The Battle of Solferino was fought in Northern Italy 152 years ago this week. The combatants were the Austrian army and the alliance of France and Sardinia, led by Napoleon III. After 15 hours of fighting, the Austrians retreated, leaving more than 40,000 men killed or injured. Even Napoleon III was said to have been sickened by the slaughter.
Another man who was also appalled was Henri Dunant, a Swiss businessman who passed through a village where many of the wounded were being treated. He returned home and wrote a book about what he had seen, called A Memory of Solferino.
Dunant proposed forming an association of trained volunteers who would care for the wounded in future wars. His idea led to an international humanitarian movement that now has more than 90 million volunteers, members and staff worldwide.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on three different occasions – in 1917, 1944 and 1963. Sadly, it looks as though the need for it will not end anytime soon.