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Creation of a peacetime role between the wars

In May 1919, the League of Red Cross Societies (now the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies) was formed and extended the role of national Red Cross societies from its focus on wartime relief to incorporate "the improvement of health, the prevention of disease, and the mitigation of suffering throughout the world".

The British Red Cross was able to embark on a programme of peacetime activities at home and abroad.

Health services

In 1921 the British Red Cross established the first blood transfusion service in the UK. Medical advances meant blood transfusions were increasingly successful but facilities to store blood were unavailable at this time. Percy Lane Oliver, a member of London Branch of the British Red Cross, recruited donors prepared to give blood, day or night. The British Red Cross continued to provide help with the blood transfusion service in an ancillary specialist role until 1987.

Red Cross volunteers were also vital during the devastating Spanish flu in 1918-1919, some even sacrificing their lives to provide care for the ill.

Overseas Branches

Craft therapy for Ugandan TB patients, 1958© InfoThe work of the British Red Cross spread throughout Britain's dependent territories as Overseas Branches were established. The new peacetime role of the Red Cross encouraged an increase in the number of Overseas Branches during the inter-war period and welfare work and health education supplemented local provision.

Today, this work continues through the national Red Cross societies which are founded when a country becomes independent. The British Red Cross still has Overseas Branches that deliver vital services locally. 

Young people

Young people's involvement with the British Red Cross was formalised in 1924 with the founding of the Junior Red Cross. We continue to encourage young people to volunteer.

Read about our role during the Second World War

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