About this image
Note the campaign medals worn by the 'officers', probably obtained during the Boer War and World War. In wartime, St. John and the Red Cross worked together to meet a huge range of medical and welfare needs. During the Crimean War in the 1850s, newspapers began to carry graphic reports of the battlefield carnage. The public was confronted with the harsh reality that wounded soldiers were left to suffer and die, and the International Red Cross Movement grew out of the resulting outrage. Volunteer members of the British Order of St. John responded and took great personal risks to bring First Aid and ambulance transport to battlefields in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The original purpose of First Aid was to help wounded soldiers, and from the outset, St. John Ambulance aimed to provide trained reserves for Army hospitals. Its first official role was in the Boer War, 1899-1902, when nearly a quarter of the Army Medical Service in South Africa were St. John reserves. In World War One, 1914-18, new technologies brought slaughter on a previously unknown scale. Aircraft, tanks, gas and machine guns changed the nature of battlefields and far greater numbers of men were needed to fight. This meant almost everyone in Britain personally knew a soldier and there was a huge response to appeals for volunteers to help care for the wounded and dying. An extensive system of medical services and hospitals was put in place, at the front, behind the lines and back in Britain, and much of it was run by the Joint War Committee of the British Red Cross Society and the Order of St. John.