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The Red Cross in the Second World War

When war was declared in September 1939 the British Red Cross Society and the Order of St John joined forces.

As they had done in for the First World War, they formed the Joint War Organisation, ensuring activities were carried out efficiently and under the protection of the red cross emblem.

The Red Cross carried out extensive services for the sick and wounded, for prisoners of war and for civilians needing relief as a result of enemy action, at home and abroad.

British Red Cross members worked in hospitals and convalescent homes, nurseries, ambulance units, rest stations and supply depots providing welfare and nursing support. All this work was funded by the Duke of Gloucester's Red Cross and St John Appeal which had raised over £54 million by 1946.

Prisoners of war

The third Geneva Convention, signed in 1929, had established comprehensive rules for the treatment of prisoners of war (POWs). The Joint War Organisation sent standard food parcels, food parcels for invalids, medical supplies, educational books and recreational material to POWs. Twenty million standard food parcels were sent out from the UK.

A comprehensive account of the Red Cross' work during the Second World War can be found in "Red Cross and St John War History 1939-1947" (compiled by P G Cambray and G G B Briggs, 1949).

Read more about Red Cross food parcels

Find out about the auxiliary hospitals we provided during the wars

Read about the Geneva Conventions

Find out about our activities since 1945

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