My watch list  

British Red Cross

The British Red Cross Society is a prominent part of the largest impartial humanitarian organisation in the world – the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. At the heart of their work is providing help to people in crisis, both in the UK and overseas. The Red Cross is committed to helping people without discrimination, regardless of their ethnic origin, nationality or religion.


Guiding Ethos

The mission of the British Red Cross is "Caring for People in Crisis", which is the core aim of every part of the charity. In fulfilling this mission, all volunteers and staff must abide by the seven fundamental principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, which are:

  • Humanity
  • Impartiality
  • Neutrality
  • Independence
  • Voluntary Service
  • Unity
  • Universality



The British Red Cross was formed in 1870, just 7 years after the formation of the international movement in Switzerland. This followed the outbreak of war between France and Prussia, and a move across Europe to form similar societies. On 4th August 1870, after a public meeting, the 'British National Society for Aid to the Sick and Wounded in War' was formed. It assisted in providing aid to both warring armies in the Franco-Prussian conflict and subsequent 19th century conflicts, under the protection of the Red Cross Emblem.

In 1905, 35 years after its formation, the society was reconstituted as the British Red Cross Society, and granted its first royal charter, with Queen Alexandra as its president.

First World War

Following the start of the 'Great War' in 1914, the British Red Cross joined forces with the Order of St. John to form the Joint War committee. They pooled resources and formed Voluntary Aid Detachments (or VADs) with members trained in First Aid, Nursing, Cookery, Hygiene and Sanitation. These detachments all worked under the protection of the Red Cross, working in hospitals, rest stations, work parties and supply centres.

The Joint War committee also provided assistance at the front line, supplying the first motrised ambulances to the battlefields, which were significantly more efficient then the horse drawn ambulances they replaced.

The Joint War Committee was also active in setting up centres for recording the wounded and missing. Red Cross volunteers searched towns, villages and hospitals where fighting had occurred, noting names of the missing, the injured and the dead. This formed the basis of the international Message and Tracing service, still running today.

Inter-war years

In 1919, after the cessation of hostilities, the League of the Red Cross (now the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies) was formed, and the role of national societies increased, with a shift of emphasis from wartime relief to focusing on "the improvement of health, the prevention of disease and mitigation of suffering throughout the world".

In 1921, the British Red Cross set up the world's first Blood Transfusion service, helping to keep pace with medical advances which required blood, but had no facilities to store it. The British Red Cross stayed involved with blood transfusion past the formation of the National Blood Service and it remained an ancillary role until 1987.

The British Red Cross was instrumental in starting overseas societies through the Empire and Commonwealth, most of which are now independent national societies.

In 1924, the British Red Cross started its youth movement, helping to promote its values to a younger generation.

Second World War


After the declaration of war in 1939, the British Red Cross once again joined with St. John to form the Joint War Organisation, again affording the St. John volunteers protection under the Red Cross emblem.

The organisation once again worked in hospitals, care home, nurseries, ambulance units, rest stations and more, much of which was funded by the Duke of Gloucester's Red Cross and St John appeal, which had raised over £54 million by 1946.

The Red Cross also famously arranged parcels for prisoners of war, following the provisions of the third Geneva convention in 1929, which laid out strict rules for the treatment of PoWs. The Joint War Organisation sent standard food parcels, invalid food parcels, medical supplies, educational books and recreational materials to prisoners of war worldwide. During the conflict, over 20 million standard food parcels were sent.

Post war years

The immediate priorities for the British Red Cross following the war, were the huge number of displaced civilians caused by forced migration during the war. The Red Cross provided much relief for these people, including basic supplies, and helping to reunite people through the Messaging and Tracing Service. This work led to the provisions in the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention to protect civilians caught up in war.

Since then, the British Red Cross has provided relief to people worldwide, including during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, in Vietnam in 1976, Famine in Africa in the 1980s and the Columbia Earthquake of 1999. Whilst the society no longer sends its volunteers abroad, it is a leading contributor of delegates to the international red cross pool of emergency relief workers.

In the UK, the society has been active at many major disasters, from the coal tip slide at Aberfan in 1966, the Lockerbie air disaster in 1988 to the London bombings in 2005, providing support on all levels, from front line medical provision, to running helplines for worried relatives and long term emotional care for the victims.


The British Red Cross is divided in to four territories [1], then in to operational areas, and then further in to 'branches', which in most cases represent an administrative county.

Territory Operational Area Branches
North North West County Durham & Teeside
West Central Lancashire
Greater Manchester
East Central Lincolnshire
Yorkshire North Yorkshire
South Yorkshire
West Yorkshire
Hull & East Riding
North Midlands Derbyshire
Scotland, Northern Ireland & Isle of Man Argyll, Bute & Dunbartonshire
Ayrshire & Arran
Dumfries & Galloway
Forth Valley
Glasgow & Renfrewshire
Highland & Western Isles
Isle of Man
North East Scotland & Northern Isles
Northern Ireland
South East East Anglia Cambridgeshire
Thames Valley Berkshire
South Central Hampshire
Isle of Wight
Beds, Herts & Essex Bedfordshire
London London
Kent & Sussex Kent
Wales and Western Wales Mid & West Wales
North Wales
South Wales
South & West Wales
Hereford & Worcester Hereford
West Midlands Staffordshire
West Midlands
South West & Islands Cornwall
Channel Isles
Avon Gloucestershire


  The British Red Cross, as with all ICRC societies, operate an Emergency Response service, which supports the statutory Emergency services in times of crisis. This work usually involves caring for those people affected by an emergency or disaster, from providing essentials such as food, clean water, shelter and medicines to befriending and offering a listening service. The British Red Cross operates this service throughout the UK, and, contrary to popular opinion, does not send its volunteers abroad, as overseas disasters will be dealt with by the society in the country affected.

The emergency response teams have attended most types of emergency such as the London bombings, rail crashes, fires and floods.

In addition to this core service, the British Red Cross also chooses to operate in other areas to help people in crisis

First Aid and Ambulance Provision

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is the largest provider of first aid in the world. The British Red Cross is possibly most recognised in the UK for its work as a leading provider of first aid at public events across the UK. Thousands of uniformed volunteers give care to the injured at events of all sizes including Premiership football games, concerts and State events.

The training undertaken by volunteers varies, and increasing advanced training is available to those volunteers who wish to undertake it, which includes rising to the level of Ambulance Crew. These ambulance crews undergo national standard training and examination and are then qualified to offer an advanced level of care to sick and injured patients. The training is of a sufficiently high standard, that in many areas, along with the other main medical service provider, St. John Ambulance, British Red Cross ambulance crews work on behalf of the Ambulance Service during particularly busy times, responding to 999 calls from members of the public.

First Aid Training

The British Red Cross is one of the leading providers of first aid training in the United Kingdom. It trains people both on a community and commercial basis. The commercial training teams run nationally recognised First aid courses specifically designed to provide skills for use at work. The British Red Cross have been running these courses for 25 years and over 120,000 people are trained each year. Courses range from a basic Emergency Life Support to a four-day First Aid at Work (FAW) course recognised by the Health and Safety Executive.

On a community basis, the British Red Cross also is well known as providing many first aid courses across the country to members of the public, as well as reaching out to schools, community groups and minority groups.

First aid training programmes delivered by the Red Cross are renowned for giving participants both the skills and confidence to use what they have learnt, with a combination of theoretical knowledge and practical sessions.

Fire and Emergency Support

Also known as Fire Victim Support, this service is one of the more recent to be started by the British Red Cross. Covering most, but not yet all, of the UK, the British Red Cross provide assistance to those in the immediate aftermath of a household fire. Typically a team of 2 volunteers with a customized vehicle will respond to victims and provide them with shelter, food, clothing, toiletries, washing facilities and moral support. Volunteers will assist with the process of dealing with local authority housing departments or insurance companies to enable rehousing.

In addition, these teams are frequently called out to major incidents to provide support to the firefighters and other emergency services, from simply making tea and biscuits available, to providing a confidential listening service for those members of the emergency services traumatised by what they have just seen.

Humanitarian Education

A way of learning about and understanding the world - best thought of as a form of citizesnhip education. It is not religious or political, but is centrally concerned with our shared humanity. At the core of humanitarian action and thinking is a desire to contribute to saving lives and reducing suffering. Humanitarian education invites exploration of those actions and thoughts. It helps students examine what motivates people, including themselves, and extends to other societies, times and cultures. It explores the wider issues, sometimes surprisingly complex, that arise when people help each other.

Medical Loan

The British Red Cross offers a medical loan service from many of its centres (or in some cases even a mobile service in a van), which provides items to improve people's lives, from wheelchairs and crutches to tap extensions for the mobility impaired.

This service is run by volunteers, who give up some time each week to man the numerous loan stores around the country. There are suggested donation levels for each of the items, however the service is free, and those who cannot pay, are not required too.

The equipment is loaned both short and long term, from one day to the rest of a person's life. All donations which are collected, go back in to helping others in similar situations

Skin Camouflage Service

The British Red Cross also provide skin camouflage creams and training for people with skin deformities. These creams are colour matched by the British Red Cross and later available, on prescription, from the NHS. The creams are designed to cover burns, scars and other skin irregularities which may cause discrimination, including scars caused by self-harm. This service has been used by Inside and out and has proven quite effective in the majority of cases.

Care in the Home

The British Red Cross provides short term care and support for people recently returned from hospital, or recently having suffered an injury which otherwise would result in a hospital or care facility admission. Volunteers enter peoples' homes and help them with the every day tasks which would otherwise be impossible for them, helping them maintain their independence and dignity.

Therapeutic care

British Red Cross volunteers are also active in hospitals, where they go and give patients a therapeutic massage of the head, neck, shoulders and hands through the patient's clothing, to help relax them, and encourage a sense of wellbeing.

Refugee Services

Since 1989, the British Red cross has provided a range of services to refugees, including managing a number of refugee reception centres nationwide. The work includes providing refugee orientation courses and ensuring that life essentials, such as shelter and food are provided for

Transport Service

The British Red Cross provides a number of transport schemes to get people with limited access to transport from place to place. This includes 'Dial-a-Ride' schemes, where elderly or disabled people can phone and are transported by specially adapted minibus door to door.

There are also services provided by car, with an escort if appropriate, in order to help people lead a normal life.

In addition, the British Red Cross also provides ambulance transport, either seated or stretcher, between places of treatment, or for admissions and discharges of patients at hospital. This is operated by the trained ambulance crews also used for emergency ambulance provision.

Tracing and Messaging Service

This is another international service, operated by the majority of national ICRC societies. Started to help the refugees of war, this service now extends to any person worldwide, who has lost touch with family through war or disaster. The global Red Cross/Red Crescent network uses local volunteers to find relations, put them back in touch, or simply pass messages.

International Disaster Relief

Whilst the British Red Cross does not send personnel abroad, it is heavily involved in fundraising for, and sending aid relief to, disaster hit areas. As the largest charity of its type, it is also part of the Disasters Emergency Committee, which is a group of large charities who fund raise for major disasters, such as the Boxing day tsunami


As a charity, the British Red Cross relies heavily on voluntary contributions from members of the public and organisations, in order to carry out its work. In addition, it does also make money from its commercial services, including First Aid Training (for the workplace), First aid provision at events and providing auxiliary crews to the ambulance services.

Whilst personal donations are important, the scale of corporate donations can make a huge difference to the society, and initiatives such as being the Tesco charity of the year in 2007 make large contributions to central funds.

Every year, many events are held, including sponsored bike rides, walks and even skydives. Red Cross Appeal Week (formerly known as Red Cross Flag Week), is held annually in May, to coincide with the birthday of Red Cross founder, Henry Dunant. This is a week where staff and volunteers are asked to donate two hours to run street and private premises collections.

Celebrity links

In order to help boost support for the cause, the Red Cross has a number of celebrity ambassadors which include Michael Buerk, David Bull, Josie D'Arby, Nancy Dell'Olio, Konnie Huq, Craig Gannon and Dougray Scott.

See also

List of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies


  1. ^ Red Cross Website
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "British_Red_Cross". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
Your browser is not current. Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 does not support some functions on Chemie.DE