John Barnes, Historian

Major General Sir Charles Broke Vere KCB KCH (1779-1843)

Charles Broke Vere had a distinguished military career and was one of Wellington’s headquarters staff during the peninsula campaign.

Charles Broke was born on 21 Feb. 1779, the second son of Philip Broke of Broke Hall, Nacton, in Suffolk and Elizabeth, daughter and eventual heiress of the Rev. Charles Beaumont of Witnesham, Suffolk. He was the younger brother of Rear Admiral Sir Philip Bowes Vere Broke.

Charles Broke was educated at Ipswich School and commissioned as an ensign in the 5th foot on 23 June 1796. He became a lieutenant on 7 December 1796 and obtained his captaincy on 21 February 1799. He served with his regiment in the expedition to the Netherlands later that year. He was at the Royal Military College from 1799 until 1803. In 1805, while on his way to join Lord Cathcart's expedition to the Elbe, he was wrecked on the Dutch coast, and made prisoner. Shortly afterwards he was released, and served in the force sent to South America in 1807. In the attack on Buenos Aires he was employed as assistant quartermaster-general. On 4 Feb. 1808 he obtained a majority in his regiment.

After serving for a short time on the staff in Ireland, he was sent to the Peninsula in 1809, and appointed assistant quartermaster-general to the 4th division. He was present at Busaco, Albuera, Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz, and Salamanca. At Badajoz he was severely wounded while leading the men of the division to the breach in the Trinidad bastion. On 7 February 1811 he was given a permanent appointment as assistant Quartermaster General and made brevet lieutenant-colonel on 27 April 1812. During the campaigns of 1813–14 he was employed in Wellington’s headquarters, not only carrying out routine work but drafting operation orders. He was present at Vittoria, the Pyrenees, Nivelle, Nive, Orthes, and Toulouse. He received the gold cross with five clasps, and was made K.C.B. in January 1815.

In the campaign of 1815 he was at first attached to Hill's corps, and Hill in his report of 20 June expressed his particular thanks to him. When Sir William de Lancey was killed during the battle of Waterloo, Wellington chose Broke, though he was not the senior, to perform the duty of quartermaster-general. He carried out these duties during the latter half of the battle and on the march to Paris. Afterwards he served as deputy quartermaster-general in the army of occupation. He received the Russian order of Vladimir (second class) and the Netherlands order of Wilhelm (second class).

Placed on half-pay on 4 July 1823, he was promoted colonel on 27 May 1825, when, upon Wellington's recommendation, he was appointed aide-de-camp to King George IV, a position he held until the King’s death in 1830. He was appointed deputy Quartermaster General in February 18271. On 10 January 1837 he was promoted to major-general. In 1822 he had taken the additional name of Vere.

In 1832 he contested East Suffolk as a Conservative without success. He published a pamphlet, The Danger of opening the Ports to Foreign Corn at a Fixed Duty considered (Ipswich, 1834) and in 1835 chose to contest the eastern division of Suffolk in opposition to one of the outgoing Conservative Members, Mr Shawe. He was returned second in the poll to Lord Henniker2. In the following year they were feted as men who had not been led away by “any of the new fangled doctrines of the times”3. He made his first speech on the budget on 14 August 1835 and during the remaining years of that Parliament made brief speeches on the O’Connell case, agricultural distress, and the new poor law as well as opposing the Bill removing Jewish disabilities in 1836. He had served on the committee appointed to consider charges of corruption against O’Connell. He also had a passage of arms with Colonel Thompson over an allegation that an order for no quarter had been given during the assault on Buenos Aires. In the General Election which followed the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837, he was returned unopposed, but he spoke infrequently in the new parliament. Nevertheless he again defeated his Whig opponents in 1841. He died at Bath on 1 April 1843, and was buried at Nacton4.

1 The Times 3 February 1827

2 The Times 15 January 1835 p.4

3 The Times 15 September 1836 p.5

4 Gentlemen’s. Magazine 1843, i. 654.