The story of Red Cross began in June 24th 1859, in the town of Solferino, little place in the north of Italy. There was a battle for independence, after which the Austrians were banished from the north Italy. The battle lasted for 15 hours and resulted in 40 000 wounded, out of which many died.
The medical services were far away from this place, but there was a young salesman from Geneva, Henry Dunant. Dunant was 31 years old and this little place was only a short stop to the place where he was going for the business reasons. When he saw this horrible scene, he wanted to provide relief assistance to all wounded. He was assisted by few doctors who were there, as well as the local population, with scarce aid and equipment. Dunant’s idea was to spontaneously recruit volunteers, i.e. civil population, who were, at first, unwilling to help.
With the famous line „Tutti fratelli” - „We are all brothers”, Henry Dunant succeeded to move and encourage population of Solferino to help. With joint efforts, they took wounded away from the battle field, back to their homes and churches where they were medically assisted.
For three days and night, Henry Dunant, together with the volunteers, took care of wounded, even though they didn’t have the proper equipment for providing help.
After the experience with Solferino, Henry Dunant decided to establish the international society for support, which would be based on the Agreement, and which would be legally binding for the states. Dunant couldn’t stop thinking about the horrors that happened in Solferino, so three years after this event, he wrote a book called „A Memory of Solferino“.In addition to penning a vivid description of his experiences in Solferino he explicitly advocated the formation of national voluntary relief organizations to help nurse wounded soldiers in the case of war. In addition, he called for the development of international treaties to guarantee the protection of neutral medics and field hospitals for soldiers wounded on the battlefield.
Small number of people supported his idea, and among them were General Guillaume-Henry Dufour, Gustave Moynier, Louise Appia and Theodore Maunoir. Five of them gathered together for the first time on February 17th 1863. and established „International Committee for relief to the wounded“. Known as „Committee of Five“, they started to spread the idea over the world. Dufour opened the Conference on October 26th, which gathered 36 representatives from 16 countries. Ten days after the Conference, they adopted 10 resolutions, and suggested that within every country there should be one National Committee for the relief to the wounded, and the condition for that was the request that medical services, volunteers and wounded are protected, to be declared as „neutral“ and „protected“. Also, they adopted red cross on the white sheet, as the symbol of protection and identification, which is opposite of the Swiss flag, as the sign of appreciation to Henry Dunant. This represented the precursor of the foundation of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
In Geneva, in August 22nd 1864, the first Convention for the protection of wounded on land during war was signed. The protection was in 1868. extended to wounded and shipwrecked military personnel at sea.
General Dufour and Federal counselor Jacob Dubs, on July 17th 1866, founded Swiss Red Cross. Training of volunteers for providing support to sick and wounded started all over the world. Warehouses were stock with bandages, blankets and other necessary equipment. In the following years, numerous Red Cross Societies were founded.
Red Cross was tested very soon, when the French-German war began in 1870.
Red Cross was perceived as the organization which should provide support in peacefultime, provide help to the sick, older persons, disabled or persons in need. The support was organized in the case of natural and other disasters.
Henry Dunant was, not only the founder of this important idea, but also a visionary. He predicted World War I.
Despite everything, he was forgotten. Dunant lived completely alone, until a journalist Georg Baumbereger, who started to explore his life, visited him. Then again, the attention was focused on Henry Dunant, and he received the first Nobel Prize, at the age of 73. All the money he got, he gave to charity.