Published in 18th–19th - Century History, Features, General, Issue 6 (Nov/Dec 2008), Volume 16

The cause of the ‘ambulances’ in the Franco-Prussian war was a popular one on both sides of the conflict. It did not infer mobile ambulances but more often was a reference to the setting up of field hospitals. Names as diverse as Kitchener, Sarah Bernhardt and Nietzsche were involved in the ‘ambulances’ during the war, and the British and Americans, as well as the Quakers, organised such ventures along some of the same lines as the Irish. The history of the ambulance movement was quite closely tied to the emergence of the International Red Cross, founded at Geneva in 1863 in the wake of the battle of Solferino (1859) in which 40,000 died, including a number of Irish on both sides (France and Savoy v. Austria). The Irish ambulance took to itself the imagery of the Red Cross, as did a number of other ambulances. A noted member of the British ambulance unit that attached itself to the Prussians (the young Kitchener volunteered with a French ambulance) was William George Nicholas Manley (1831–1901). This Dublin-born member of the Royal Artillery and later surgeon-general, awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry during the Maori wars, was also decorated with the Iron Cross by the Prussians for his work in the ambulance and remains the only person to be decorated with both honours.


Copyright © 2024 History Publications Ltd, Unit 9, 78 Furze Road, Sandyford, Dublin 18, Ireland | Tel. +353-1-293 3568