Heinz arrived in Hawick as a prisoner and loved the town

A German prisoner of war who made his home in Hawick and went on to become one of the world’s oldest table tennis coaches has died at the age of 94.

Former PoW Heinz Melchert, who has died, aged 96.
Former PoW Heinz Melchert, who has died, aged 96.

Heinz Melchert was taken prisoner in the south of France during the Second World War and eventually ended up at Wilton Camp in Hawick.

He fell in love with the town and after the war signed a contract to remain in Britain, initially taking up work on a farm near Kelso.

Heinz had a lifelong passion for table tennis and still played into his 90s.

Widowed twice he joined the social club at Victoria Hall in Hawick where he played the sport and also pursued his passion at other venues, including the town’s police station, Orrock Halls, Evergreen Hall, and even in the garage at his home in Leaburn Drive.

In later years he played and coached the sport at the town’s congregational church.

Heinz also had a varied working life, including a spell as a butler for Lord Napier in the Ettrick Valley and at the High Street grocers Lipton’s.

In 1956 he was appointed as the Co-operative store’s grocer in Hawick, where he remained until its closure in 1987.

His death last week at the Borders General Hospital has led to an outpouring of tributes on social media, with many people sharing their admiration for a ‘true gentleman’.

Speaking to the Hawick News in 2016, Heinz expressed the hope he could continue playing table tennis until the age of 100, saying: “Can I keep playing until I’m 100?That’s not in my hands, but, ideally, yes.”

His former carer Pauline Scott said Heinz remained independent until suffering a fall last year.

She said: “ I saw him at his home every day, gave him his medication and made sure he was okay and had a bit of blether with him.

“It was quite weird because I found out that he worked in the Co-operative at the same time my mum also worked there.

“He would always tell stories about the war and how he came to Hawick and how he decided he would settle here because he thought Hawick was beautiful.

“He married twice. It’s a lovely story. When he came to Hawick he was courting a girl and that didn’t work out because her father didn’t approve because he was German, so they parted ways and he ended up marrying a German woman and they were together until she passed away. She’s buried in Burnfoot cemetery.

“After that, Heinz got back together with the girl he had earlier been courting because her father had passed away, and they got married, so he got his true love in the end.”

Pauline added: “He remained independent until quite late in his life and still got to church on a Sunday and played table tennis until well into his nineties.

“Heinz was kind, caring, very independent. He will be missed by so many people.”