Books, History Class, Publishing, Uncategorized, World War 2, World War I

The Red Cross: “In War, Charity”

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.*

Giveaway Prize #1: A free e-book (sorry, Kindle not included), a $10 Amazon gift card, and a couple of little pieces of history

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.

File:Victory V.jpg
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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.

The International Red Cross: History

The International Red Cross: Involvement in WW2

American Red Cross: History

British Red Cross: History




18 thoughts on “The Red Cross: “In War, Charity””

  1. Absorbing as ever, Anne. Loved the opening story. And intrigued by what you say about Victory Vs. In the early ’70s, my mum and dad seemed to be addicted to the things – now I see why that might have been (I need to research this!) And maybe it explains those lost memories of my childhood… 🙂 Wish you so much success with your novel!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much, Mike- wasn’t that a great story? Makes me wish people could just be that reasonable all of the time…
      Ah HA! Let me know if you do find anything about those lozenges! They sure sounded like they had a kick! (Though as far as ingredients go even good old Coca Cola has a checkered past so…)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I do know the Convention mandated that nations give adequate food, clothing and housing for the prisoners. They were supposed to be able to notify their families that were POWs. I’ll lay odds that we were the only nation to abide by those rules.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for those details, GP! It certainly seems like the rules were sometimes “forgotten” or ignored in some areas (the PTO was pretty dreadful from accounts I’ve read, but that’s your area of expertise- would you agree?) It makes me thankful when I find those stories of the folks who did respect them and treat people decently.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Many of the Japanese tried to follow the rules (despite the fact that Japan had not signed), but as we know, they had trouble feeding their own troops and keeping them supplied. Japan never expected to have so many prisoners, being as they felt it so degrading to give up. They couldn’t comprehend our soldiers surrendering, they had a very low level of respect for them.
        Then there were the ruthless ones that we hear so much about with the cruelty.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You got it! 😀
        Thanks for sharing these details. (I really appreciate how you use your blog to show both sides’ viewpoints.) The ruthless ones are always the ones who stand out but it’s important to remember those who were just struggling due to logistics, too.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. (Oops- I replied half to your response to the other post and half to this one- the “you got it!” referred to the answer for the other question of the day 😀 My son just found me and started using me for a jungle gym and I got distracted- sorry!)

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Anne – so interesting to read … I know the basics, and am sure other little stories of care and concern as your first tale told – loved it – happened ‘fairly’ often … humanity wins through. The sweet scenario – is interesting too. I’m sure the Brits were fastidious in adhering to Red Cross guidelines – British fairness and all – even in times of War … there’s always bad guys around very sadly. But wonderful informative post – cheers Hilary

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much, Hilary- I’m glad you enjoyed it! I love finding those little stories. I think they’re one of the things that makes writing about wartime appealing- in the middle of all the darkness and all the awful stuff, those little acts of decency shine brighter.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Aaaah, I wonder if those V is for Victory lozenges maybe helped inspire Orwell’s Victory brand of all things in 1984. Weren’t all people-items labeled Victory, like Victory gin? think so…anyhoo, thanks for the lovely look at the Red Cross!


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