1927, 21st August........Gunther Schmalisch born in Kostau, Oberschlesien (Upper Silesia), Germany (1), son of Ernst Schmalisch (2) and Anna. He is the youngest of three brothers after Kurt (3) and Walter (4).
1940 to 1944........Gunther become apprentice upholsterer.
1944, 1st September........Gunther is called up for military service, joining the Kriegsmarine (German Navy). He chooses the navy after advice from his brother Kurt who had suffered badly on the Russian Front.
1944 (late)........Gunther undergoes military training experiencing the first taste of war through allied bombing.
1945, April........Gunther finds himself on the Dutch coast at Delfzijl (5) as part of coastal defence (anti-aircraft battery).
1945, 8th May........Germany surrenders. Gunther is not captured but surrenders to Canadian troops.
1945, May to end of 1946........Gunther is interned as a POW near Brussels. Throughout 1946 he suffers appallingly through lack of food and neglect since provisions for POWs are frequently diverted to feed the local population. Eventually severely malnourished he makes it out of the camp with the aid of fellow POWs. Many prisoners are given a choice to return to Germany but as his birthplace is now occupied by the Russians he knows his chances of survival if he returns home are slim. There is another choice: He can move to the UK. He takes this option although he doesn’t know if he will fare any better.
Early 1947 (probably)........Gunther arrives in Hereford and is sent to a POW camp in Tupsley and is given food and care much to his relief.
1947/48........Tupsley camp is his home for the next two years. He is expected to work and his first introduction to Burghill, his future home, is at the Co-op fruit farm, Tillington. It is later in this spell that he meets Dorothy who had been working with the Land Army.
1949 early........By now the Tupsley camp had been closed and the POWs left to fend for themselves. During his work Gunther meets a Mr Fred Bunce of Lyde who is impressed with his work painting the farmhouse and offers him accommodation in an old war bunker.
1949........The meeting with Dorothy proves fruitful and together they scrimp and save. On their wedding day they have an old bus to call home, despite being draughty with no running water or mains power.
1950, 5th April........A son, Peter as born while the couple are living in Veldifer Lane (not far from Wyevale).
1951?........Gunther is living at Bellfields, Tillington.
1952?........Restrictions for POWs finding work are lifted. Gunther moves temporarily to South Wales where he makes better money as a builder’s labourer. He returns to Hereford finding similar work.
1953, 20th March........A daughter, Diane is born while Gunther and Dorothy are living at Bellfields. After the birth Dorothy barely survives when a blood clot passes through her heart causing permanent damage leaving Gunther to take the strain. By now there are living in a caravan.
1954........The family move to Crowmore Lane, Tillington where there are site services.
1958........Gunther and Dorothy have saved enough money to put a deposit on a house. The family moves to Holme Lacy Road.
1958 to circa 1963........Gunther continues to work hard and makes significant progress to pay down the mortgage.
1964 to 1965........Gunther goes into partnership with a jobbing builder. One of the jobs undertaken was work on the Hereford Squash Rackets Club after their move to Sollars Close.
1966........Gunther acquires a building plot in Burghill and somehow finds just enough money for construction. The family moves to Haymeadow Lane in Burghill.
1967-83........Gunther and Dorothy acquire more plots in Haymeadow Lane, then at various locations around rural Herefordshire. Gunther becomes a member of the House Builders Federation. Later work includes renovation work on cottages. On his final major work, conversion of the barn at New House Farm, Gunther sustains an injury to his elbow bringing an end to major building work. The following construction work has been identified.
Haymeadow Lane, Burghill (10 bungalows, map centre)
Staunton-on-Wye (1 bungalow)
Lyde Street, Hereford (pair of semi detached houses)
The Spinney, Burghill (1 bungalow)
Fir Tree Cottages (pair)
New House Farmhouse
New House barn construction
Spring Gardens, Hereford – terraced house
Newsagents, Grandstand Road (1985)
The Old Bakery, Cotterell Street - 2 flats
1984-1999........Gunther is no longer involved with speculative building but as daughter and then son go into retail businesses there is still plenty of opportunity for renovation work including renovation of the old bakery off Whitehorse Street. Gunther gets involved with stock replenishment for the businesses.
2000-2008........Gunther reties but later is a carer for Dorothy.
2008, 31st October........Dorothy dies and Gunther is alone.
2008-2016........Into his 80’s Gunther is still active, helping with renovation of a bungalow in Walnut Tree Avenue in 2010. Otherwise he spends his days looking after his garden.
2017........At the start of the year it is clear Gunther is not in the best of health, receiving treatment for a lung infection. When the infection reoccurs in the Spring he needs hospital treatment. At this point signs of lung fibrosis appear after tests but despite a reliance on oxygen Gunther is prepared for a return home. This however proves short-lived and by mid July he is back in hospital where it is declared that his illness will prove terminal. At the end of July he is transferred to Brockhampton Court Nursing Home where he spends his final days, passing away peacefully in the early hours of Sunday 17th September.
Hobbies/interests........Gunther has been active his whole life. He’s been a workaholic and an inspiration to his family. There has generally been no time for hobbies except for his gardening. However he always followed the German football team and oddly Welsh rugby. He also enjoys watching Formula 1. However he took no interest in computers or mobile phones, always believing the old ways were the best.
(1) Kostau (-1945), Kostow (1945-), a village of a few hundred inhabitants formerly part of the German Federation, now part of Opole Province, Poland. Map location: 51.1154356, 18.1343967.
(2) Ernst Schmalisch was born in 1897. He was a shoemaker by trade but during WW1 he served in the German Army as a machine gunner. After the war he followed his father working on the railway. His father was a stationmaster by the time of WW1 while by the end of WW2 Ernst was a signalman.
(3) Kurt Schmalisch, the oldest brother, served in the German Army on the Russian Front. He was captured at Cherbourg in 1944 and became a POW (Western Zone).
(4) Walter Schmalisch also served in the army. He was killed in action in the Ardennes (Battle of the Bulge) on or about 11th December 1944.
(5) Delfzijl is located on the west bank of the Ems River, Map location: 53.3317942, 6.8779102.