Great War 100 Reads

Commemorating the centenary of the First World War in books


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – American Red Cross Christmas Drive

Answer the Red Cross Christmas roll call. All you need is a heart and a dollar.

WW1 was a period of unprecedented growth for the American Red Cross. It grew from 107 chapters in 1914 to 3864 in 1918. By the war’s end, nearly one-third of the US population was either a donor to the Red Cross or serving as a volunteer … over 20 million adult members, over 11 million Junior Red Cross members and 8.1 million volunteers.

The organization served at home and in the war zone, supplying hospitals and canteens, offering civilian relief and aid to military dependents.

Illustrator Ray Greenleaf created this poster for a Christmas fundraising campaign. I found this copy in a display of WW1 posters at the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum in Geneva, Switzerland.  

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – American Red Cross poster, Geneva

Belated Independence Day greetings.

While the US did not join WW1 as a combatant until 1917, Americans made many contributions throughout the war. Some individuals joined the armed forces of other countries (for both the Allied and Central Powers). More helped the humanitarian aid efforts – with donations or as volunteers – through organizations like the Red Cross.

This 1918 poster is one of several designed by artist Gordon Grant for the American Red Cross. It is part of a display of WW1 posters in the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum in Geneva, Switzerland. A young woman helping a wounded soldier is a common promotional image, no matter the country.

Belated greetings, as well, to some recent followers of Great War 100 Reads. Welcome all! I hope you will enjoy my musings. Please feel free to add your comments.


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – International Prisoners of War Agency archives, Geneva

The Canadian Centre for the Great War recently posted about Special Service companies that guarded military prisons and prisoners of war. This reminded me of the archives of the International Prisoners of War Agency at the International Red Cross Museum in Geneva, which I visited last fall. The Agency was established in August 1914, with a mandate to restore contact between people separated by war – prisoners of war, civilian internees, and civilians in occupied territories. During the war, its volunteers documented close to 2.5 million POWs.

Using the lists of prisoners of war provided by the warring States as a basis, the Agency made out an index card for each prisoner. These cards were classified by nationality, in files which also contained requests for information. As soon as a piece of information was matched with a request, the Agency was able to send a reply to the family or the place of origin of the prisoner of war concerned. (ICRC Resource Centre)

According to THE INTERNATIONAL PRISONERS-OF-WAR AGENCY: The ICRC in World War One, the archives has 400 linear metres of records, including:

  • 20 linear metres of general records recounting the activities of the Agency
  • 2,413 volumes of information – 600,000 pages – provided by the belligerents (lists of prisoners, lists of persons who died in combat or in captivity, investigation reports, lists of persons repatriated, etc)
  • 5,119 boxes, containing about six million index cards. 

These photos show some of the original index cards. A simple display, effective at conveying the overwhelming numbers. The deteriorating records have been digitized and are searchable at http://grandeguerre.icrc.org/.