Showing the first Red Cross nurses from 1897

The desire to help – the strength to act

The Norwegian Red Cross was one of the first national societies in the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

It was founded as early as 1865 as the 'Society for the Care of the Sick and Wounded in the Battlefield and for the Support of the Wounded and the Families of those Killed'.

The Norwegian Red Cross was founded in 1865. Norway's delegates to an international conference in Berlin had previously met Henry Dunant in September 1863, just before the International Committee of the Red Cross was founded, and had become very interested in his idea for a neutral medical corps. In 1865, the recommendation to establish such a relief organisation was approved by the King in Stockholm.

Founders of the Norwegian Red Cross shown in an old format with oval shapet blavk and white portraits.
Founders of the Norwegian Red Cross; Berg, Haffner, Heiberg, Stang, Kildal, Valstad, Wergeland.

Modest beginnings

For its first twenty years, the Norwegian Red Cross limited its activities to raising money. The money was to be used in the event of war and was administered by the authorities. In 1891, it decided to carry out peacetime activities as well, which led to the release of these funds.

Nurse training became an important part of the Red Cross's disaster preparedness work. It was one of the Red Cross's main activities from the day the first class of Red Cross nurses graduated in 1896 until the university college system took over nurse training in 1973.

Sofie de Bornemann
Sophie de Bornemann ca. 1895. Miss Bornemann's home for Red Cross nurses marks the start of the Red Cross's nurse training in Norway.

Voluntary efforts

The Red Cross's activities in Norway were gathered under the umbrella of a national organisation in 1915 and it was at this time the Red Cross started organising the voluntary activities for which it is known. The Red Cross Search and Rescue Corps, which became a specialist section in 1932, has attracted more volunteers to the Red Cross than any other department.

Red Cross Youth was founded as early as 1916. In 2002, this specialist section was replaced by a new Red Cross Youth, a youth organisation that is more independent in relation to the national society and which runs its own projects.
In 1931, Heddy Astrup founded the organisation 'Oslo Ladies' Children’s Relief for Northern Norway'.  Twenty years later, Children’s Relief became its own specialist section.

The Norwegian Red Cross Visitor Service was established in 1949. It was modelled on its US sister service. Initially, the volunteers visited the chronically ill in hospital, but over time the service expanded to include other types of institutions and home visits as well. The Prison Visitor Service was established in the 1960s as a special unit within the Visitor Service that visits prison inmates.

In times of war

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) began asking national societies to support projects early on. In 1870, the Norwegian Red Cross raised money for victims of the Franco-German War. This was the first time it had raised money for an international purpose. The First World War (1914-1918) was a turning point in the Red Cross's work. With hundreds of thousands of people either missing or prisoners of war, tracing people and visiting prisoners became key parts of the Red Cross's work.

In the Second World War, Red Cross medical personnel fulfilled the purpose for which the Movement was founded: to treat those wounded in war. Red Cross volunteers visited prisoners of war and helped them stay in touch with their families. They also distributed food and clothing to the civilian population. Because of its efforts during the war, the Red Cross holds a special place in the hearts of many Norwegians.

Across all borders

The Red Cross has a long tradition of sending delegations into international conflict zones. A special international office was set up in 1969. A number of development projects commenced at the same time. These efforts coincided with the establishment of the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) in 1968, which was tasked with allocating money for humanitarian foreign aid. Today, the Red Cross always has delegations deployed on international operations. They primarily work within health, logistics, organisational development and information.

The efforts of the Norwegian Red Cross have evolved from helping soldiers to helping anyone in need. The range of its activities shows that it is capable of renewing itself and helping those in need at any time.

In times of peace

In August 2009, the Norwegian Red Cross was recognised by the King in Council for its role as a provider of support in times of peace as well.


Sunday, January 1, 1865

The beginning

The Norwegian Red Cross starts life as the 'Society for the Care of the Sick and Wounded in the Battlefield and for the Support of the Wounded and the Families of those Killed'

Monday, January 1, 1894

Branch started

The Vestlandske branch is started in Bergen

Tuesday, January 1, 1895

Start Nurse training

Miss Bornemann's home for Red Cross nurses marks the start of the Red Cross's nurse training in Norway

Tuesday, January 1, 1907


The Red Cross is authorised by the Royal Ministry of Defence as a voluntary relief agency for army medical services in case of war

Monday, January 1, 1912

Balkan ambulance

The Balkan ambulance: first delegations in the field

Monday, January 1, 1917

First Youth branch

Daviken's local branch establish the first Red Cross Youth branch

Thursday, January 1, 1931

Childrens relief

Oslo Ladies' Children’s Relief for Northern Norway' is founded, children's relief activities begin

Friday, January 1, 1932

First rescue corps

Fredrikstad's local branch establishes the first search and rescue corps