Chapter I – III


Let me begin with a brief account of the early history of the family Dyckhoff. It is thought that the somewhat unusual name was originally Scandinavian, but as early as 1600 there are records of Dyckhoffs in Aververden, near Glandorf, in Westphalia. Owing to the wholesale destruction of church registers during the Thirty Years’ War, these records are incomplete and, although there are references to a Rentmeister Gerhard Hermann Dyckhoff, who married in Tatenhausen in 1600, and to a “Riddemester” Dyckhoff, who died in Glandorf in 1648, the earliest Dyckhoff of whom more is known, was Gerhard Dyckhoff (Stammvater), Prafectus in Glandorf, who died in 1664. His brother, Johann, presented a stained glass window to the Uberwasser Church in Munster, a donation which was commemorated by a small glass pane in his own house, bearing the date 1673. This latter windowpane, after much ill-use, eventually found its way to my father’s house in Manchester.

Gerhard Heinrich, Procurator and Doctor of Laws, the eldest son of the Prafectus, died in Osnabruck in 1738, and from this time onward, for many generations, the family fortunes were always closely associated with Osnabruck and with the Law.

In 1794, my great-grandfather, Karl Victor Heinrich Dyckhoff, youngest son of a family of twelve, was born in Osnabruck. Like his grandfather, Peter Franz, and father, Anton Ferdinand, before him he held the position of Kanzlist …a sort of chancery clerkship …to the Law Courst of Osnabruck. At this time the Dyckhoffs seem to have flourished both socially and financially. The boys of Karl’s generation were well-educated and held positions of some importance in the town; whilst the girls all married well, several into the local nobility, and such names as v. Sonnenberg, v. Bork and v. Morsey-Picard are at this time found in the family tree. Karl’s second sister, Marianne, married Baron August v. Morsey-Picard, Herr auf Osthoff, his youngest sister, Josephine, later marrying Baron Victor Ferdinand v. Morsey-Picard, born at the Krebsburg and who died on the 12th February 1864. On this very day, my father was born in Antwerp and it will be by no mere coincidence that he bears the names of his great-uncle, Carl “Victor Ferdinand”. The eldest sister of my great-grandfather, Maria Franziska Amalia, married a Captain Burcau, of the Napoleonic Army.

Karl Victor, himself, also fought at Waterloo, under Blucher and Wellington, as an officer in the Hanoverian forces. He married twice, his first wife being a nee Hartmann, of Hilter, by whom he had a daughter and a son. By his second wife, Jenny Wieman, he had nine children one girl and eight sons. His seventh son, Ernst, was the godson of the King of Hanover, a privilege accorded to every seventh son of an officer.

Jenny Wieman, daughter of Mathias Wieman, Doctor of Laws, Senator and Director of Police, was born in a delightful, gabled house overlooking the Marienkirche and next door to the house of the famous Osnabruck statesman and philosopher, Justus Tloser. On the death of Mathias, the house, which had been in the Wieman family since the seventeenth century passed, through Jenny, into the Dyckhoff family She and her husband, Karl Victor, my father’s grandparents, lived there until about 1872, and my father spent numerous pleasant visits there, from his home in Antwerp. It was. however, not to a busy household, full of jovial uncles and aunts, that he came of the family of twelve, only Karl had remained in Osnabruck. The many boys, all merchants of various description, were scattered in every direction; two were in North America, one in Frankfurt, and three in Belgium. Ernst, the seventh son, was in Hamburg, married to Emilie Scheydt, of Kettwig, sister of the well-known Admiral Scheydt. Franziska, the eldest girl, had died at the age of twenty-one, of a strange malady, probably appendicitis, but in those days diagnosed as a “swallowed plum-stone”.

Gustav, the eldest son, sought and made his fortune in Belgium. First, he went to Charleroi, then to Antwerp, where he started his own business for the export of “Articles d’Industrie Belge” splendid premises on the Rue des Princes, one of the finest streets of Antwerp. Here he must have flourished, for a few years later, he sent for his younger step-brother, Otto, to help him. On Gustav’s untimely death in 1857, at the age of twenty-eight, Adolf, my grand-father, went to join Otto, and the two brothers worked in harmonious partnership for nearly twenty years.


Antwerp, at the time of Leopold, the Wise, was a prosperous city, and Otto and Adolf Dyckhoff were by no means the only Germans who had come to seek their livelihood in the Flemish town. In 1863, the Dutch right of levying navigation dues on the Scheldt had been redeemed and soon the seaport was once again as flourishing as it had been in the seventeenth century. This proved a great advantage to the Germans, who, having no western port of their own, made full use of this concession. The Dyckhoff business slowly veered round to the import of raw materials (including such things as hide and saltpetre) from North and South America.

Otto and Adolf soon found many German friends, became members of the “Liedertafel” (the German club), and presently both married German wives. Adolf, although the younger, married first. His bride, Florentine Thussing, came of a well-to-do Munster family, her father owning a distillery, which was at the back of their dwelling-house in the Ludgeristrasse. He was President of the Chamber of Commerce and held various important offices, but unfortunately ruined his career by running away with an actress. An exceptionally handsome man, he handed on, in some measure, his good looks and worldly goods to his four daughters, who all married well in spite of the skeleton in the family cupboard. Anna and Sophie married two Wieman brothers, Franz and Carl Philip, cousins of Adolf Dyckhoff, so the three families were doubly connected. Franz and Carl Philip had inherited the tannery and property in the Susterstrasse from their father, Franz Arnold, and for many years the two families lived in the charming old house, in which my father’s sisters now live.

The wedding of Florentine and Adolf Dyckhoff took place in Osnabruck, no doubt because the home in Munster was already broken up, and, after a short honeymoon, they settled down to a happy married life in the Rue de la Come, in Antwerp. In 1864, Carl Victor Ferdinand, my father, was born; a year later, his brother, Otto, and then a little sister, Agnes. About this time, Otto Dyckhoff also brought a German bride back to Antwerp, after a visit to his native town, Anna Hartmann, of Hilter, near Osnabruck, and in a few years’ time there were three little playmates for Carl’s younger brothers and sisters. Adolf removed several times in Antwerp, no doubt to provide adequate accommodation for his ever-increasing family. First, to the Rue d’Herentals, then to the Rue Simon, and it was here that they lived the longest. It was a typically Belgian house, narrow, but high, with two large rooms downstairs, connected by the “portes brisees” so customary in the Pays Bas, and with a veranda overlooking the long, narrow garden in which the children played with their pet lamb, amongst the fruit-trees and the wild hydrangeas.

After some years, this house also proved too small, and Adolf and Florentine removed to the Avenue Isabelle, with their six children. This was a fine, patrician house, with a “porte cochere”, and splendid large rooms, and here they led a comfortable life, with plenty of servants and sufficient means for the education of their family. Florentine, strikingly beautiful, with her aquiline nose, clear blue eyes and superb carriage, must have looked a picture in her fine bonnets and crinolines.

The large garden was a Paradise for the children; every conceivable kind of fruit was trained against the walls, bergamotte pears, morelle cherries, hazel-nuts and medlar-trees, and there were even dwarf espalier pears, no more than eighteen inches high, bordering one of the rose-beds. My father, who at this time attended a Flemish school, caused incredulous merriment amongst his school-fellows, by proudly describing the “blauwe gras” in the garden of his new home. This grass, which bordered the flower-beds, must in reality have had a faint bluish tinge. Cypress trees and white statues added to the quiet dignity of this formal, but attractive, garden. At the far end there were swings and a see-saw for the children and their own flower-beds, and a pigeon-house. Here, also, was a large summer-house, beneath which were wine cellars, flooded sometimes in winter, and on these occasions, my father and his brother, Otto, delighted to “boat” on old, wooden planks.

In this house, Anna Maria Agnes was born, completing the family of seven; actually there had been nine children, but two died in infancy. Anna was a quaint child, with rather a pixy-like face and dark hair and did not greatly resemble her brothers and sisters, who were mainly sandy-haired, with regular features and blue eyes. Agnes, the eldest girl and the beauty of the family, was, however, dark a sweet quiet girl of saintly expression and disposition. Ida, also, was very good-looking, with piercing blue eyes and aristocratic features.

These children must have spoken a strange medley of languages; at school they were taught both French and Flemish, but at home spoke German with their parents, and it is little wonder that foreign tongues presented no difficulty to my father later in life. At this time my father used to keep silk-worms, feeding them on mulberry leaves from his uncle Otto’s garden, watching their silk-making process with great interest, but little dreaming of his own future associations with spinning and weaving.

Here, then, in Antwerp, in the 1870s, the two Dyckhoff families led happy and peaceful lives, but sorrow and tragedy lay in wait, to drive first the younger brother, then the elder, back at last, to their Fatherland. In 1876, illness assailed Adolf, my grandfather, and he retired from the business, and returned to Germany, with his family, there to die two years later, at the age of forty, in the town where he was born.

Otto, in his turn, was forced to flee, although almost forty years later, when in 1914 the Great War broke out and he had to leave at a moment’s notice, with his wife, leaving all his worldly possessions behind him. Fortunately, neither his daughter, Klara, nor his two sons were dependent on their father’s business. Adolf, the younger son, was earning a satisfactory livelihood in Spain, and Gustav in France. The latter, who owned a chateau near Paris, indeed prospered to such an extent that he had, at one time, as many as sixty-six steamers on the Channel, bringing coal from England to France. He became an influential figure during the Great war, was offered a decoration for his services, which he declined on account of his German ancestry.

Klara had for many years acted as secretary-housekeeper to her cousin Dr. v. Wede, in Bissendorf, and it was here that Otto and his wife found refuge. In the old house, with its massive walls and traces of a moat in the garden, he lived to a grand old age and was the only brother of my grandfather whom I ever met.

And so the of the Dyckhoff family left Antwerp, leaving but little mark of fifty years of hard work behind them, but taking with them the memory of a happy youth, to steel them against the lean years that were to come …


In 1876, then, my grandparents returned to Osnabruck, and although they were possibly sad to leave the gaieties of the fashionable Belgian town behind them, they were also, no doubt, quite glad to find themselves once more amongst their own relatives and countrymen. For the children the wrench probably proved the greater; they were plunged into a totally new life, and for my father, at any rate, it meant the end of a carefree childhood and the first sense of responsibility towards his family, which remained with him all the days of his life.

In Osnabruck, as in Antwerp, they moved from house to house. For a time they lived in the Arndtstrasse, in a house which was an exact copy of their last house in Antwerp and which had been built for a cousin of my grandfather. Finally, they moved to the Susterstrasse, to the house in which my grandmother’s two sisters had lived, with their husbands, the two Wieman brothers. Sophia and Franz Wieman still lived on the ground floor, but Anna and Carl Philip Wieman had recently moved to a nearby house, leaving the first floor vacant, and it was here that the Dyckhoffs settled, to remain there for the rest of their lives.

This house has now been in the Wieman family for more than a century, my father merely renting it from his cousin, Bernard, and it forms part of the entailed property founded by Carl Philip Wieman. Dating from the seventeenth century and belonging for a time to the v. Moltke family, it is a picturesque T-shaped building, with stables and gate-house enclosing the other two sides of the cobbled courtyard. The architecture of the house is attributed to the designer of the Prince Bishop’s Palace in Osnabruck, but the gate-house probably dates back to the sixteenth century, although it bears the date, 1697, imposed later with the v. Moltke arms. Originally a nunnery, as the name of the street suggests, the house possesses an obscure little room, tucked away on the landing of a hidden staircase, which I always supposed to be a priest’s hiding-hole. Perhaps there is some romantic story attached to it, for under the floor-boards, pistols, hundreds of years old, were once discovered.

Here, then, the three Thussing sisters lived in close proximity to one another and, bound by bonds of affection and the double relationship, shared each other’s joys and woes. In the gardens, which adjoined each other, though the houses were in different streets, the various cousins played grand games together. Boys predominated in the two Wieman families; “Tante Sophia Unten”, as she was always called, had three sons, Otto, Paul and Ferdinand, whilst Carl Philip and Anna had four, Ernst, Rudolf, Carl and Bernard and a handful they must have been!

Carl Dyckhoff, however, did not have a great deal of time to play with his numerous young cousins. Fourteen years of age at the time of his father’s death, in 1878, he speedily finished his schooling at the Handelschule, an establishment attended by pupils from all over Europe, and as a young boy of sixteen set out for Nijmegen. Here he was apprenticed to the firm of Bahimann and, although it was a hard school., he developed a great affection for Holland and the friendly Dutch peoples. Together with the other apprentices, all young fellows like himself, he was housed above the business, slept in a dormitory and was looked after by a benevolent housekeeper, a Fraulein v. Lan¢erke. Strange as this life must have seemed to him at first, indeed, irksome at times, with its many restrictions regarding early bedtime and limited outings, yet he soon felt at home. His Flemish stood him in good stead, and he soon found a congenial companion, Arnold Bartel, who remained one of his life-long friends. The remuneration, at first a mere nominal pittance, with tobacco rations, food and lodging, gradually increased, and towards the end of his five years in Nijmegen, he was able to send home sums of money.

In 1885 he returned home after five long years’ absence, only to leave again shortly for England, there to become an employee in the firm of Hiltermann’s in Manchester, and with them he remained for over twenty years.

When he travelled to South America for the firm, he became a naturalized British subject, under somewhat amusing circumstances. In spite of his many travels, this was the first occasion on which he required a passport. When making the application, for a British one, he was asked to state his original nationality, and he claimed that he had none. This was an actual fact; although born in Belgium, he was not a Belgian, on account of his German parentage; nor, however, was he German, for during his father’s sojourn in Belgium, all Hanoverians were annexed by Prussia, but this, of course did not apply to Hanoverians living abroad. The passport officer, determined to fill out the forms in the customary manner, insisted on terming my father a subject of Belgium, instead of a native of that country. Later, my father realised that he could have claimed British citizenship through his grandfather and father, both actually Hanoverian subjects of the King of England.