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 obituaries@independent.co.uk. We reserve the right to edit copy for length and style

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Home Care / Support Workers

£7 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care provider is looking for Home ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Day In a Page

Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate