During the First World War the Italian Red Cross mobilised to an extent never seen before to meet the needs of a totally new type of war, however for some time the association had already been engaged in developing different kinds of tasks for peace time. The present document illustrates the activities carried out by the Italian Red Cross between 1915 and 1918 and gives account of the positive impact of its endeavour. However there were several difficulties and setbacks not only for the Italian Red Cross but also for the Military Health Service, in fact the then prime minister Giolitti prompted in 1920 a parliamentary enquiry on war expenses. Deputies of the opposition demanded that the enquiry be extended also to the Red Cross, that, besides the thousands of members adhering to its humanitarian goals, which were represented by its flag, received also the active support of writers, intellectuals and painters who dedicated to it some of their works. Beyond the aura of respect and sacredness that it inspired, supporters attached to it different connotations, while the governments that were in office in those years charged it with varied tasks and missions.
Keywords: First World War, Italian Red Cross, International Committee of the Red Cross, assistance to wounded people and to prisoners of war, parliamentary commission, military health service