Red Cross Flag Flag carried during the Franco-Prussian War
1870 Audio tour
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With the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in July 1870 the desire to create a movement that would aid sick and wounded soldiers on both sides in times of war became more pressing. For that reason the ‘British National Society for Aid to the Sick and Wounded in War’ was formed in 1870, which became the British Red Cross Society in 1905, and this was the society's emblem. By the end of March 1871, nearly £300,000 had been raised by the National Society for Aid to the Sick and Wounded in War. The Society gave £40,000 in cash directly to both sides.* Robert Loyd-Lindsay, the main founder of the British Red Cross, delivered the cash to the Germans at Versailles and to the French in Paris.
Believed to be the first British Red Cross flag, the object holds an historical significance. It demonstrates how, despite conflict between nations, a level of humanity can persist. The Red Cross did not discriminate; it treated the wounded on both sides of the conflict.
To me it is powerful because the flag signifies how from relatively modest beginnings the Red Cross has grown into the well regarded aid dispensing society that it is today. Despite having undergone major changes in its 150 year history the flag remains a constant and recognisable symbol for those in need, and for those who work for it. Those who carried this flag in 1870 would have been unable to foresee the organization's future achievements, but they could but hope that the Red Cross remained true to its founding principles.
*The remainder of the funds were used for other relief work- including food, medical aid and surgical equipment.
Audio recording by Gareth Donkin (Volunteer), Cardiff.
Robert Loyd-Lindsay (b.1832, d.1901)
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