Lives Remembered: Derek Broome

The information technology expert Derek Broome was the only child of one of the famous Rolls-Royce engineers of the 1930s and '40s and a local Tory socialite. Born in Derby, from an early age Derek demonstrated he would be different. Sent away to a boarding school he hated in Ely, he discharged himself at 16 and turned up at the Rolls-Royce factory gate in Derby asking to be taken on as an apprentice. As works manager his father (who would continue in this post during the production of Merlin engines for Spitfires and Hurricanes taking part in the Battle of Britain) was consulted on whether the "young Broome" should be taken on. The old man gave his permission in full knowledge of the fearful row which would ensue at home that evening.

The post nearly proved his downfall in May 1941. Aged 19, he was taking instrument readings in the back of an Avro Manchester test aircraft when this underpowered and unreliable prototype of the Lancaster bomber, hit a tree on landing in Shropshire with an engine on fire. The pilot was killed, but while Derek was burnt on his hands and face, he and two others survived.

After a period of recovery that year, Derek once again confounded his parents, taking a commission in the Royal Navy, serving as a sub-lieutenant in the Fleet Air Arm on board the Aircraft Carrier HMS Formidable. He flew in Swordfishes and later Corsairs. During this time his ship took part in some of the most fearful naval action against the Japanese. On a number of occasions the Formidable was subjected to kamikaze attacks, which left Derek with a very pragmatic and practical view on life and how lucky he had been to survive.

At the end of the Second World War, Derek took the opportunity to go up to his beloved Oriel College at Oxford, where he acquired a lifelong love of reading and an MA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. On leaving college he started work in the engineering industry and in 1951, while working at ICI, met his future wife, Valerie, who he married in 1957.

After two unsuccessful attempts at winning the Clayton and then the Erdington constituencies for the Tories in 1950 and 1951 respectively, Derek started to forge what turned out to be a long and successful career in the telecommunications and electronics industry. In the early 1960s he played a key part in Arnold Weinstock's team at GEC which swallowed and dissected the larger and more conservative AEI. An aggressive takeover, it was regarded as groundbreaking in its time. The merger resulted in many plants being shut and jobs lost, but led to survival of the electronics industry in the UK, at least for a while. As a result of his efforts, Weinstock appointed Derek to be Managing Director of a GEC Subsidiary, Reliance Systems Ltd.

In 1965, Derek relocated with this company from London to Wellingborough, and he lived in Northamptonshire with his family for the rest of his life. Following five successful years at Reliance, Derek took up the position of Managing Director of Computer Technology Ltd, which made technically advanced micro-computers in this burgeoning new industry. He left CTL in 1979 to spend the rest of his career working with a series of medium-sized companies in the role of freelance company doctor.

In 1981 he helped establish the Parliamentary Information Technology Committee (PITCOM) to build understanding between the industry and politicians. He served as Programme Executive of this body for 12 years and actively participated in events for over 20 years, until he was into his early eighties. His challenges to the Conservative Party thinking on telecommunications helped shape the agenda to liberalise the market which he knew so well.

Derek and Valerie enjoyed the last years of his life sailing off the west coast of Scotland, a pastime they had enjoyed since the 1950's. Always the radical, he had time in retirement to ferociously champion the causes he believed in, whether it be open systems, protesting against the local airport or challenging his MP.

Derek Broome died on 8 June 2009 aged 86 from the complications of prostate cancer. He is survived by his devoted wife of 52 years, Valerie, and a loving family of four sons, four daughters-in-law, three grandsons and seven granddaughters.

Toby Broome

If you would like to contribute an obituary of a friend, family member or colleague, please send a piece of no more than 500 words to Obituaries, 'The Independent', 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF, by fax to 020 7005 2399 or by email to We reserve the right to edit copy for length and style

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor


Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all