Red Cross parcels and the joys of cross-stitching kept Major Alexis Casdagli sane during his time as a POW in the Second World War. After 6 months in a Nazi Stalag Luft, Casdagli was given a card by a fellow POW, together some thread from an old cardigan, and he started his now famous needlecraft.
Casdagli spent long hours working on his cross-stitching and between 1941 and 1945, he created a series of subversive samplers, in which Casdagli had hidden, around the Swastikas and Hammer & Sickles, a series of messages in Morse Code, which read:
“God Save The King”
According to his son, Casdagli thought of the subversive needlecraft as part of his duty to get back at his captors:
“It used to give him pleasure when the Germans were doing their rounds,” says his son, Tony, of his father’s rebellious stitching. It also stopped him going mad. “He would say after the war that the Red Cross saved his life but his embroidery saved his sanity,” says Tony. “If you sit down and stitch you can forget about other things, and it’s very calming.”
Casdagli also sent his then 11-year-old son cross-stitched letters through the mail.
“It is 1,581 days since I saw you last but it will not be long now. Do you remember when I fell down the well? Look after Mummy till I get home again.”
Major Alexis Casdagli died in 1990, but his cross-stitching has been featured in different museum and gallery exhibitions, as a fine example of grit and determination under pressure.
With thanks to Sig Waller