Red Cross emblem

The Red Cross emblem carries profound significance. By its proper use it saves lives. In times of conflict it is the visible sign of the protection conferred by the Geneva Conventions. In peace time it indicates that a person or object is linked to the Red Cross movement and its fundamental principles of humanity, impartiality, independence, and voluntary service.

The emblem's origins lie with the founder of the International Red Cross Committee, Henry Dunant. Dunant was travelling in northern Italy in 1859 during the country's war of unification. By chance he witnessed the results of the Battle of Solferino in 1859, and was vividly impressed by the sight of thousands of wounded soldiers left to die without medical care. One of the reasons for this neglect was that army medical services were not distinguished by an emblem easily identified by all parties to the conflict.

Red Cross armband : Major A R Hazelton, Australian Army Medical Corps, REL/22106

Red Cross armband : Major A R Hazelton, Australian Army Medical Corps, C262329

In 1863 an international conference met in Geneva to try and remedy the ineffectiveness of army medical services. The following year the first of the Geneva conventions were passed, in which a red cross made of five equal squares on a white background was officially recognised as the distinctive sign of medical services of armed forces.

This distinctive symbol provides protection for the wounded and for all those who attend and care for them.

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