Obituary: Sir Ewen Broadbent

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The Independent Online
Ewen Broadbent, civil servant, born 9 August 1924, CMG 1965, Assistant Under-Secretary of State for Defence 1969-72, Deputy Under-Secretary of State (Air) 1972-75, Deputy Under-Secretary of State (Civilian Management) 1975-82, Second Permanent Under-Secretary of State 1982-84, CB 1973, KCB 1984, Chairman Look Ahead Housing Association 1988-93, International Military Service Ltd 1991-93, married 1951 Barbara David (one son), died London 27 February 1993.

EWEN BROADBENT was a distinguished public servant. He served the cause of defence for 35 years, first in the Air Ministry and then at the Ministry of Defence, and after retiring in 1984 served as Vice-Chairman of the Royal United Services Institute. During his retirement years he also contributed significantly to charity through his chairmanship of the Look Ahead Housing Association and his work on the Council for Voluntary Welfare Work. Many will miss his quiet competence, his light touch and air of confidence and certainty.

Ewen Broadbent was educated at King Edward VI School, Nuneaton, and St John's College, Cambridge. He served with the Gordon Highlanders from 1943 to 1947 ending up as a Captain. He joined the Air Ministry as an Assistant Principal in 1949 and made his mark as a Private Secretary to members of the Air Council. This included being Private Secretary to three Secretaries of State for Air from 1955 to 1959. He had an initial spell with Viscount de L'Isle and went on with Nigel Birch and George Ward. These were difficult times in the Air Ministry and for defence generally. This period encompassed Suez, arguments about the size of Fighter Command, the role of Coastal Command, the size of Transport Command and the Sandys White paper - to mention but a few important issues.

As a 35-year-old Assistant Secretary he went on to spend some years in Cyprus in the very early days of the Sovereign Base Areas, first as Deputy Chief Officer and then as Chief Officer. When he returned to Britain he spent more than a year as Principal Private Secretary to Denis Healey in the difficult and contentious days of 1967 and 1968, with readjustments and the announcement of British withdrawal from the Far East.

After a serious heart attack, and with great courage, Broadbent resumed his upward career. He re-established himself firmly as a man of great talents who was determined to use them effectively. After a spell as an Under-Secretary in the Logistics area he became Deputy Under-Secretary of State for Air, which carried with it a place on the Air Force Board, the governing body of what remained of the department he originally joined.

There followed a long and demanding stint as the Deputy Under-Secretary of State for Civilian Management for the whole of the Ministry of Defence. Initially he looked after some 240,000 civil servants in the UK and abroad. He took the lead in significantly reducing that number, and he bridged successfully the years of change in the management of the Civil Service. He oversaw and guided the process of reduction as well as that of promotion and selection with a firm but kindly hand. He was respected and admired by his colleagues and by the trade-union leaders with whom he dealt.

Broadbent became Second Permanent Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Defence in 1982, where he had much to do with the reforms brought in later by Michael Heseltine in yet another restructuring of the Ministry of Defence. Other matters he took in his stride. For example, he was the author of a significant report on the Ministry of Defence Police which led to their being established later on a statutory basis.

After his retirement in 1984 he retained his interest in defence in the work he did for the Royal United Services Institute. His great knowledge and experience of the organisation and workings of defence came out in his book The Military and Government from Macmillan to Heseltine (1988). He was an enthusiastic Trustee of the Royal Air Force Museum and was also a member of the Council for Voluntary Welfare Work.

He was a keen sportsman all his life with particular enthusiasms for cricket and golf. He had a spell as captain of his golf club, and died on Hampstead golf course while playing the game he loved.

He is survived by his wife, Barbara, who herself had been a Squadron Officer in the WRAF and who was his support and helper throughout his career, and one son.

(Photograph omitted)

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