Mount Leval
2713m (8901ft.)

Located on the continental divide in the upper Spray River Valley south of Leval Creek; 1 km northwest of Leman Lake. Banff Park, Alberta/BC border. Major headwaters Bow & Kootenay rivers.
Latitude 50; 45; 25 Longitude 115; 26; 10, Topo map 82J/14


Named in 1918. Leval, Gaston de (Leval was a well known Belgian lawyer who unsuccessfully defended Edith Cavell during WW I.) Official name.

Photo: Mount Leval (right) and Leman Lake from Burstall Pass (courtesy Rob Taerum)
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Other Information
Photo: Looking west from Burstall Pass to Mount Leval in front on right side; Interprovincial Boundary Survey photo

EDITH LOUISE CAVELL AND GASTON DE LEVAL

Mount Edith Cavell is the striking peak seen to the south of the Jasper townsite on the west side of the Athabasca River Valley. The mountain has a direct connection with Mount Leval that is located at the southern end of Banff National Park near Palliser Pass. Edith Cavell's Belgian defence lawyer, was Gaston de Leval.

The peak now known as Mount Edith Cavell was referred to as La Montagne de la Grande Traverse by travellers in the fur trade era. It was here that those traversing Athabasca Pass had to ford the Athabasca River and begin ascending the Whirlpool and so the mountain became a very significant landmark. Later, in 1916, it was officially named after Edith Louise Cavell, an English nurse who was executed during the First World War.

Edith Louise Cavell was born in 1865 in Norfolk, England. At the age of twenty she entered the nursing profession and in 1907 was appointed the matron of the Berkendael Institute in Brussels where she greatly improved the standard of nursing.

After the German occupation of Belgium she cared for wounded German troops but also became involved with an underground group which assisted some two hundred British, French, and Belgian soldiers who were trapped behind enemy lines to escape to neutral Holland and rejoin their armies. Sheltered at the Institute, which had become a Red Cross hospital, they were provided with money and guides by Philippe Baucq, a Belgian. This was regarded as treason under German Martial Law and was punishable by death. In August 1915 Edith Cavell was betrayed by a spy who asked her to help him escape and Cavell and several others were arrested, tried by a court-martial, and sentenced to be executed. Her defence was that as a nurse she was duty-bound to save lives and she was doing just that by concealing and helping hunted men to return to their homes.

Although neutral governments, including the United States and Spanish representatives, tried to have their death sentences reprieved, both she and a Philippe Baucq, were shot on October 12th. Her last words were, "I see now that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone."

Technically, the enemy did have a case, but it was a case which completely failed to be accepted by world opinion because espionage was not involved. Her execution was considered outrageous and widely condemned. Although she saw herself simply as, "a nurse who tried to do her duty," she was clearly and widely regarded as a martyr. British propaganda abroad and at home made the most of the incident. After lying in state in Westminster Abbey, Edith Cavell was buried in Norwich Cathedral.

The incident was also important from the point of view of the question of women's rights and it was written that, "She has taught the bravest man amongst us a supreme lesson of courage; and in this United Kingdom and through the Dominions of the Crown there are thousands of such women, but a year ago we did not know it."

The Premier of British Columbia was the first to suggest that a mountain be named in her honour, suggesting the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies, Mount Robson. Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden agreed with having a mountain named but instructed the Geographic Board of Canada to make the decision as to which one.

Mount Edith Cavell was officially named in March of 1916, just five months after the execution. As well as having this beautiful mountain named after her, she is commemorated by a statue just off Trafalgar Square in London. A memorial service for Edith Cavell is held each year in the Anglican Church in Jasper.

Edith Cavell's Belgian defence lawyer, Gaston de Leval, has a Canadian mountain named in his honour near Palliser Pass at the southern boundary of Banff National Park.

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