One of the oldest dental surgeons in the National Health Service, Bill Castle, who has died aged 86, was still treating patients across Norfolk three years ago.

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After running a successful practice in Norwich, for 37 years, he retired for five years before returning to front-line dentistry in his early 70s to help elderly patients living in nursing or residential homes.

His remarkable career was featured as part of a tribute marking the diamond jubilee of the NHS in 2008, which highlighted his role in providing special services for vulnerable patients.

Born in Hackney, London in 1925, Arthur Edward Castle, who was always known as Bill, joined the Royal Navy during the second world war. He sailed in six North Atlantic convoys, supported the D-Day landings in June 1944, served in the Mediterranean and finally was posted to the Far East, where he saw further action against the Japanese as a gunnery officer. A member of the North Russia Club, he also served in the escort carrier HMS Nairana and was proud to have risen through the ranks and earn a commission as a lieutenant.

After qualifying in 1952 at Guys’ Hospital, London, he went into practice in Bethnal Green before moving to Sudbury two years later. In 1955, he started his NHS practice in Prince of Wales Road until he retired in 1993. Always prepared to adopt new treatments, he used hypnosis to relax patients in the dental chair in the early 1950s. When the Royal College of Surgeons awarded a new qualification for experienced dentists in 1979, he was among the first to be awarded a diploma in Membership of General Dental Surgery. After retiring, he was back in harness from his home at Hellesdon House, and was driven to visit up to 60 patients each week, covering most of Norfolk. “It’s incredibly rewarding and a tribute to NHS Norfolk that they employ dentists to run these special services for these vulnerable patients,” he said.

A keen windsurfer, he founded the Norwich and District Waterskiing Club. He also took up riding in his early 30s and rode under rules at point-to-points including Hellesdon, Fakenham and Market Rasen as an amateur jockey. For many years, he also hunted with the Dunston Harriers, where his wife was a former joint Master, and with the Quorn in Leicestershire.

A colleague, Conrad Costa, recalled that his remarkable career was matched only by his exceptional zest for life. “At Christmas parties, Bill would put the rest of us to shame by being the first on the dance floor and the last one to come off,” he said.

Married for more than 50 years to Sheila, who died about four years ago, he leaves three sons, Laurence, Winston and Henry, and a grandson, Simon. He is survived by his partner, Rosalyn Vincent.

He died at the Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital after a short illness.

A service of thanksgiving will be held at St Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich today at 2pm.

Michael Pollitt

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