Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Book review: My Years with the British Red Cross

Arpan K. Banerjee
Solihull, United Kingdom


Man in front of Red Cross tents and with photo of war-torn area
Cover of My Years with The British Red Cross: A Chief Executive Reflects by Sir Nick Young.

The Red Cross is known worldwide as a great humanitarian achievement. The charity was founded by Swiss businessman Henri Dunant, who was moved by the lack of care available to people who had been wounded in the Battle of Solferino, Italy, in 1859. His idea was to produce national societies of volunteers and others to help relieve suffering during times of war.

In 1863, the founding charter of the International Red Cross was drawn up. Today the headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland. Dunant was the co-recipient of the first Nobel Peace Prize in 1901. The Red Cross today is still involved in providing humanitarian relief in war zones, but also helps in the aftermath of natural disasters such as earthquakes, droughts, floods, typhoons, and famines.

This book is written by a former leader of the British Red Cross. His reflections on his time heading this venerable institution provide valuable insight into its workings. Descriptions of fundraising, lobbying, and international relations give us an idea of the business and political aspects of the Red Cross. The details of emergency responses on short notice are a reminder of the valuable humanitarian work done by dedicated staff to assist vulnerable people around the world. The British Red Cross responded to the 2004 Bam earthquake in Iran, the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, troubles in Pakistan, flooding in Bangladesh, the London bombings, TB outbreaks in Sudan, ongoing HIV/AIDS work in Africa, and many others.

The author’s travels to many of these places and his encounters with the great and the good worldwide proves a fascinating read. The author states that he started his career as a corporate lawyer but found that “making big companies bigger” and the frustrating constraints of a lawyer’s role made him want to do something that would make a real difference in people’s lives. In heading this large charity organization, he has been able to fulfill his ambitions of humanitarian work through helping others who find themselves in catastrophic situations.


My Years with The British Red Cross: A Chief Executive Reflects
Sir Nick Young
Pen and Sword Books, 2022
ISBN 9781399067003



DR. ARPAN K. BANERJEE qualified in medicine at St Thomas’s Hospital Medical School, London. He was a consultant radiologist in Birmingham 1995–2019. He was President of the radiology section of the RSM 2005–2007 and on the scientific committee of the Royal College of Radiologists 2012–2016. He was Chairman of the British Society for the History of Radiology 2012–2017. He is Chairman of ISHRAD. He is author/co-author of papers on a variety of clinical, radiological, and medical historical topics and seven books, including Classic Papers in Modern Diagnostic Radiology (2005) and The History of Radiology (OUP 2013).


Winter 2023   |  Sections  |  Books & Reviews  |  Blood

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.