Egypt was a welcome relief for men of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) arriving there after the tedious sea voyage from Australia or the battlefields of Gallipoli in 1915. Here they could investigate new and exotic surroundings. The influx of troops with money to spend in the Egyptian ports also meant that the local vendors found a ready market for their wares. Souvenirs were in high demand, and postcards, jewellery, fake antiquities and embroidery pieces were commonly offered.
When Private Cyril ‘Charlie’ Clifford Morris of the 25th Battalion landed in Egypt in 1915 he purchased a decorative cloth, and the message he chose – ‘With best love from Cyril to All’ – indicates that it was a greeting to family at home. These eye-catching, colourful embroidered cloths, table runners and cushion covers were popular with the troops. Being light and easily folded, they could be carried in a kit bag or were cheap to post home. The embroidery was machine-chain-stitched in various bright colours on cotton sateen, which was at times sold as ‘silk’ to attract a higher price. Many of the embroideries bear the phrase ‘Souvenir of Egypt’ and a date. The Sphinx, pyramids, camels and palm trees were often sewn alongside the Rising Sun badge and flags of the Allied nations.
Charlie Morris landed at Gallipoli on 30 August 1915, and three months later he suffered a severe bullet wound and compound fracture of his upper right arm. Evacuated to Malta for treatment, he rejoined his unit in Egypt in March 1916. He was transferred to the 6th Machine Gun Battalion in February 1917 and later the 2nd Machine Gun Battalion. While in action on the Somme, he was erroneously reported wounded a second time but he did spend considerable periods in hospital due to illness. He returned to Australia in August 1919 for discharge.
After the war, Charlie Morris moved to Griffith to work on the rail line between Leeton and Griffith, New South Wales. A Returned Soldiers’ Settlement for fruit production was being established in the area. Charlie married Esther Diffey at Albury in 1922 and took up Farm 1898 the following year. The couple set about building a rudimentary home, and together they fenced and cleared the land which they planted with figs and sultana grapes.
Service record of Cyril Clifford Morris, 469:
The ‘Souvenir of Egypt’ and the ‘Souvenir of Palestine’: