Tag: history

Aberfan disaster: how Red Cross volunteers helped a community in shock

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British Red Cros teams unload supplies for Aberfan in 1966Even in the days before the internet, news spread fast when a small Welsh village was struck by tragedy in 1966. British Red Cross volunteers arrived in their hundreds to help the local community of Aberfan.

Fifty years after the disaster, read our report of the incident, written in the aftermath.

Disaster strikes

“On Friday October 21st, at about 9.15am, an 800-ft water-logged coal-tip slipped and descended 500 yards, down a mountain-side.

“In an avalanche of greasy slurry it engulfed a farmhouse, an infants and junior school and a terrace of houses in the small village of Aberfan, South Wales.

“The appalling death roll – to date 147, the majority being small children – shocked and stunned the entire world. More

William Shakespeare and the WW2 prisoners of war

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Cast put on a performanceFairies. Shipwrecks. Mistaken identities. It’s no wonder William Shakespeare was the playwright of choice for many  prisoners of war during the Second World War. We look back at some rather unusual performances…

During WW2 the British Red Cross sent more than 239, 500 books to prisoners of war (POW) libraries. The books had to cover a range of subjects to suit every taste.

Titles ranged from Shakespeare plays and classic novels to biographies, thrillers and even dictionaries.

There was a general shortage of books in the UK so the Red Cross library service relied on donations. The King and Queen donated 1,700 volumes with special inscriptions for POW libraries for Christmas 1941.

In May 1943 Penguin Books provided a selection of books for prisoners in Germany and Italy. Alongside Cold Comfort Farm and The Growth of Science prisoners could enjoy A life of Shakespeare by Hesketh Pearson.

Copies of The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, among other Shakespeare classics, found their way into the hands and onto the makeshift stages of POW camps across Europe.
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Art from the past: the secret artists in prisoner of war camps

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Jenny Martin with the Changi quilt in 2015. © Teri Pengilley

Jenny Martin with the Changi quilt in 2015. © Teri Pengilley

Every month, we dust off a piece of art from the British Red Cross collection to give it the attention it deserves. This month, we look at some items crafted in the most desperate of settings – and the remarkable efforts it took to make them.  

In 1942, Daphne Davidson’s life changed forever.

She was living in Singapore with her husband. She had a good job and had just become pregnant.

But then Singapore surrendered to invading Japan. James left for the front and Daphne was sent to a prisoner of war (POW) camp.

The days were long, tedious and full of hard work and hardship.

So how did arts and crafts become an act of rebellion? More

Art from the past: a nation on fire in the Battle of Britain

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Ambulance second world war SOS

Every month, we dust off a piece of art from the British Red Cross collection to give it the attention it deserves. This picture captures the danger and drama that gripped Britain in 1940, as Nazi forces turned the summer sky red.

Wednesday, 10 July 1940. Not a heatwave in sight. A typical British summer of drizzle and storms.

Yet this ordinary day is forever etched into the history books. It was the first day of the Battle of Britain, when war raged in the air. More

Art from the past: a child’s eye view on war

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Art from the past Bosnian war drawing

Every month, we dust off a piece of art from the British Red Cross collection to give it the attention it deserves. This children’s picture showed that surviving peace could be as hard as surviving a war zone.

The news is full of grisly facts and footage about countries such as Syria, Eritrea, Afghanistan – but most of us don’t know much about life there. They’re certainly not your average holiday destination.

Because of this, it can be easy to think that refugees flee places that are completely removed from the ones we know and recognise.

But war and exodus can strike on European soil, too. Just two decades ago, violence and ‘ethnic cleansing’ tore apart the former Yugoslavia. Huge numbers of desperate people had to run away to survive.

And when the war was over and many went back to their homes, they saw scenes of devastation and danger – just like this little girl drew in her picture. More

Art from the past: time to play in the open air

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Play in the open air cropped

Every month, we dust off a piece of art from the British Red Cross collection to give it the attention it deserves. This poster was aimed at children in 1945 – in a bid to get them healthy after years of war and hardship.

How often do days go by when you barely spend five minutes outside? Just a quick jump into the car, some gulps of air-conditioned air, and then maybe a pause by that window view of high-rises and concrete?

Well, if you were part of the Junior Red Cross, you’d actually be breaking one of the ‘health laws’.

After war and sickness ravaged Europe in the early 20th century, there was a shift to a more holistic mind-set.

Suddenly, being healthy was part of your civic duty – and getting outside shot to the top of the list.

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Easier than ever to change the world

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These days, you can give money to charity while drawing out cash or just by sending a text. But things were a bit different 100 years ago, when people were starting to dig deep – in some interesting ways.  

Red Cross Week starts on Sunday – so it’s the time of year when people wear silly red wigs and eat an awful lot of cake to raise us life-saving money.

It all goes to help people in crisis: whether that’s someone homeless in Nepal or a person in Penrith who desperately needs a wheelchair.

If you’re still wondering how to join in with Red Cross Week, you could look to the past for inspiration. Check out these inventive ways people raised money 100 years ago, during the First World War – and then see what you can get up to today.

Then

Sing the anthem to the king
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Art from the past: when a scene of horror went up in flames

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Belsen burning

Every month, we dust off a piece of art from the British Red Cross collection to give it the attention it deserves. This painting takes on a terrible moment in history: the discovery of the Nazi concentration camp at Belsen.

When Doris Zinkeisen signed up as a war artist at the end of the Second World War, she probably knew some sights and scenes would test her extraordinary talents.

But she may not have known she’d face one of the war’s great horrors. More