100 Years Ago Today

A History Of Events And Happenings From Exactly One Hundred Years Ago

Passport Issued to British Red Cross Worker

In June 1859, the Swiss businessman Henry Dunant travelled to Italy to meet French emperor Napoléon III. He arrived in the small town of Solferino on the evening of June 24th and witnessed the Battle of Solferino, an engagement in the Franco-Austrian War. In a single day, about 40,000 soldiers on both sides died or were left wounded on the field. Shocked by the terrible aftermath of the battle, the suffering of the wounded soldiers, and the near-total lack of medical attendance and basic care, Dunant completely abandoned the original intent of his trip and for several days he devoted himself to helping with the treatment and care for the wounded. Back in Geneva, he wrote a book entitled A Memory of Solferino which he published with his own money in 1862. He sent copies of the book to leading political and military figures throughout Europe advocating the formation of national voluntary relief organizations to help nurse wounded soldiers in the case of war. In addition, he called for the development of international treaties to guarantee the neutrality and protection of those wounded on the battlefield as well as medics and field hospitals.

In 1863 Dunant had organize a group of concerned Swiss citizen to establish an international conference about the possible implementation of measures to improve medical services on the battle field, the “International Committee for Relief to the Wounded”. One year later, the Swiss government invited the governments of all European countries, as well as the United States, Brazil, and Mexico, to attend an official diplomatic conference. Sixteen countries sent a total of twenty-six delegates to Geneva. In August 1864, the conference adopted the first Geneva Convention “for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field”. In 1876, the committee adopted the name “International Committee of the Red Cross” (ICRC).

With the onset of WWI, the ICRC called upon the national Red Cross societies to support it in its new tasks to assist the millions of people who were falling victim to the conflict. In addition to its traditional work in aid of wounded or sick soldiers, the ICRC was to extend the scope of its action to include prisoners of war, although no convention specifically mandated it to do so. Many volunteers from all over Europe flock to join the ICRC.

On January 4, 1915 a passport lasting two years was issued to Mr Randolph Warrington Phillips of Great Britain. The passport allowed him to work for the British Red Cross Society in France and contains a photograph of Mr Phillips, then aged 33, in his Red Cross uniform.1aab

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