A CHAMPION table tennis player, town historian and the son of one of Swindon Town's greats has died.

Joseph Silto - better known as Joe - died at the Great Western Hospital on February 1, aged 95.

He was the son of Robins star and England football player Billy Silto, who also ran the The Ship Hotel in Faringdon Road.

Joe's only son Bill, 56, has paid tribute to his father.

He said: "He was a truly wonderful bloke and an inspiration to many people.

"He was friendly, popular, hard working and very well known about the town, "And he was very proud of the family name.

"My mother died at a young age and I only have a few memories of her myself, so he bought me up and worked hard throughout his life, and as a historian produced several marvellous books on the history of the town.

"He was always in good health, until about last Easter. I suppose at that age, ailments we fight off easily could bring him down.

"He will be much missed, and I am very proud of him."

Joe, who was one of two brothers, was a sportsman himself, playing football in his early years for Swindon Reserves before discovering a talent for table tennis.

He was the first Wiltshire player to represent England and played at a number of major events.

In 1936 he played at the World Championships in London, and was narrowly beaten by one of the world's great players, the Czech Bohumil Vana.

He won another major tournament held in Kent where he beat 18 international players and he continued playing into his 50s.

He also worked at the Great Western Railway Works and at the outbreak of the Second World War joined the Army. He took part in a number of campaigns fighting in North Africa and in the invasion of Europe, hitting the beaches of Normandy a couple of days after D-Day.

He had a lucky escape when he was in Antwerp and the building he was in was hit by a German V2 rocket.

The Belgian city came under constant bombardment from German rockets during 1944.

Once home, he went back to work at the railways and later began writing about Swindon's history, producing two books: A Swindon History and The Railway Town.

Both are considered to be superb portrayals of the town's history.

As well as his son, Joe leaves three grandchildren, Alison, Katherine and Will.

Joe's funeral will take place on Monday, February 12 at 10.30am at St Mark's Church, in the Railway Village, before a burial at Whitworth Road Cemetery.