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Australian Red Cross : South Australian Division: Home

This State Library Library Guide explores the history of the Australian Red Cross : South Australian Division and the records of the division held in the library's collections.

Lady Galway with Lady Munro-Ferguson

Lady Galway (left) first president of the Australian Red Cross South Australian Division with Lady Helen Munro Ferguson, founder and first president of Australian Red Cross, November 1917.
SLSA SRG 770/40/297


With the outbreak of war in August 1914 Lady Helen Munro Ferguson, wife of the Governor General, wrote to The Register newspaper, "The best field of activity for non-combatants, and especially for women, lies in providing for the needs of the sick and wounded.... in all countries this work is undertaken by national Red Cross societies. It is therefore proposed to form an Australian branch of the British Red Cross Society, and a central council is being established on which Lady Galway and the wives of the Governors of the other States have already agreed to serve." (The Register newspaper, 10 August 1914, page 9)

The beginnings of the Red Cross movement came about in 1859 when Henry Dunant of Switzerland suggested the establishment of a volunteer relief organisation to provide relief from suffering during war. His proposal resulted in the establishment of the international Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva in 1863.

Following the outbreak of war between France and Prussia in 1870 Colonel Robert Loyd-Lindsay wrote to The Times, "It is strange to read in your columns of the preparations which are being made simultaneously to destroy life and to save it. Unfortunately, it is far easier to destroy than to save, all the glory being reserved for the former, and ten times the amount of scientific resources being devoted to it.... The sufferings of the wounded after a battle are a subject that people try to avoid thinking about. The long waiting for help, the pain and suffering of those who remain hours and days unattended to, ... we should form a committee, of which the Minister of War or some other eminent man should be president, and place ourselves in communication with the other committees already formed over Europe, in order that what we do may be done fairly and impartially between the belligerents" The Times 22 July 1870 page 5.

The following day Loyd-Lindsay wrote to The Times, 'I am glad to be able to inform you that his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales has consented to be President of the National Committee." The Times 25 July 1870 page 9. With this the forerunner of the British Red Cross, the Society for the Relief of the Sick and Wounded, was established.

in 1905 the British National Society for Aid to the Sick and Wounded in War was reformed into the British Red Cross.