Royal family pay tribute to British Red Cross to mark its 150th anniversary

The Queen has led the royal family in paying tribute to the British Red Cross on the eve of its 150th anniversary, describing the charity’s work as “valued and greatly appreciated”.

Since 1870, the organisation has shown “just how powerful kindness can be” said the Prince of Wales, who added its efforts were “as essential today as it has ever been”.

And the Duchess of Cambridge remembered the thousands of staff and volunteers – including her great-grandmother and grandmother, both Red Cross nurses – who have “contributed tirelessly” to the charity’s work over the years.

The British Red Cross celebrates its milestone on Tuesday – 150 years to the day a resolution was passed at a public meeting in London to form an organisation “for aiding sick and wounded soldiers in time of war”.

Established a few weeks after the outbreak of war between France and Prussia, the British National Society for Aid to the Sick and Wounded in War would later be renamed the British Red Cross.

The Queen has served as the charity’s patron for almost 65 years and has sent a message of congratulations to volunteers and staff to thank them for their dedicated work supporting some of the most vulnerable people both at home and abroad.

She said: “Whether those involved in the society are assisting people to return home from hospital safely, offering care and support in the aftermath of a disaster, volunteering in a shop, administering first aid or some of the many other activities the British Red Cross encompasses, their contribution is recognised, valued and greatly appreciated.”

Charles, who has been president of the Red Cross since 2003, has recorded a video to introduce a new online exhibition – 150 Voices – as part of the anniversary.

The virtual event showcases 150 objects from the British Red Cross museum and archives collection, and includes objects like a letter from Florence Nightingale, a First World War ambulance driver’s cap and a food parcel distributed by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent during the Syria crisis.

The Prince of Wales and Princess Alexandra pose with nurses dressed in First World War uniforms during a Buckingham Palace garden party
The Prince of Wales and Princess Alexandra pose with nurses dressed in First World War uniforms during a Buckingham Palace garden party

Charles said in the film: “Through giving relief to those affected by war and conflict, supporting refugees, providing health and social care in peacetime and helping people and communities hit by natural disasters, the British Red Cross has for 150 years shown just how powerful kindness can be.

“None of this would have been possible of course without the extraordinary dedication of the British Red Cross volunteers. Their conspicuous humanity in times of crisis offers an inspiration to us all.”

Charles added: “The work of the Red Cross is as essential today as it has ever been, helping those in need both in the United Kingdom and around the world, strengthening our communities and supporting people to face the challenges of an ever-changing and unpredictable world.”

As part of the 150th anniversary celebrations, Kate has written a letter to 150 outstanding Red Cross staff and volunteers who have received a commemorative coin from the Royal Mint in recognition of their efforts.

The duchess described how her great-grandmother Olive Middleton volunteered as a Red Cross nurse during the First World War while her grandmother Valerie Middleton performed the same role during the Second World War.

British Red Cross volunteer Sandra Fisher
British Red Cross volunteer Sandra Fisher

Kate said in her letter: “Like you and many others, they are both part of the rich history of the British Red Cross, which is helping to ensure many people get the support they need during a crisis.

“In recent months, I have been deeply moved by the work you and your colleagues have continued to do throughout the coronavirus pandemic. You have all been doing an inspiring job supporting vulnerable people.”

Princess Alexandra, the British Red Cross’ deputy president, spoke last week to a recipient of Kate’s letter, Anne Taylor, 87, and heard about her experiences as one of the charity’s longest-serving volunteers.

She has volunteered with the charity for 80 years, having first joined in 1940 to support the charity’s work during the Second World War.

Mike Adamson, chief executive of the British Red Cross said: “Throughout our history it is the kindness of our volunteers, as well as the generosity of our supporters that has meant we can be there for people when they need us most, wherever they are and whomever they may be.”