The Joint War Organisation (JWO) is a combined operation of the British Red Cross Society and the Order of St John of Jerusalem and was controlled by the non-government Joint War Committee (JWC). The Joint War Finance Committee was created to raise donations and funding.
World War I
In August 1914, just after the outbreak of war in Europe, the British Red Cross and the Order of St John proposed to form the Joint War Committee with the intention of working with joint aims, reducing duplication of effort and providing St John personnel with the protection of the Red Cross. An agreement to the merger was concluded on 24 October 1914. The St Andrew's Ambulance Association in Scotland also joined the organisation.
Fundraising activities and resources were pooled and everyone worked together under the protective emblem of the Red Cross. The JWO became the main contact with the Royal Army Medical Services as regards patient services when casualties swamped the Army medical capability.
The Joint War Committee organised volunteers alongside technical and professional staff. It also supplied the machinery and mechanisms to provide services in Britain and in the conflict areas of Europe, the Middle East, Russia and East Africa. In the UK, each region created their local JWO with a chairman and committee.
Voluntary Aid Detachments
Five years earlier in 1909, a scheme had been devised to organise volunteers into Voluntary Aid Detachments (VAD).:2 The idea was to provide supplementary aid for the Territorial Medical Services.
Members of the British Red Cross and the Order of St John were organised into VAD's. Each VAD had either male or female VAD's.
By 1914 there were 2,000 VAD's with 70,000 volunteers, Within four years this had grown to 4,000 VAD's and 125,000 volunteers.
Volunteers were trained in a number of skills, with classes and examinations arranged by a local VAD.
Auxiliary hospitals were established in suitable buildings where VAD's could serve including part-time VAD's, looking after recuperating patients. By the end of the war there were 1,786 such hospitals. Many were called V.A.D. Hospitals.:7
The Red Cross war medal was awarded to members of the Red Cross or its VAD volunteers who served in the UK between 4 August 1914 and 31 December 1919 and had served over 1,000 hours. 41,000 members received the medal.
Over 1,400 received military commendations or awards for bravery and over 250 died during the war such as Edith Munro a nurse who died in East London in 1916.
Clothing and provisions and their distribution
"Working parties" operated in most towns to collect clothing, make bandages, splints etc. A series of "'Central Work Rooms"' were created in 1915 to organise these working parties and standardise the items being created which were gathered at "Work Depots".:5
Other activities of VAD's included:
To promote flag day events, the red cross had Canadian women living in London selling tinted maple leaves. Australian sellers sold special Australian flags and leather kangaroos. Women from New Zealand sold kiwi badges.
Red Cross collecting boxes moved from National to Regional VAD control, with local VAD's keeping 20% of the funds collected, 80% going for National use.
Originally PoW's would receive food packages from governments, however this was soon blocked and with other charitable organisations, the JWO under the banner of the International Red Cross stepped in to send a parcel every two weeks to each prisoner. The total cost of parcels in World War 1 was £5,145,458-16s–9d.
The British Prisoner of War
The Central Prisoner of War Committee of the Red Cross and Order of St John published a monthly journal, The British Prisoner of War beginning in January 1918, for the benefit of the families and friends of British and Commonwealth prisoners of war. 
The JWO was disbanded after World War 1, in 1919.
Mary Harmsworth, Viscountess Northcliffe member of the Joint Committee, received a GBE in the 1918 New Year Honours, as did Robert Arundell Hudson, Treasurer and Financial Director of the Joint Committee.
Princess Helena of the United Kingdom, a member of the Council of the British Red Cross Society and of the Joint War Committee of the British Red Cross Society and the Order of Saint John in England, was awarded a GBE in the 1918 Birthday Honours, as were Robert Windsor-Clive, 1st Earl of Plymouth Sub-Prior of the Order of St John of Jerusalem in England; Member of the Joint War Committee of the British Red Cross Society and the Order of St John of Jerusalem in England and William Edmund Garstin member of the Council of the British Red Cross Society and of the Joint War Committee of the British Red Cross Society and the Order of St John of Jerusalem in England; Member of the Voluntary Aid Detachment Advisory Committee and of the Voluntary Aid Detachment Selection Board.
Adeline Marie, Duchess of Bedford, Member of Joint War Committee received a GBE in the 1919 New Year Honours
In the 1922 New Year Honours the Right Honourable Evelyn Cecil, MP, Secretary-General of the Order of St John of Jerusalem in England, 1915–21, Vice-Chairman Joint War Committee of the British Red Cross Society and Order of St John of Jerusalem received a GBE.
During the First World War relief services for affected soldiers in India was provided by a branch of the JWC. On 3 March 1920 a bill was introduced to the Indian Legislative Council by Sir Claude Hill (a member of the Viceroy's Executive Council who was also Chairman of the Joint War Committee in India) to constitute the Indian Red Cross Society, independent of the British Red Cross.
World War II
Reactivated after the declaration of war in 1939, the British Red Cross and St John reformed the Joint War Organisation, which again afforded the St John volunteers protection under the Red Cross emblem.
The system developed in World War I was adopted again with the organisation working in hospitals, care homes, nurseries, ambulance units, rest stations and elsewhere with much of the funding coming from the Duke of Gloucester's Red Cross and St John appeal, which raised over £54 million by 1946.
The JWO was made the lead organization for POW parcels, issued as a British Red Cross & Order of St John War Organisation parcels but colloquially known as Red Cross parcels which were organized for prisoners of war,:103 now operating under the provisions of the third Geneva convention of 1929, which laid out strict rules for the treatment of PoWs. The JWO sent standard food parcels, invalid food parcels, medical supplies, educational books and recreational materials worldwide. During this conflict, over 20 million standard food parcels were sent out using the International Red Cross distribution system.
With the bulk of Europe occupied by Axis forces early in the war, finding a route to deliver parcels was a problem, for which the JWO and the War Office received criticism until it was solved in spring 1941 when International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) ships received permission to transport parcels from Lisbon to the South of France, for onward transport to Geneva and subsequent distribution to POW's.:104
The only part of the British Isles occupied by Germany, the Channel Islands, were helped in the winter of 1944/5 and avoided starvation with food parcels, flour, grain and coal brought by the ICRC ship SS Vega to the local JWO's who had operated throughout the war in occupied Guernsey and Jersey.
Sir Arthur Stanley had been Chairman of the Joint War Committee in 1939.
Amongst personnel acknowledged for their work during the war were:
- Field Marshall Philip Chetwode, 1st Baron Chetwode chairman of the JWC during World War II.:103
- Countess Limerick Angela Pery, Deputy Chairman, was made a CBE in 1942 and a DBE in 1946.
- John Montague Eddy, Esq., Deputy Chairman, Prisoners of War Department, JWO was awarded a C.B.E. in the 1944 New Year Honours
- Doris Beale From June 1944, Deputy Matron-in-Chief of the Joint War Organisation of the Red Cross and St John.
- Colonel Sir Jamshedji Nasarvanji Duggan, CIE, OBE, DO, JP, Chairman, Bombay Provincial Joint War Committee of the Indian Red Cross Society and St John Ambulance Association, Bombay was awarded a K.B.E. in the 1945 Birthday Honours
- Anne Margaret Bryans, Commissioner, Joint War Organisation of the British Red Cross Society and Order of St John, Middle East who received a C.B.E. also in the 1945 Birthday Honours
The work of the JWO continued after 1945 with work concentrated on helping the wounded, returning soldiers and displaced persons.
Following the liberation of Europe in 1945, Doris Zinkeisen was commissioned by the War Artists Advisory Committee as a war artist for the North West Europe Commission of the JWO.
The JWC and JWO were disbanded in 1947. The JWC records for 1939–47 have been preserved.
- "General overview of Joint War Committee activities during the First World War" (PDF). British Red Cross. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 October 2015. Retrieved 4 January 2017.
- Meyer, Jessica (2015). "Neutral Caregivers or Military Support? The British Red Cross, the Friends' Ambulance Unit, and the Problems of Voluntary Medical Aid in Wartime". War & Society. 34 (2): 105–120. doi:10.1179/0729247314Z.00000000050. PMC 4497454. PMID 26213442.
- "Volunteering during the First World War" (PDF). British Red Cross.
- "First World War nurse Edith Munro has been recognised for her bravery at a special commemoration service in East London". RCN.
- "Pursuit of an 'Unparalleled Opportunity'".
- Wylie, Neville (2010). Barbed Wire Diplomacy: Britain, Germany, and the Politics of Prisoners of War 1939–1945. OUP Oxford. ISBN 978-0199547593.
- A. M. Bryans, 'Pery , Angela Olivia, countess of Limerick (1897–1981)', rev. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2008 accessed 4 Feb 2017
- "Museum and Archives". BBC. 22 November 2005.
- Crossland, James, Britain and the International Committee of the Red Cross, 1939–1945, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, ISBN 9781137399571
- Oliver, Dame Beryl, The British Red Cross in Action, Faber & Faber, 1966
- H.M.S.O., Reports by the Joint War Committee and the Joint War Finance Committee of the British Red Cross Society and the Order of St. John of Jerusalem in England on voluntary aid rendered to the sick and wounded at home and abroad and to British prisoners of war, 1914–1919: with appendices., 1921