Casdagli Sampler

The Casdagli Sampler, 1941. The Casdagli Sampler, 1941.

The Casdagli sampler is a form of trench art worked in 1941 by a British army officer, Major Alexis Casdagli. He was captured and imprisoned by the German forces early in the Second World War (1939-1945). After six months in a German Prisoner of War (POW) camp, Casdagli was given some embroidery canvas.

In order to pass the time, he ‘borrowed’ some red and blue thread from a disintegrating pullover belonging to a Greek general, and began working a sampler in cross stitch. The central field was a simple inscription stating: “This work was done by Major A. J. Casdagli no. 3311 while in captivity at Dossel-Warburg Germany December 1941.” The text was framed by swastikas (Germany), eagles (USA), lions (Britain) and the hammer and sickle (Soviet Union). Around the outer edge, Casdagli stitched a border of irregular dots and dashes. Over the next four years his sampler was seen in various POW camps in Germany. It would appear that his captors never deciphered the messages worked in Morse code: “God Save the King” and “Fuck Hitler.”

During his captivity, Casdagli ran a needlework school for other officers in the POW camps. He later said that the Red Cross saved his life with food parcels and letters, but his embroidery saved his sanity: “If you sit down and stitch you can forget about other things, and it’s very calming.” This and other samplers worked by Major Casdagli and his son, Antony Casdagli (a naval officer) are kept by the Casdagli family.


Digital source of illustration (retrieved 6th July 2016).


Last modified on Wednesday, 10 May 2017 16:02