Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Needling Hitler

I am an avid Guardian reader, but I missed last Saturday's edition and would have been totally ignorant of this excellent item had it not been for Denise in the USA who kindly told me about and sent me the link. Above you can see Tony Casdagli holding a sampler stitched by his father, Major Alexis Casdagli, some six months into his internment as a prisoner of war by the Germans. He had been given a piece of canvas by a fellow inmate. Pinching red and blue thread from a disintegrating pullover belonging to an elderly Cretan general, Casdagli passed the long hours in captivity by painstakingly creating a sampler in cross-stitch. Around decorative swastikas and a banal inscription saying he completed his work in December 1941, the British officer stitched a border of irregular dots and dashes. Over the next four years his work was displayed at the four camps in Germany where he was imprisoned, and his Nazi captors never once deciphered the messages threaded in Morse code: "God Save the King" and "F**k Hitler". The Major was already adept with a needle and thread and entered into his embroidery with characteristic attention to detail and enthusiasm. He ran a needlework school for 40 officers and much of his work illustrated his thoughts and feelings which undoubtedly was a major source of his strength in surviving his four years as a POW. He was to say that the Red Cross saved his life and his needlework preserved his sanity. His son, Tony Casdagli, was born in 1932, joined the Royal Navy as a cadet at the age of 13 retiring in 1984 as a Captain. He also is a long term needleworker.You can read the full article by clicking here.
And here you can see the needling sampler itself. This image is the front cover of an account of Major Casdagli's time as a Prisoner-of-War in Germany 1941-1945, taken from his diary and illustrated with examples of his embroideries. The book is availalbe from Lulu Marketplace for around £15 - click here for more information. This piece is also on display in The Power of Making exhibition at the V&A Museum, London running from September 2011 - January 2012.


  1. Absolutely amazing that I can read about my interests--WW II Europe and embroidery-- in the same article! Embroidery is so meditative--I have to stitch some every day.

    Does the book contain examples from the other 40 officers?

  2. Wonderful story. Thank you for telling us about it.