The Red Cross
The Suffering Soldier’s Hope
By Willie O’Donnell
The probable explanation of why it was called the Red Cross is that a Red Cross painter on a suitable background can easily be seen. The name is an appropriate one, as red is the colour of blood and hence signifies the wounded. However, the simple name has attained worldwide significance, and in the tumult and chaos of present international events the importance of the organisation has greatly increased.
In peace times the name betokens less importance, but the work carried out by the Society does not diminish. The need for its existence in peace times is well demonstrated by the number of public calamities which occur. The Society is never dormant, but is always ready to stretch a helping hand to sick or infirm. Yet when the harsh and sudden bugle of war sounds the work of the Red Cross is appreciated by all who have reason to shelter beneath its wings from the tempests and blinding blasts of death. The Society could then be likened to a mother ever ready to comfort and succour her sons who are engaged in wars of destruction for all even though foes in battle receive when necessary, treatment from the Society.
Many have reason to be thankful to the Red Cross for having their wounds attended to, and their sufferings alleviated.
The Red Cross was found in 1863; yet long before that time, the wounded and helpers in battle were granted concessions, and were hardly ever brutally slaughtered. In most cases the victors took compassion on them and saved them from death. Pity and mercy for the wounded is as old as history itself, and has not been denied even when enmity and hate were masters of the belligerents. The human strain in nature is undoubtedly responsible for this, and when a conqueror looks down on his opponent writhing with pain, his heart fills with the milk of human kindness.
We learn that Henry Dunant of Geneva was the father and founder of the Red Cross and it was he who first conceived the idea of establishing it on a permanent basis. The glorious and sublime life of Florence Nightingale, the Lady with the Lamp who devoted her life to caring for the wounded and helpless, and – who, with a gallant band of voluntary nurses saved thousands of men during the Crimean War.
Mrs. Beecher Stowe’s famous book “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” – filled with pent up compassion for the poor negro slaves, also achieved another victory by impressing on the reading public their sufferings, labouring beneath tyrants yoke. Henry Dunant no doubt infused with pity for the misfortunes of the suffering took a hand in man’s inhumanity to man and resolutely determined to store an organisation which would embrace all classes and creeds, and which would be extended throughout the world, to combat pain and disease, to help the distressed and wounded.
At Solferino in 1859 he first brought his idea into operation and in this great battle he started the great humanitarian work which was afterwards to develop into the Red Cross as we know it to-day. Dunant who was travelling in that area where the battle of Solferino was being fought saw approaching him thousands of wounded, many of them dying of hunger and neglect. They were losers in that dreadful day and they had nowhere to go, except to seek sanctuary in churches and monasteries. Many of them bore the scabs of disease and prayed that death would end their sufferings. A cosmopolitan lot, they staggered on to find some spot to rest their weary bones – and die. Mud-covered and blood covered they continued their way seeking refuge to die in peace.
Dunant stood and gazed upon the groups approaching him. The latent strain of pity in his composition was revealed and straightaway he began to attend to them. He supplied all who could eat with beef and all who could drink with the essence of it. People who stood by, became interested in his work, and before long gave a helping hand. Given the impetus, Dunant started in earnest, and proceeded house to house begging from all to feed the hungry. He passed from man to man and binded his wounds comforting all who were in pain. A wave of pity for the wounded swept over all who heard his story, as he explained to all the objects of his mission. With wonderful energy he xxx on supported by some women of one place until finally he had restored life into the wounded.
After the battle of Solferino, Dunant carried on his praiseworthy work and everywhere it met with success. By his influence Napoleon III ordered the release of the Austrian doctors to go and administer to the enemy wounded in battle.
The wave of pity that Dunant had started was gathering strength as it rolled along, and not long afterwards it was to make the foundation stone of the Red Cross.
The memory of Henry Dunant should never be forgotten by the Red Cross. He was the initiator of the movement and were it not for his idea, and organizing ability the Red Cross would never have been organised on the basis that it is established to-day. He spoke of its advantages of its Christian work, and of its opportunities to help humanity. Finally he impressed a small audience, and they listened to his appeal. The start of the organisation was small. It consisted of five citizens of Geneva, moved out of sympathy for the work of Dunant, forming themselves into a committee, which increased and became an international Committee of the Red Cross.
The indomitable spirit of the five helped to increase membership. They travelled individually throughout different countries and by their continual efforts they pressed governments to listen to their appeals, and give support to the organisation which Dunant founded and fostered.
From the time of its foundation, 1863, the organisation has never looked back but has continued its efforts with surprising pluck and determination. Step by step it fought for universal recognition until gradually the world began to assess its value, and see its importance to society. Its membership increased greatly, so broadminded were its views, and so Christ like were its objects.
The world beheld how useful was the society, when the great world conflict of 1914 burst forth. When the volcano scattered, when the World War was announced, the Red Cross gave a real justification of its existence. By its impartiality, and homogenous composition it nearly always succeeded in its interventions on behalf of prisoners etc. Members of the society visited internment camps, attending to the needs of the prisoners; treating the wounded, and often gaining for them an amelioration of their treatment. Doctors and nurses were always to be seen travelling to the temporary hospitals administering to the wounded, and many of the soldiers of the Great War who owes his life to the Red Cross. In wartime when the fight is raging fiercely and where to step is dangerous, its members are always to be found at xx post, never shrinking their grim and difficult duty.
Homeless ones, children and aged persons are all protected in war-time and when a city or town has been devastated the Society is always near at hand to give assistance to all.
During the epidemics of Russia in 1918 it performed an immense task, combating disease and saving the stricken population. Were it not for its pains-taking efforts a large number of human lives would be lost. Its value was also well demonstrated in Spain during the civil war, where again the work begun by Dunant was heroically carried on.
After the World War it was decided to carry on the activities of the Society in peace time also, thus giving a further boon to humanity. Victims of epidemics, accidents, etc., are all cared for, and the magnificent work is never slackened by good active branches.
With the outbreak of hostilities in September 1939, the forces of the Red Cross are again mustered and the work it has and will perform during the present War will someday be made known to the world. Already the Society is being extended, and since the start of the war numerous branches have been organised and the main committee is being strengthened.
The work started by Dunant 76 years is still continued and the Red Cross never declined or became inert. Its impartiality and neutrality, its non xx nature, and the zeal of its members has insured against failure, and today it is established on a rock foundation when war is suddenly announced, in far out lands one flower springs into xxxx –
In war’s great curse
It is the Red Cross Nurse
The rose of no man’s land