My uncle Alexis, a Major in the royal Army Ordnance Corps, was held captive in four different POW camps in Germany between 1941 and 1945.
He began sewing six months into his time at Dossel-Warbung, using threads pulled from the jumper of a fellow inmate, a Cretan army General. His captors were so impressed by his needlework they even put it on display in the camp and had him giving classes for his fellow officers. Yet not one of them spotted the messages in Morse code which he stitched into his designs – generally “God Save the King” and “Fxxx Hitler”.
One of his rebellious works featured a Union Flag. Over it he stitched a flap with DO NOT OPEN sewn on it, as showing the flag was banned in Nazi Germany. Each week the same guard would open the flap and say “This is illegal” whereupon Alexis would reply “you’re showing it, I’m not!”
Since the war the subversive samplers have been on display in the Victoria and Albert museum in London as a testament to a soldier who never lost his fighting spirit.
In later life he would say that the Red Cross saved his life, but his sewing saved his sanity. He continued to sew until his death in 1990 aged ninety.