Photo: Patients, nurses, staff and Red Cross volunteers in the gardens of Melbourne's Anzac Hospital.
11 November 2018 marks one hundred years since the signing of the Armistice to end the hostilities of World War One. From 1914 to 1918 the world experienced the first armed conflict on a global scale, involving what were then new methods of warfare such as artillery weapons, trench warfare and poisonous gas. Tens of millions of military personnel and civilians were killed, wounded and displaced during this war. In Australia, a staggering 62,000 lost their lives, more than 1% of our population.
During the war, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) played a unique and important role: monitoring and implementing international laws, assisting sick and wounded soldiers, visiting prisoners of war, providing aid to civilians in occupied territories and campaigning against the use of chemical weapons. This was the first time in its history that the ICRC had been called upon to assist on such a vast scale and in order to do so, it called upon National Red Cross Societies, including the newly formed Australian Red Cross, for help.
Photo: A horse-drawn cart in Melbourne with donations of specially created Red Cross wholemeal biscuits for prisoners of war, 1917.
One hundred years later, a total of 191 National Societies exist to help vulnerable people and promote the role of the laws of war in armed conflict. Also known as international humanitarian law, these rules remain as important as ever as armed conflicts persist throughout the world today. They ensure the rights of civilians to receive medical treatment and humanitarian assistance and limit the means and methods of warfare.
Today we acknowledge the contribution of thousands of Australians who volunteered with Red Cross during WWI, in hospitals and convalescent homes, raising funds for the sick, wounded and prisoners of war, providing care, goods and entertainment and organising a wounded and missing enquiry bureau. We acknowledge the Australians and all those who lost their lives in the war, and we will continue to champion international humanitarian law to prevent the suffering of war.
Photo: A sea of hand-made poppies on display at the Australian War Memorial.
To commemorate this anniversary, 62,000 hand-crafted poppies have been displayed at the Australian War Memorial. These poppies have been made by people all over the world as part of the 5,000 Poppies Project, including many crafty Red Cross members.