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Justices clerk achieved boyhood ambition

PUBLISHED: 16:27 10 January 2008 | UPDATED: 10:15 03 July 2010

WILLIAM Robert Tuttle, who has died aged 90, was a leading justices' clerk who spent almost half a century at the centre of the judicial system.

It was his boyhood ambition to become clerk to his local magistrates in Great Yarmouth, and Bob, as he was always known, spent 17 years in the top post.

WILLIAM Robert Tuttle, who has died aged 90, was a leading justices' clerk who spent almost half a century at the centre of the judicial system.

It was his boyhood ambition to become clerk to his local magistrates in Great Yarmouth, and Bob, as he was always known, spent 17 years in the top post.

Highly respected by magistrates and the legal profession for his dedication and professionalism in a career spanning 46 years, he retired in October 1977.

Mr Tuttle was born in Yarmouth and went to the Priory School. He represented Norfolk at the inter-county school sports in the 100 yards and high hurdles. Aged 14, he joined solicitors Chamberlin, Talbot & Bracey as junior clerk to a partner, Geoffrey Bracey, who was also magistrates' clerk.

He became chief assistant to the bench in 1936. Shortly before the outbreak of war, he joined 245

Battery Heavy Anti-Aircraft. He became a sergeant major serving

with the Queen's Royal Regiment, which saw action with the 56th Infantry Division (The “Black Cats”) in Italy.

He was demobbed and returned to Yarmouth. He was made deputy chief clerk in 1957, although he had been acting in that role for five years.

In 1960, he was clerk to Yarmouth justices and in a series of reorganisations became clerk to the East and West Flegg Petty Sessional Division in 1964 and then in 1975 the Cromer and North Walsham Divisions.

On retirement, he spoke of major changes in the magistracy. In 1931, the Yarmouth court sat three or four times a week, starting at 11am and finishing well before lunch. There was a part-time clerk and three assistants.

By 1977, the Yarmouth group of courts, including Cromer and North Walsham, had 850 sessions and the bench rarely finished before lunch. He was responsible for 16 assistants. “Crime continues to increase,” he said at the time.

A keen angler, with rod and line

at sea, Mr Tuttle, who lived at

Fritton, also enjoyed shooting

and especially sailing his own boat. His former deputy and his successor, Jack Bacon, recalled several occasions going to sea in Bob's fishing boat.

About that time, Mr Tuttle bought the Latona, which had been built at Cantley in 1913, with two friends from funeral director Len Jary. Subsequently, this vessel was invited to join the 25th anniversary of the flotilla of “Little Ships” to re-create the 1940 Dunkirk evacuation.

But, in wartime confusion of that 11 days of assembling hundreds of craft, the real honour should have gone to another Latona, as it finally emerged in 1977.

However, Mr Tuttle was particularly proud that his Latona led the fleet into Dunkirk harbour in 1965 on what it transpired was not a sentimental return but her first visit. It was skippered by Harry Spencer, master of the port tug, with crew, Leonard Jary (former owner of the boat), Sid Palmer, former P & O quartermaster, and Mike Farman, then based at the EDP's Yarmouth office.

Mr Tuttle was married to Joan, who died in 1996, for 57 years, leaves four children, two grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

The funeral is on Monday at Great Yarmouth Crematorium. Donations to Caister Lifeboat.

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