Category: UK

Post relating to the British Red Cross in the United Kingdom

The Death March Cycle Challenge


When Stuart and Matthew Denyer came across a little red book of memorabilia uncovering their grandad’s story of struggle and determination, they decided to honour his ordeal by taking up a challenge for the charity that helped him through it – the British Red Cross. Stuart takes up the story.

Grandad never really wanted to talk much about his time in the war. He was embarrassed that he’d been a prisoner for almost the entire duration and felt he hadn’t ‘played his part’.

It was only when he died that we found a little red book of Red Cross letters and other memorabilia and were able to fully piece together his extraordinary story.

Included in the book were details of a march – known as the death march – that he was forced to undertake from Poland to Germany at the end of the Second World War. Very little is known about the march so we realised we had a rare historical document – an incredible story of survival and desperate struggle.

The prisoners were forced to march hundreds of miles in the worst winter in Europe for 100 years and many died from exhaustion, pneumonia or starvation. Grandad was one of the lucky survivors and I wanted to do something to honour his ordeal – and that’s how the Death March Cycle Challenge was born.

My brother and I are going to retrace the 700 miles grandad marched on a week-long bike challenge this October – covering 100 miles every day. We’ve not done anything quite like it before, so not only will it be an emotional journey, but a physically challenging one too.

Choosing the charity was easy. Grandad always spoke fondly of the Red Cross. He was a prisoner in a labour camp and described how the food they were given didn’t provide enough calories for life, let alone hard labour. Red Cross food parcels delivered to the camps, and later airdropped on the march, helped the prisoners to survive.

There’s another story too. Before grandad left to join the war, he’d been courting a lady from his village, which continued through letters delivered by the Red Cross once he was taken prisoner. After some time, he got a ‘Dear John’ letter and their relationship ended. Women in the UK were encouraged to write to POWs and so the job of keeping up correspondence with grandad was handed to another woman, Ruby Sitch, which continued until 1945. On his return, grandad met Ruby for the first time and they were married four months later.

Without the support of the Red Cross, I would not be here today. Grandad is my hero and I will always look up to him. I want to recreate grandad’s journey to learn more about what he went through and raise money for the British Red Cross at the same time. It’s going to be an incredible adventure.

Support Stuart and Matthew Denyer at

Internships reinvented


Since the British Red Cross launched its internship programme in 2007, over 270 interns have passed through its doors and the mark they’ve made is impressive.

Long gone are the days when tea making and filing were the heights of an intern’s tasks – now they’re running their own projects and bringing their own specialist knowledge to the teams they work with. It’s no longer just a case of what the Red Cross can do for an intern, but what an intern can do for it.

Kate Appleby, volunteering development co-ordinator, says: “Having an intern allows managers and departments to develop ideas and projects that would otherwise not happen. It allows you to do those things you’d love to do but don’t have the time to – and with a fresh perspective.”

Interns work on a variety of projects. Last year, James Deacon developed a pilot humanitarian education award scheme for London primary schools; in Scotland, Emma Nairsmith is working on a piece of research on emergency response that will be used by Scottish government; and in London, Matt Skrein has developed a monthly e-newsletter for politicians. One intern even developed a youth retail certificate, which won an Excellence Award in 2009 after helping increase the number of young people volunteering in Red Cross shops by 25 per cent.

Over the past four years the internship programme has expanded a staggering amount – from 30 interns in 2007 to a projected 150 this year. With that, the scheme has been finely honed. The fundraising department, which last year hosted 22 interns, has even developed a system where each batch of interns helps to recruit and train their replacements.

The scheme has also broadened to include specialisms such as archiving and video editing and the quality of the internships has been improved.

Catherine True, who started off as an intern before going on to work with the Red Cross, says: “One of the things that stands out most about a Red Cross internship is that the line between an intern and a staff member is very small – you’re treated the same as members of staff, with real responsibilities and individual projects to work on.”

Anthony Castino, who interns with Kate, adds: “The training opportunities are also great. We can do courses that are on offer to staff and we’re encouraged to shadow people in other departments too. We also have an intern induction day, which is great for meeting other interns.”

Anthony is also working on his own project – developing an alumni digital network so that interns can keep in touch with each other and the Red Cross once their internship is done. This has the added benefit to the Red Cross of nurturing relationships with interns who may potentially go on to positions of influence in other organisations.

On average, around 37 people apply for an internship and it’s not just the students and graduates who are interested. Increasingly, people looking to change careers are looking to the Red Cross for experience and a way to bridge the gap into something new. Wendy Maccance is working in the learning and development department after nine years in publishing and Sue Spencer undertook an internship in the trusts and statutory fundraising department, coming from eight years experience in marketing and new media.

Other interns such as Dr. Sridevi Nagarajan, who worked with the medical loan service in Cambridge, choose to do an internship to broaden their knowledge and develop contacts.

The internship programme has created a new layer of volunteering in the Red Cross. It requires a long-term commitment from both sides but the benefits are significant. As Anthony sums up: “Internships are fantastic. We get to learn from the Red Cross and the Red Cross learns from us. It’s a win-win situation.”

Interns can be recruited at any time of year. If you’d like to know more, visit

How Florence Nightingale influenced the Red Cross


Illustration of Florence Nightingale helping a sick manToday marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Florence Nightingale. We all know this renowned nurse as a paradigm of humanity but you may not know that she directly influenced the setting up of the British Red Cross in 1870. She encoraged the leading men of the day to set up the organisation, gave advice on nursing and the organisation of hospitals, and became a member of its Ladies’ Committee.

Here are five quick facts about how she influenced our work:

  • She introduced women nurses into military hospitals, set up kitchens to provide suitable diets for the invalids, provided recreational facilities for convalescents and improved the distribution of supplies. These principles have been the basis for much of the Red Cross’ work in later wars.
  • She believed in social welfare. This inspired the Red Cross to provide aftercare for ex-service men and to develop health and welfare services during peace time.
  • Florence Nightingale’s belief met with the Red Cross’ principle of neutrality. She said: “Suffering lifts its victim above normal values. While suffering endures there is neither good nor bad, valuable nor invaluable, enemy nor friend. The victim has passed to a region beyond human classification or moral judgments and his suffering is a sufficient claim.”
  • The International Committee of the Red Cross began the Florence Nightingale medal in 1912, to be awarded annually to nurses who had given exceptional care to the sick and wounded in war or peace. This medal is still awarded today.
  • The first British air ambulance was named Florence Nightingale. It was owned by the Surrey Branch and was registered in 1933.

Read more about Florence Nightingale on our website

New website for an old organisation


Screenshot of new homepageWe may have turned 140 years old last week, but we’re living proof that you can teach an old dog new tricks.

That’s why we relaunched our website.

Okay, maybe that’s not the only reason. Here are a few others:

1. Our new site makes it easier for people to find the services we deliver near them, as well as our charity shops and local events.

2. It’s more accessible to people with conditions that affect the way they use websites.

3. We’ve added tags, making it easier for you to find information on subjects you’re interested in.

4. The new site allows us to link to our blogs and stories about the people we’ve helped, so you can see a more personal picture of what we do.

We hope you find the site useful. We’ll continue to refine and improve it, but if you find anything wrong you can email us at

Here are some of the sections you might want to check out first:

Donate to our Pakistan Floods Appeal

Find out how to help Pakistan floods survivors

See first aid tips and videos

Learn how to prepare for emergencies


Sign up for a fundraising event

Use our free teachers resources

Happy 140th birthday, British Red Cross


What, and you didn’t even get us cake? That’s right, the fine charitable organisation for whom I plough my daily toil this week celebrates its 140th anniversary.

And, it should be said, for an institution that’s just turned seven-score years old, the British Red Cross isn’t at all in bad nick. Far from being a bit toothless, achey around the joints and in gradual decline, the old trooper is in the first bloom of health – helping people both here and all across the world, advocating on worthy causes and seeing volunteer numbers rise steadily.

If you want to find out more about the Red Cross’ history, just check out our photo galleries, blogs, podcasts and historical factsheets. It’s been a long, eventful life so far and there’s a fascinating story to tell.

Plenty has changed, mind. For example, we now have a much broader range of services that are craftily tailored to help all kinds of specific people and needs. So besides the old staples – step forward, first aid and emergency response – we also have more recent additions such as our refugee and skin camouflage services.

Equally impressive, those old, ever-so-slightly-formal Red Cross uniforms have now given way to a swanky new range of casual wear which, for my money, makes our volunteers look just a teeny wee bit like extras from the Eighties Star Trek films. It’s the Red Cross, Jim, but not as we know it.

Still, in the most important way, nothing’s really changed at all. After all this time, the British Red Cross is still all about helping vulnerable people when they need our help, whoever and wherever they are. Here’s to the next 140 years!

Kapow! Do you know a superhero?


Life’s tough for superheroes. All that thankless do-goodery must get exhausting after a while. And what about the costumes? The masks are sweaty, underpants as overpants is never a good look, and those spandex tights must chafe something rotten on one’s unmentionables.

Still not convinced? Just think, then, of the misery endured by even the greats. Spiderman is hated and misunderstood by most of the public. Superman spends most of his day pretending to be a geek. Captain America’s costume is just embarrassing.

And yet, as proved by the Red Cross Humanitarian Citizen Awards over the past four years, it turns out that – despite the odds – the UK is still chock-full of heroes. (Albeit not ones in costume; it must be the chafing thing).

Our annual awards celebrate the young people – whether lone heroes or super groups – who go that extra mile to help others. There are four categories to choose from: first aid, volunteering, community action and fundraising.

If you know of a young hero or heroes (masks and tights are optional, remember) who you think deserves recognition, nominate someone today. It only takes a couple of minutes and the closing date – Holy Mackerel!  Friday 23 July – is fast approaching.

First aiders flock to help at bike crash


first aid kitThe other day I came off my bike on the way to work. Luckily, as it was pretty embarrassing, I was on a deserted street in Bayswater. This also meant, crucially, that I didn’t get run over.

I was pedalling along happily one minute smiling in the sunshine, then suddenly on the road braking with one of my knees and toes. That minor – or so I thought – problem of clunky, jumping gears was the culprit. I had been standing up on the bike going at quite a pace, when the pedal suddenly dropped. This made me lose my footing and I found myself hopping along with one foot along the road trying to keep up with my speeding bike, with a sense of impending doom.

There wasn’t any serious damage – a deep graze and cuts, broken sandals, a mangled frame and quite a bit of oil and blood – but it was quite a shock. I lay there in the road shaking and promptly burst into tears. Within seconds a fellow cyclist pulled up and scrapped me off the road.

He helped me to the kerb and then touched my shoulder gently and said: “That looked like a nasty fall, are you okay?” For some reason this made me howl even more but I managed to grimace and reply: “” through the tears and rivers of make up sliding down my face.

After he was sure I was okay, he went on his way. Then a second good samaritan appeared, complete with first aid kit under his arm. He worked at a hotel nearby and had seen everything. He diligently first cleaned my wounds with water and tissues.

It turned out another casualty had got to the first aid kit before me so it was actually pretty threadbare but, as I learnt on my basic first aid skills course, you sometimes need to improvise. So instead of a large dressing, the man created a patchwork of small plasters over my knee wound, being careful not to get the sticky bits on the wound itself.  He spoke little English but I was touched by his thoroughness and tenderness towards a stranger.

I was just preparing to wheel my poor bike home, when a coach then stopped. The driver hopped out and also asked if I was okay. “Let me get some water and wipes to clean off that oil,” he offered, frowning at the state of my legs.

A couple of weeks later I am almost fully recovered, although everyone has been intrigued by the progress of my scab; my colleague Mark has taken to asking how my ‘beetroot crisp’ is.

First aid at Rockness


Once a year, the sleepy village of Dores on the shores of Loch Ness comes alive with the sound of music. And by that I don’t mean the musical.

Rockness is the Highland’s number one music festival, and for the fourth year running I found myself back in that grassy field taking in the sights, smells and sounds of the Highland fling. The drunken crowds staggering across the hillside, dressed in all sorts of outfits ranging from the punk rockers with flowers in their hair to the individuals who feel clothes are hardly necessary at all. The smell of beer, mud, and the unthinkable all mixed together amidst the grass. The banging tunes which pounded the countryside and pulsated through the ground, like a heavy bass heartbeat. I’m pretty sure that Nessie has her own rave party every June; those vibes probably spread far enough to ripple the Loch’s darkest depths.

For me, Rockness not only brings out my inner raver; it is also a tad nostalgic. It brings back the fond memories of my first ever duty, which was indeed Rockness. Talk about being thrown in at the deep end without the ability to swim. Of course, back in the day it was filling out patient report forms before rushing off to watch the final acts. This year, as it has been for the past couple of years, it’s been hard work and first aid all night long…

…Ok, who am I kidding, I’ve always been lucky enough to catch some of the last acts too. But no more hiding behind those forms.

This year I even had a shot at being team leader during Friday’s day shift. Which, to be fair, wasn’t as terrifying as I thought it would be.

So what sort of casualties did we face? Out cold and drunk? Collapses in the middle of the crowd? Fight victims with blood pouring from wounds, or breaks, sprains, or even spinals?

Um, no. Amazingly, the array of casualties myself and my fellow team mates treated this year were nowhere near as exciting as the above scenarios; examples of what we came across in previous years.

In fact, this year we had more blisters and cut fingers than anything else. Clearly rubbing welly-boots and caterers slicing their fingers open on sharp knives was the in-thing, as opposed to the dreaded unconscious call-out or worse.

Some teams were called out to unresponsive casualties; the grab team was kept busy on a number of occasions. But otherwise our work was minimal. Which is great – it makes a nice change, particularly at a larger duty. Although it can make the time spent at a first aid post pass that little bit slower.

Anyway, it seems that our festival punters kept themselves that bit safer this year (despite the new temptations of two very high fairground rides). This was a major plus as this meant no deaths.

First aiders un point; the Grim nul point =]

So, while Rockness this year was, for us, a tad quieter  than usual, the festival was a success for those who came for the booze and live bands. Even if the weather wasn’t quite up to standard – the usual scorching sunshine skipped Friday and Sunday morning. In fact, Sunday saw Rockness turn into Mudness as the churned-up ground became thick with fresh Highland rain and beer. Not that this killed anybody’s fun, particularly in the campsites where the ground was particularly slushy.

All I can say is thank goodness for waterproofs.

Another stint at Rockness over and done with. Four years worth of festival experience tucked snugly under the boiler-suit belt (with another ear-full of loud and proud tunes). I wonder if I can go for a fifth year of festival first aiding?