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History and origin

Painting of Battle of Solferino

The beginning of the Red Cross Movement

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement started in 1863, inspired by a Swiss businessman, Henry Dunant.

Red Cross volunteer nurses

First World War

Browse photos and stories and search for your family's personnel cards to discover what 90,000 Red Cross volunteers did during the war.

Craft therapy for Ugandan TB patients, 1958

Creation of a peacetime role between the wars

In May 1919, the League of Red Cross Societies was formed and extended the role of national Red Cross societies to work in times of peace.

Red Cross volunteer in wartime shelter

The Red Cross in the Second World War

When war was declared in September 1939, the British Red Cross and the Order of St John joined forces and formed the Joint War Organisation.

1980 Ethiopian famine

Activities of the Red Cross since 1945

Find out more about our work in a changing world since 1945.

Young people looking at Red Cross historical items

Museum and archives

The British Red Cross museum and archives contain a fascinating portrait of our humanitarian work, from our beginnings in 1870 to today.


Join our First World War family history project

A First World War record card

Can you spare a couple of hours a week to put our VAD records online? We'll give you training and you can do it from home when it suits you. Your efforts will help many people see what their relatives did during the First World War. Find out more:

History blogs

Poster of prisoner of war

Get a more personal view of how our volunteers have been helping people for 140 years.

Read our blogs >

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