being shot, along with any Belgian civilians who had harboured them.
Edith decided to help them despite the risk to herself. “Had I not helped, they would have been shot”, she later said.
In order to help them she joined the Belgian underground.
Her actions helped more than 200 Allied soldiers to escape to neutral territory.
When the network was betrayed, Edith was arrested, found guilty of treason by a court martial, and sentenced to death.
Cavell was shot, in her nurse’s uniform, by a firing squad, at dawn on October 12 1915, in Brussels.
On the eve of her execution she uttered the words that will always be linked with her name and her bravery. “I realise that patriotism is not enough, I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone”.
This article first appeared in the Morning Star 13 January 2014