Blue Cross

In heraldry, blue is known as Azure and represents peace and serenity.

If you are in North America you may be familiar with the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA), a federation of several dozen health insurance companies. (See Puzzle #25)

This page introduces a different Blue Cross; the emblem of 'blue-rinse brigade' in the UK and Ireland

The Blue Cross

The Blue Cross

The Blue Cross UK animal welfare charity is linked to a similar charity in Ireland, the Irish Blue Cross. More than just rescuing stray-dogs, both Blue Cross societies spend a lot of effort on reminding people of the benefits animals can bring.

Stinky glue

Blue Cross UK started out in Victorian times looking after London's main form of transport – horses. Although relatively expensive to buy and maintain, the beasts of burden were expendable. When a horse didn't respond to kicking and whipping, it would be dragged off to the knacker's yard and made into furniture glue.

The brutality and deplorable conditions stirred the hearts of the Blue Cross people. One can imagine these lower middle-class ladies with blue-rinse hair, married to professional husbands, well-off and no need to work. They could have chosen any genteel pastime, but these gallant ladies chose to roll up their sleeves and muck in for a worthy cause.

They undoubtedly also enjoyed the committee meetings, taking turns to be elected the chairlady, branch secretaries and bazaars. Tea with the vicar on Thursday afternoon, then armed with their parasols they would seek out the rascals who were being cruel to horses.

And what happened? Well, within a few years the horses disappeared.

They were replaced by motorised cars, taxis, lorries, more cars, air pollution, noise pollution and traffic jams. Horse glue also disappeared, along with its unbearable stench.

But I suppose we cannot credit the Blue Cross ladies for that.

Stinky bombs

1914 saw the start of World War I and also the arrival of so-called blue cross gas – highly explosive artillery gas shells that contained asphyxiants such as diphenylchlorarsine, diphenylcyonoarsine or ethyldichloroarsine. Pretty big words to read when you're on the battle field, so things were simplified by marking the shells with a blue cross.

They could then be differentiated from the white cross, green cross and the yellow cross gas shells, used initially by the Germans and later by the French and British. Horses were an important resource for the British Army and its soldiers had more important things on their minds than being nice to Neddy. So once more, our gallant ladies came to the rescue.

But they were not only looking for wrongs to put right; they were also keen to acknowledge saints and heroes, especially when the saints and heroes had four legs.

One recipient of the Blue Cross Medal In April 1941 was Juliana, a Great Dane, who reportedly cocked a hind leg to urinate on an incendiary device that smashed through the house roof during the Blitz, extinguished the flames and saved the house from burning down.

Yes, Juliana was female. Being less territorial than males, bitches don't usually cock their legs to pee. And yes, even a small 2 kg incendiary bomblet dropped by the Luftwaffe would ignite at an extremely high temperature and start a raging fire, easily roasting any dog in the vicinity, even a Great Dane with a full bladder (of less than two litres). But these indelicacies were unlikely to have entered into the conversation of our refined Blue Rinses.

With more angels and demons of war to look after, the charity grew.

Today, whilst we might have progressed in terms of transportation, and progressed in our efficiency in killing our fellow humans, we haven't progressed much in terms of being kind to animals. So there's still the need for the likes of Blue Cross.

Not only dealing with cruelty to animals, but helping people on low incomes who cannot afford necessary veterinary care for their four-legged companions. And last but not least, reminding people of the benefits enjoyed by the companionship between animals and people.

And the committee meetings continue.

For more information about Blue Cross, visit their website:

Note that they are an animal charity and have no connection at all with the International Blue Cross and Blue Crescent Movement – which is not a charity.


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