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Still sporty into their 90s

By This is Devon  |  Posted: August 15, 2008

  • Keen tennis fan Mollie Hebditch

  • Douglas Skilton, from Sidmouth, took to the skies in a glider for the first time since his role in the Second World War, above

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THROUGHOUT their 90 years, the world has become a very

different place, but two Westcountry pensioners showed they

have retained their youthful vigour at their birthday


They were born in 1918 – the year the First World War ended,

but Mollie Hebditch and Douglas Skilton still have enough

energy to put many youngsters to shame.

Ms Hebditch gathered with friends at her beloved tennis club

to mark her special day, while Mr Skilton took to the skies in

a glider for the first time since he was involved in the

notorious military conflict at Arnhem in Germany in 1944.

Mr Skilton, who was awarded the free flight as a birthday

gift from the Devon and Somerset Gliding Club, said the

thrilling trip brought back memories. "I've been waiting 64

years for this day to climb back into a glider again," he said,

adding: "It's been so exhilarating."

"It's the best birthday present of my life. The glider is a

lot different from the one I flew during the war.

"They were made of plywood – so thin you could easily put

your feet through the floor.

"And they were flimsy and a lot bigger. My one at Arnhem

carried troops, a jeep and motorbikes."

The part he played as a member of the Border Regiment

attached to the Airborne Division was immortalised in the

blockbuster A Bridge Too Far, which tells the tale of the

failed mission to take the Dutch river crossing at Arnhem from

the Germans.

"The part I played got me a mention in dispatches and a

future promotion from lieutenant to captain," he said.

Ms Hebditch had her feet firmly on the ground for her own

celebrations, but she was delighted to have members of Exeter's

Tunnels Tennis Club to help her mark the occasion.

She has recently given up playing the game which was her

passion, but is still a firm part of the circuit, providing

refreshments for games.

"I don't play tennis any more, but I do go to all the games

and prepare the teas," she said. "They are such a wonderful

group of people and always have been. Nothing much has really

changed over the years and I am very lucky.

"I think people who play sports should not just walk away

when they stop playing. Going to the club still keeps me young

– even if I haven't played for a while."

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