David Cameron has paid tribute to the “extraordinary bravery” of First World War nurse Edith Cavell in a speech setting out plans to mark the centenary of the conflict.
The prime minister yesterday announced a £50m programme of commemorative events and other initiative due to take place between 2014 and 2018.
In a speech at the Imperial War Museum, Mr Cameron drew attention to how the war had impacted on both health professionals and clinical practice.
He highlighted “the extraordinary bravery of Edith Cavell…whose actions gained such widespread admiration and played an important role in advancing the emancipation of women”.
Ms Cavell became an iconic figure in the war after she was shot by the Germans for helping hundreds of British and French soldiers escape from occupied Belgium.
Mr Cameron also noted the “dramatic” improvements in medicine over the course of the conflict.
“In 1915 wounds which became infected resulted in a 28% mortality rate. By 1917 the use of antiseptics saw the death toll drop to just 8%,” he said.
“While plastic surgery developed into a well-established speciality over the course of the war,” he added.
The speech comes ahead of today’s commemoration of the life of Edith Cavell.
A wreath is due to be laid this morning at the statue of Ms Cavell in central London, which was unveiled in 1920. The statue is located opposite the entrance to the National Portrait Gallery on St Martin’s Place.
The event is being organised by the Cavell Nurses’ Trust, a charity which helps disadvantaged nurses, midwives, healthcare assistants, together with retired and student nurses.