Welcome to the first special post counting down to my book’s launch date next Friday, June 28th.
First of all, I’m pleased to share a look at the first of three prize packages in my giveaway.*
While the little pieces of history that I found for this prize pack are small, they’re significant. Both vintage pins bear the symbol of an important institution in conflicts including the Second World War: the Red Cross.
While reading Stephen Ambrose’s book Citizen Soldiers this week, I encountered an interesting reference to just how much respect a simple symbol like the Red Cross could command.
German Lt. Hans-Heinrich Dibbern was guarding a roadblock outside Argentan, France during the post D-Day German retreats when he saw something unexpected.
From the direction of the American line came an ambulance driving toward us…obviously lost. When he noticed that he was behind German lines, he slammed on the brakes.” Dibbern went to the ambulance. “The driver’s face was completely white. He had wounded men he was responsible for. But we told him, ‘Back out of here and get going- we don’t attack the Red Cross.’ He quickly disappeared.” (Ambrose 104)
(Later, a Red Cross ambulance returned to Dibbern’s location to quietly drop off a case of cigarettes.)
The International Red Cross: Origins
The Red Cross began as an international organization when a committee of a few interested members met in 1863 in Geneva, Switzerland.
One of them, Henri Dunant, had been present at the Battle of Solferino, trying to organize help for the wounded and suffering. He proposed national relief societies to aid in providing care for soldiers wounded in war. (Later, Dunant would be the co-winner of the first Nobel Peace Prize.)
In August, 1864, the committee brought the first “Geneva Convention” to the world, a treaty that introduced the red cross on white as an emblem for the medical services and required armies to care for the wounded, whether they were their own troops or their adversaries.
The Red Cross in the World Wars
The International Red Cross served the troops in WWI by helping restore links between captured soldiers and their families through their Central Prisoner of War Agency in Geneva. Red Cross representatives visited POWs and political prisoners. They called for the renunciation of weapons such as mustard gas. Volunteers from the national societies ran battlefield ambulances and cared for the wounded.
The Second World War provided ample opportunities for the Red Cross- international as well as individual national societies- to be of service again.
Working under the updated 1929 Geneva Convention (which now included stipulations for treatment of POWs), the Red Cross organized humanitarian work across five continents.
They launched civilian relief efforts and aided prisoners of war with medical care, outside contact, and supplies- at least, they did when they could. Red Cross representatives met with considerable resistance from the leadership in Tokyo, and from German and Soviet prison camps.
As to the work of national Red Cross societies, the American Red Cross’ numbers speak for themselves:
“We enrolled more than 104,000 nurses for military service, prepared 27 million packages for American and Allied prisoners of war, and shipped over 300,000 tons of supplies overseas. At the military’s request, the Red Cross also initiated a national blood program that collected 13.3 million pints of blood for use by the armed forces.” (“A Brief History of the American Red Cross” – author unlisted, link embedded)
Members of the British Red Cross (of which one of my fictional characters becomes a member) distinguished themselves at home and abroad. Joining with the Order of St. John, they provided medical services, ran first aid posts in air raid shelters, drove ambulances, carried the wounded on stretchers, aided POWs, and provided essentials to civilians who suffered during the Blitz.
Today, the Red Cross still provides humanitarian aid internationally, and it’s not uncommon to see them running blood drives closer to home.
As a piece of history to remember courage and service, these little Red Cross pins seemed a very fitting memento to share.
There’s an additional piece of history with this prize which…well, it wasn’t exactly what I expected.
I’d been looking for something with the “V for Victory” slogan. When I found the postcard (pictured with the other prizes above) with the “Victory V Gums,” I assumed there was a WWII connection, and picked it up to check out later.
Apparently I was only partially correct.
According to a couple of sources which didn’t have much to recommend them as being reliable except that they were published on the internet (so I suppose they must be true), the British “Victory V” brand of cough lozenges was developed in the mid 1800s by Thomas Fryer.
They were popular- why wouldn’t they be? They tasted like licorice, warmed you up, and relieved the common cold…or at least the ether and chlorodyne (chloroform + cannabis) in them made you feel like you were better- so the sources say.
One source (unverified, of course) commented that the lozenges, being medicinal, weren’t rationed during WWII, and with sweets hard to come by, were a popular substitute. True or not, it makes an interesting story…
The lozenges are still available, minus the stronger ingredients.
While the card isn’t quite the WWII connection I was looking for, I thought that the story and picture were interesting enough that perhaps the winner might enjoy it, and being sort of medicinal it fit the theme today…more or less!
In any case, it’s time for the Question of the Day and a chance to enter my giveaway. What are the giveaway details? See Below!
*If you’d like to enter the drawing to win one of the giveaway prizes, answer the “Question of the Day” either in the comments here, on Twitter @anneclarewriter (make sure you tag me!) or on my Facebook Author Page.
-Up to one entry per day per participant!
-The giveaway limited to U.S. residents. (Sorry! International laws for prizes get very complicated very quickly 😦 )
-Entrants under 18 years of age must have parental permission.
-All entries will be counted at noon PST on Thursday, June 27th. No entries after this time will be accepted.
-Winners will be announced on June 28th on this site.
–This giveaway is in no way endorsed by WordPress or any other online entity- it’s just a “thank you” from me!
Question of the Day: What is something the Geneva Convention required armies to do?
Even if you aren’t participating in the giveaway, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the post or your stories- ever donate blood? Ever try a “Victory V?”
Thank you so much for visiting!
If you’d like more information on the topics in this post, here are some sources that I found particularly helpful.
Ambrose, Stephen. Citizen Soldiers. New York: Simon and Schuester, 1997. Print.