West Sussex Constabulary: Gentle giant remembered

PC Bob Barnett was an impressive man – 6ft 6in tall with size 12 boots and weighing in at 21 stone, he stood out among his colleagues at Worthing Police Station.

Although he did not suffer fools gladly, he was a gentle man and this photo of him at Chichester Cross shows his softer side, carrying out his traffic duties with a little dog at his feet.

The dog belonged to Harry Guermonprez, who started out as a photographer in Bognor Regis before setting up Chichester Photographic Services. He took this photo on January 16, 1950, as a present for Bob’s wife, who worked in offices nearby.

Son Martin Barnett said: “My grandmother used to run the office in Chichester during the war and after the war, and my mother worked in the office too, so my dad would pop in for a cup of tea.”

PC Bob Barnett in his high-neck tunic

The photo was brought to light by Tom Curry, who worked with Bob as a policeman at Worthing and recently wrote the book Wor Tomis The Polis – Geordie for Our Thomas The Policeman. It will feature in an exhibition on West Sussex Constabulary in Chichester next April.

Tom said: “Worthing PC AB165, the late Bob Barnett, was a big, impressive man but a gentle man, who was also a gentleman but he did not suffer fools gladly.

“I had the privilege of working with Bob in late ’60s and ’70s at Worthing and through my new book, Wor Tomis The Polis, I had contact for the first time with his lovely son, Martin.

“Although this brilliant, classic photo was taken at the Cross in Chichester, he did serve most of his time at Worthing.

PC Bob Barnett on traffic duty at Chichester Cross with the dog owned by photographer Harry Guermonprez by his side. Picture

“This photo is as cute as you can get, thanks to the little dog. When it saw Bob on his traffic control duties, it would go and sit at his feet.

“From that, I believe the dog had a sixth sense of who it could trust and who it wanted to be with. It may be thought it was sure to be safe, whilst under the gaze of big, lovely PC Bob.

“Bob was a real old-school Bobby, who served Worthing with pride.

“I joined the police and went to Worthing in 1967. My eyes were like saucers when I saw the uniform that had been handed in by that Bobby because it was a high-neck tunic like they wore in the 1900s.

“He joined about 1947 but they were worn up until the 1950s and when he retired in the 1970s, he handed in one of the old uniforms.

“West Sussex Constabulary was amalgamated in January 1968 when they formed the Sussex force.”

The photo is part of the Chichester Photographic Service collection, which was handed over to West Sussex Record Office.

About 15,000 negatives, mainly glass plate, were acquired in the mid-1970s. They were produced by Chichester Photographic Services between the 1940s and late 1960s, when its founder and owner, Harry Guermonprez, retired.

Only a few negatives of the 1940s survive and many from the 1950s are missing but the record office also has the day books, which list photographs that were taken for the company.

A local historian and naturalist, Harry was co-founder of the Bognor Regis Film Society from 1938.

After the Second World War, he photographed scenes in and around the city, many of them for the Chichester Observer.

Alan Moore, whose hobby is the history of West Sussex Constabulary, will be putting on a non-profit making exhibition at Chichester Town Hall on the subject in April 2022, featuring this photo of PC Barnett as a tribute.