Computer colourised photograph circa 1917
Long before the modern world was introduced to the canvas covered M*A*S*H field hospitals of 1970's entertainment television, the Armies of the world knew they had to take care of wounded men from the battlefield as soon as possible.
Therefore creating hospitals near, or on the battlefield is not a new concept. Recent archaeological excavations in the Czech Republic have discovered remains of a field hospital measuring 60 x 65 metres that was built by the Roman 10th Legion near Brno on the Danube River. (The site has been dated to the Marcomanic wars of Marcus Aurelius –172 A.D.)
Tent hospitals were common structures during the Crimean and American Civil wars, and by the 20th Century, canvas Field Hospitals had became more numerous as new medical technologies arrived. During World War One the ability to inoculate soldiers from the rigors of Malaria, Black Water Fever, Cholera and other diseases required greater medical manpower. And in the harsh deserts of Sinai Palestine - Heat stroke, sun-burn, trench-foot and Jericho buttons added to the myriad of aliments that befell troops on both sides of the conflict.
Left: A camel mounted Medical Officer of the Turkish Red Crescent. This photograph probably taken at the forward Turko-German Field Hospital at Huj, 1917.
Below: Click on image to see the original photograph.
History: In 1863 Henri Dunant, a Swiss national, introduced ideas for a code of protection and conduct for the wounded and sick during times of war. Within the year members of the Société genevoise d'utilité publique [Geneva Public Welfare Society] called a conference which was attended by 16 nations. These original nations adopted various resolutions and principles to help and protect both soldiers and civilians duriing times of conflict and natural disaster. The organisation was to become the strictly neutral and impartial worldwide group - the "National Red Cross Societies".
The name and emblem of the "Red Cross" was created to honour and thank Henri Dunant and the Swiss people - the Emblem is the inverse of the Swiss flag.
During the Russo-Turkish War of 1876-1878 the Ottoman Empire adopted a "Red Crescent" instead of the Red Cross because its government believed that the cross, an icon of Christianity, would alienate its Muslim soldiers. Later, Muslim leaders urged the Red Cross Societies in other nations such as Pakistan (1974) Malaysia (1975) and Bangladesh (1989) to change to a red crescent as a symbol of their neutrality.
Disputes arose when the Israeli Society tried to introduce a red "Star of David" as its symbol for neutral protection. It was not until 2006 that the ICRC and the Geneva Convention recognised the Red Shield of David (Magen David Adom) as a further symbol for protection of Hospitals and ambulance vehicles during times of conflict.
Because each of these symbols represents a religious faith, many believed the Red Cross Organisation should change its International symbol to a "Red Diamond". This new icon, also referred to as the "Red Crystal" was accepted and added to the Societies International symbols in 2005.