Britain’s oldest table tennis coach still runs his local club – after the former German soldier learned to play the game in a nearby Second World War POW camp.
Heinz Melchert, 86, turned to ping pong during the 1940s when he was locked up in Wilton prison camp near Hawick, Scotland.
Captured in the South of France during the Second World War he was transferred to the POW facility where he learned to play table tennis.
But when the camp closed after the war Heinz stayed in Scotland – and decided to keep ping pong alive in his community.
Over the next 70 years Mr Melcher formed various clubs including the current one at his local Hawick Congregational Community Church,
The devoted player, who chose to stay a civilian in Hawick after the war, remains the heart and soul of Hawick Table Tennis Club today.
Heinz helps to run the weekly table tennis social club in where players have met every Wednesday since 1994.
He said: “I decided to get a table made locally for our camp which was where the police station is now, and the boys all used it.
“I’d never had the opportunity to play table tennis but I’d always been interested in it.
“I’m delighted that the local club has become a success story and is still going strong.
“I’ve been able to help so many people learn how to play, and those who come along get tremendous pleasure from it.
“It allows them to be part of another world, try to beat each other, and also have a cup of tea and socialise.”
Mr Melchert added that table tennis has been key to keeping him fit and healthy.
Albert Thompson, a member of the table tennis club said: “Heinz puts all his energies into the club and made it open to everyone.
“It is a strong club which is held together by him, and he gives very positive coaching to all.”
Geraldine Strickland, a development worker for Hawick Congregational Community Church, said: “Heinz is truly a very special person – the length of time the club has been going says it all.”
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