world war i: commonwealth forces

Albert Ball (1896-1917): After enlisting into the British Army 1914, Ball transferred to the Royal Flying Corps in 1915. During his career he had a total of 44 official victories, making him one of the UK’s highest scoring aces. Following a violent dogfight in the Western Front in May 1917, Ball’s plane was damaged so much it resulted in a crash, killing him. For his bravery in the face of the enemy, he was posthumously award Britain’s highest military honor: the Victoria Cross.

Edith Cavell (4 December 1865 – 12 October 1915) was a British nurse during the Great War in Belgium who saved countless lives of both Allied and Central Power soldiers. Not only was her modern nursing techniques invaluable to the Allies, she and her colleagues hid and helped some 200 soldiers and Belgian men escape German-occupied Belgium during the Great War and safety make it to France and Great Britain.

She was caught by the Germans, thanks to a collaborator, charged with treason and was found guilty—not that she denied her actions in any way, she confessed fully to what she had done. At the time, the sentence for treason was death, and though she was a nurse, and a woman, it made no real difference once she broke the Geneva Convention. Despite political pressure put on Germany by the still neutral United States, and Spain, Cavell’s fate was sealed.

The night before her execution she confided in a chaplain from the American Legation, that “They have all been very kind to me here. But this I would say, standing as I do in view of God and eternity: I realize that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness toward anyone.”

Edith Cavell died by German firing squad on 12 October 1915, she was 49-years-old.

“What Jeanne d’Arc has been for centuries to France,” wrote one Allied journalist, “that will Edith Cavell become to the future generations of Britons.”