Behind the design: celebrating our 150th anniversary on a Royal Mint coin
Royal Mint designer Henry Gray and the British Red Cross’s museum and archives curator Mehzebin Adam talk us through the commemorative coin
When tasked with designing a coin to celebrate 150 years of the British Red Cross, one of the biggest challenges facing Royal Mint designer Henry Gray was accurately reflecting the work we do both domestically and overseas.
On top of this, the coin needed to incorporate our important connection to the global Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
The Red Cross at home and abroad
“I included the UK map in a prominent position behind the emblem,” explained Gray. “[The] distinct background texture [is] to represent the multiple touchpoints of the charity and to reinforce the connectedness of the British Red Cross both at home and around the world. The image hopefully illustrates that the British Red Cross is and has always been connected - locally and globally - with networks of support and the ability to respond to those in need, with kindness.”
The Red Cross emblem
The emblem - a red cross on a white background - was introduced by the first Geneva Convention in 1864.
"I wanted to make sure the emblem took pride of place as a focal point of the design,” said Gray. “I positioned the iconic red cross in the prime central location to highlight this, opting to place the words around the edge of the design."
The emblem has a long and storied history and today is one of the most recognisable in the world.
“The emblem is the inverse of the Swiss flag because the Red Cross began in Switzerland,” explained Mehzebin Adam, museum and archives curator.
“From 1876, the red crescent emblem began to be used by some predominantly Muslim countries, originally because the red cross was mistakenly associated with the flag of the Crusaders from medieval times. In 2005, the red crystal emblem was adopted for use in situations where it is problematic to display either the red cross or the red crescent. All three emblems have the same meaning under international law."
The finishing touch is the inscription on the edge of the coin, bearing one of the current mottos of the Red Cross Movement: ‘PER HUMANITATEM AD PACEM’, which translates to ‘Through humanity to peace’.
To celebrate the contribution of our volunteers over the years, 150 of them have been presented with a special edition of the coin as a token of thanks for their service.
Volunteers like Sandra, from Newport in Wales, who has been an emergency response volunteer with the organisation for 27 years, and has recently been providing practical and emotional support through our national support line for coronavirus, while shielding herself.
Mehzebin Adam on 150 years of the Red Cross's work
"The Red Cross movement began with Henry Dunant's inspiration for a kinder world. Shocked by the suffering of wounded soldiers in the aftermath of the Battle of Solferino in 1859, Dunant called for all nations to come together to create trained volunteer relief groups to provide impartial relief to the sick and wounded on the battlefield. Dunant's ideas led to the foundation of the Red Cross in 1863 and the adoption of the original Geneva Convention in 1864.
Following the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, the British Red Cross was formed to provide relief to sick and wounded soldiers on both sides of the conflict. The society was based upon the principles of the Geneva Convention and joined the global Red Cross Movement to work towards the shared goal of helping people in need, no matter who or where they were.
During the First and Second World Wars, British Red Cross volunteers provided relief to sick and wounded members of the armed forces, prisoners of war and civilians, in the UK and overseas. The peacetime work of Red Cross societies around the world began in 1919, following the outbreak of the global influenza pandemic. Since then, the British Red Cross has provided a range of health and social care services and has supported the NHS since it was established in 1948.
British Red Cross staff and volunteers have been swift to respond to disasters, from the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 to the recent floods in the UK. Internationally, the organisation partners with other Red Cross and Crescent societies to help support and rebuild sustainable livelihoods. The British Red Cross also has a long history of supporting refugees and people forced to leave their homes in the UK and overseas, and remains committed to this cause today.
During the current global coronavirus pandemic, Red Cross and Red Crescent societies around the world are at the forefront of the emergency response. We are providing a range of services, from giving useful health advice to delivering food and medicine to the most vulnerable people. While people everywhere face challenges during the crisis, the British Red Cross is determined to show the human capacity to support one another and how kindness will keep us together.”
To join us in celebrating 150 years of kindness, you can purchase the Royal Mint coin here.
Emergencies in the UK
We respond to an emergency in the UK every four hours. People are at the heart of what we do. If you’re inspired by what you’ve just read, please consider donating to make sure we’re ready to spring into action.Donate