John Edward Broadbent 1845-1931 with his daughter Esther at Woodhall Cottage in Shimla India.jpg
John with his only daughter Esther at Woodhall Cottage, Shimla, India, ~1887.

The Broadbents.jpg
The Broadbents with friends in Shimla, India. John and his wife Dora are standing just behind the wheel. His only daughter Esther is seated with her hands on her legs at the bottom right. Taken in ~1887.

Details about John's life, with extracts from a number of his letters, are given in *Broadbent 1976. He grew up in a house in Longwood Edge near Huddersfield. (It is striking and probably not coincidental that the neighbourhood of his later house Woodhall Cottage in Shimla, India, is even now known as Longwood).

On 10 February 1864 he joined the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich. A conscientious and fervent Christian, he was apparently not popular with an otherwise very truculent year of boys. He came first in his final exams in June 1866, winning their 'Pollock Gold Medal' and three other prizes. Thereafter, in September, he became a fully fledged 'Engineer Officer' in the Royal Engineers at Chatham. In spring 1867 he volunteered for duty in India, and was quickly promoted to Lieutenant on 8 October 1868. On 14 November 1868 he departed Portsmouth for India.

Within a year and a half of arriving, he met his future wife Dora Nicholson (1844-1897) while stationed in Calcutta. They were married shortly thereafter on 29 May 1870, though his family did not initially approve.

John joined the Military Works Department in 1874, and his work involved a lot of travelling. He came on leave in 1876, and returned to India in 1879 (leaving his wife and children in England for a while) having been promoted to Captain on 24 January 1879. From 1882-1892 he worked in the Military Department of the Government of India as Assistant and later Deputy Secretary, migrating between Calcutta and Shimla (then Simla) every half-year. From 1892 he was Deputy Director-General of Military Works, and later became Chief Engineer of the Bombay Military Works and then Chief Engineer at Punjab Command. He took part in the Tirah campaign of 1897-98, and the relief of the Siege of Malakand in 1897. (Winston Churchill was in the same force and "Colonel J. E. Broadbent" is mentioned on p210 in the appendix of his first non-fictional publication "The Story of the Malakand Field Force - An Episode of the Frontier War"). For John's service in these conflicts he was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath (C.B.).

His wife Dora died at Murree in 1897. He later married, on 1 February 1900, the Honourable Alexandra (Alex) Caroline Frances Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes (a member of the same eminent family that produced the explorer Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes and the actors Ralph and Joseph Fiennes). He retired, by then a full Colonel, in 1902, aged 57. Back in England he became Justice of the Peace for Berkshire.

Mentions in Emily's Memoir

"In September this year [1894] our Cecil was very happily engaged at Simla to the daughter of a very old friend, Esther Broadbent, child of Colonel Broadbent and of his wife, formerly Dora Nicholson whom we had known intimately in Calcutta between '65 and '70. Esther and her mother came home in November, and Esther soon found a place in our hearts after we met her at her uncle Sir William Broadbent's house in London." p108

"On October 21 [1896] Cecil and Esther were married at Murree, in India, by good Bishop Matthews of Lahore. Arthur was alas! the only one to represent the family, and he sent us a delightful account of that happy and festive occasion. Colonel and Mrs. Broadbent grudged nothing to their sweet and only daughter - and the Mother (our friend Dora Nicholson of early Calcutta days) quite accepted Cecil as a son, during the eight months she lived after this marriage - after which a sudden illness called her 'Home' [footnote by JEBB: In June, 1897. Two months laters Col. Broadbent having gone to the Malakand Campaign as Chief Engineer, Esther travelled to Barnes Court, Simla, residence of 'Uncle Willy' Mackworth Young, then Lieutenant-Governor of the Punjab, where Ted was born, on September 6th.]. After a brief honeymoon this young couple settled down in Multan to work there for two years." p112

"When autumn came we began to look forward to the return of Cecil and his wife and son Ted - and were thankful when they safely arrived on Sunday evening November 13th. Cecil's calm and Esther's pluck carried them thro a long and anxious journey; and after six weeks quiet rest, dear Esther gave us twin-granddaughters, on December 27, who were christened in February 1899, and called 'Dora and Joan'. They were a great joy to their dear Mother and me, tho' of course a great handful; and we were rejoiced to give them a home for three months, especially as Esther's own dear mother was gone aloft, and Colonel Broadbent had not then retired from Indian life, so they had no Home in England this year but ours." pp113-114


With Dora Nicholson (1844-1897):
  1. Unnamed (b.&d.1871)
  2. Esther Broadbent (1873-1959).
  3. Major-General Sir Edward Broadbent (1875-1944)
  4. Rev. Harry Broadbent (b.1877)
  5. Col. Theodore Broadbent (1881-1952)