150 years of humanitarian action: peace in war

In 1863 Swiss entrepreneur Jean Henry Dunant mobilised statesmen, doctors and philanthropists to form the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Dunant was visiting the French emperor Napoleon III when he chanced on the horrors of the battle of Solferino in Italy. In a single day, about 40,000 soldiers on both sides—the French and the Austrian—died or were left battling for their lives. Dunant abandoned the original intent of his trip and for several days devoted himself to helping with the treatment and care of the wounded. A century-and-a-half later more than 97 million volunteers in more than 180 countries give shape to the Swiss philanthropist’s vision. A pictorial history

Published: Sunday 31 March 2013

150 years of humanitarian action: peace in war

Danish military ambulance. The 1864 Geneva Conventions established a unique distinctive emblem (a red cross on a white background) for ambulances, hospitals and medical personnel. Other emblems, in particular the red crescent on a white background, were introduced later

Mahatma Gandhi (at the centre in middle row) with Red Cross volunteers during the Zulu revolt of 1906

The inter-war period. A group of nurses during an air-raid drill. National Red Cross Societies had to adapt their activities to the technological developments that emerged during the First World War, particularly air raids

A surgeon from the US army medical service (recognisable by the red cross on his uniform) treats a wounded soldier in a field hospital during the Spanish-American War

A missing-person notice, registration card and a Red Cross message for establishing links between separated family members

Henry Dunant, chartered by ICRC, delivered mail and food parcels intended for prisoners of war interned in German camps during World War II

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