Richard Oswald Siebenhüner



Richard Oswald Siebenhüner was born on 7th November 1872 in Reistedt, Germany. He moved to London in 1893 and married Otilia Biederman (nee Rolfs). In 1910 he and Otilia moved from London to Leeds. Oswald as he was known to most people, became a well-known and respected hairdresser where he worked on the Headrow. Many of his customers were wealthy and some were quite famous.

In 1915 he was arrested without warning and taken to Leeds Town Hall and then later to Lofthouse Park internment camp near Wakefield. His scissors and razors were taken from him, so he was unable to practice his trade. His wife Otilia visited him regularly whilst he was there but after a short while he was transferred to Knockaloe Camp on the Isle of Man where he was to remain until after the war ended.

Initially conditions were much worse at Knockaloe than they had been at Lofthouse Park but Oswald put himself forward for work in the hospital wing. After a while, with help from the Quakers, conditions in the camp improved. Over the period of time he was there, Oswald gained a lot of respect from the other internees and enlisted their help to make gifts for his wife and 6 children. Among the gifts were a pair of picture frames for his wife, a jewellery box for each of his daughters and a ship in a bottle for his son George. It should be noted that his son George signed up for the British army and was shot on 3 different occasions whilst facing combat during World War 1.

Due to the large numbers of internees that needed to be released, Oswald had to wait nearly 11 months after the war had ended before leaving Knockaloe but was finally released on the 11th September 1919, when he returned to his family in Leeds. Oswald lived a long and happy life and died aged 87 on the 13th August 1960 in St James's Hospital in Leeds.

Much of the research into the life of Richard Oswald Siebenhüner was done by John Oswald Walling. He was the son of Edith Florence Siebenhüner who was Oswald's second daughter.

Written by his Great Grandsons, John Oswald and Richard Oswald. Photograph from the family collection.  

Oswald’s hairdressing tongs, and his gifts to his wife and daughters made at Knockaloe, have been kindly donated to the Charity by the family, and are proudly on display at the Visitors Centre.