Derek George Harbroe (Jake) Wright
When Jake left Framlingham in 1932 he joined Brooke Bond, intending to learn the tea trade before joining his mother’s family company, SAP Smith (Tea Brokers). Being an experienced sailor he joined the RNVR in 1937, served in a tug at Dunkirk, and in July 1940 was commissioned as a sub-lieutenant at the training establishment HMS King Alfred.
Jake’s war was fought in fast motorboats in the Narrow Seas of the English Channel and the southern North Sea where he proved himself a courageous and successful commander. As a first lieutenant of MTB 32 he was first blooded when his patrol sank two armed trawlers off Calais on 11th October 1940.
He quickly rose to command his own boats and after a year in MTB331 and his old boat MTB 32 he was awarded his DSC, in September 1942, for enterprise and coolness in action.
On 15th/16th March 1943, on his first sortie as senior officer, 22nd MTB Flotilla, he scored a notable success off the Dutch coast. Employing a tactic which would become his trademark, he stalked an enemy convoy at low speed in order to avoid showing any bow wave. Patiently, he took an hour and a half to creep up on the convoy from the port quarter, moving across its wake and up on to its starboard side so as to take advantage of the light of the moon. Then, from close range, he launched a sudden torpedo attack on three merchant ships and a destroyer, hitting two of them. For this action he was awarded a bar to his DSC in the New Year’s Honours of 1944.
A series of successful actions in the summer of 1944 led to the award of a second bar to his DSC for outstanding courage, skill and determination and this was followed by a mention in dispatches in November 1944. It was said that with Jake at the helm his crew would come back alive and consequently men were keen to serve in his boat and flotilla.
On 13th May 1945 Jake, and his fellow MTB captains, rendezvoused off the Thames estuary with two surrendered German E-boats which had come to hand over charts of German mine fields. Riding on the E-boat of Admiral Karl Brauning for the journey to Felixstowe he noted that, although the German boats were dryer, they rolled more making them poor gun platforms.
Re-joining Brooke Bond after the war, Jake and was sent to India where he became senior tea buyer. Returning to England after 15 years he joined the board and directed Brooke Bond’s global tea buying and planting. He developed tea-growing in East Africa and began to develop instant tea as a commercial product. He also represented the tea trade on many organizations and in 1971 became President of the Tea Buyers Association.
Jake was an exemplary product of his generation, modest, private, courteous and charming with the leader’s gift of being able to enthuse and motivate those around him.