Photo: Captur8 Photography Egyptian souvenir banner WWI Griebel 10th North Otago Rifles Christmas 1915 New Zealand

Christmas Greetings from Egypt

This cloth is a souvenir of Egypt from World War One. A soldier sent it back to New Zealand as a Christmas present 99 years ago.

I had to do some research to discover who might have sent and received this war time gift. The North Otago Museum acquired this banner in 1995 in exchange for some other items with a military connection. There was no record of the item’s history, just the name Mrs R Griebel and the insignia of the 10th (North Otago Rifles) Regiment.

Embroidered cloths like this one were a popular souvenir during the First World War. We have several others in the Museum’s collection, though this one is the most striking. The fabric is a bright blue cotton sateen and it was obviously treasured as it looks almost brand new. Soldiers purchased these cloths at Egyptian bazaars. The Australian War Memorial has a great blog post with some more of the history behind these souvenirs.

A lot of items featured in our From Little Towns in a Far Land exhibition have required some genealogical research to find out more about the people connected with them. My research shows the likely sender was Jacob Andrew Griebel. Jacob’s military personnel file shows that he spent the Christmas of 1915 in Egypt. (Personnel files can be great sources of information. It also records that he had Faith, Hope and Charity tattooed on his left arm and a shamrock, rose and thistle on his right arm).

Jacob recorded his brother as his next of kin, Reuben Charles as his next of kin. The Mrs R. Griebel embroidered on the cloth is likely to have been Jacob’s sister-in-law, Emily.

Jacob served for 4 years and 110 days in total in Egypt, at Gallipoli and in Western Europe. He survived the war without serious physical injury or illness. Jacob died in 1952, aged 67 and is buried in Timaru Cemetery. His brother George was killed in action France in 1918. Interestingly his personnel file shows their father was born in Germany and their mother in Russia (though a family history website indicates this should read Prussia).

Does your family have any World War One souvenirs? What do you think the Griebel brothers’ parents thought about the war?

This blog is part of the From Little Towns in a Far Land series. Chloe Searle, Curator of Collections and Exhibitions at the North Otago Museum, shares some of the personal stories behind the Waitaki District's contributions to the First World War.

Chloe Searle