Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Greetings from Egypt 1916

This Christmas present was sent in 1916 all the way from Egypt during the First World War from Michael Dillon, ‘Mick’, who was serving in the Royal Engineers to his sister Henrietta Dillon ‘Hetty’, who lived at Queens Park in Bedford.
Christmas present sent from Micahel Dillon to his sister 'Hetty' in Bedford, 1916

The embroidered material was probably meant to be used as a decorative table centre piece. I expect the local traders in Egypt made a profit from machine stitching commissioned messages on souvenirs, like this one, for troops and servicemen away from their loved ones. Egypt was of crucial significance during the First World War, with the Suez Canal being a vital supply route as well as key to shipping troops to the Western Front.
At this time of year if we are lucky we are able to take a break from work and spend at least Christmas Day with family or friends. I chose this object because it reminds me of those who are not so fortunate, and have made a self-sacrificing choice to work over the Christmas break, perhaps away from their loved ones in order to serve others in whatever way.
Recently on the news there was a Christmas message sent by video from HMS Ocean posted on ‘You Tube’ of the crew singing along to Mariah Carey’s ‘All I want for Christmas’. This was also aired on the BBC News Embed video here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SDZcGz4vmJc. The ship and crew had been serving in Libya, but fortunately the service personnel were granted leave to return home before Christmas after filming this video and arrived a week or two ago back in England. I am a sucker for a happy ending at this time of year, and the video did make me smile.
I am in the process of trying to trace more information about Michael Dillon through his service records and census data online. We have one other embroidered souvenir, also we think bought by Michael, from Malta.

Malta was known as ‘The nurse of the Mediterranean’ during the First World War, with so many Military Hospitals situated on the island nursing wounded troops back to health and aiding their recuperation.
Florence May Dillon, Sister of Michael and Henrietta and seamstress for E P Rose and Co. Bedford.

We also have a charming photograph of Michael’s other sister (above), who perhaps received a similar gift to ‘Hetty’ in 1916, Florence May Dillon thought to be around 19 years old in this picture and was a seamstress for E P Rose. Michael also had one other brother called Harry, but unfortunately we know very little about him..
If anyone is related to the Dillon family of Bedford and Michael who served in the First World War and are able to fill in any gaps, I would be pleased to hear from them.
I’d just like to wish all our blog followers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May it be a prosperous and blogtastic 2012!

Lydia Saul

Keeper of Social History

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