November 18, 2021: It is with sadness that Batteries International has to report that Geoff Clementson, a huge figure in the UK and international battery industry from the 1970s to the late 1990s, passed away in September at the age of 83.
Geoff’s career spanned most of the golden age of UK battery manufacturing when the country was regarded as a centre of excellence in the world —firms such as Chloride, Lucas and Hawker Siddeley were well known international brands and had a huge global footprint.
Geoff joined the Royal Marines in 1956 after electricians training at a commercial college in Liverpool. At 21, after seeing combat service in the Eastern Mediterranean, he left to work for the family firm Radio Battery Services, which had been set up by his father in the 1940s.
These were years of big change for him both in understanding the business and personally too. In 1960, he married Carmel McIvor and two years later his son, Greg, was born.
Over the next three decades Geoff was responsible for transforming a small regional distribution business, now known as Car Battery Services, into a large UK firm with an international presence.
In doing this Geoff, with great enthusiasm, put himself at the heart of the business working as a member and senior adviser to the International Battery Manufacturers Association and Battery Council International.
As such his firm, renamed CBS Batteries, was now a medium-scale lead battery manufacturer producing more than half a million vehicle batteries a year plus industrial cells.
His enthusiasm for emerging technologies saw his firm become the first in the UK to use TBS cast-on-strap equipment to speed up battery assembly, and as an independent producer, manufacture their own oxide and make tubular plates for industrial batteries.
He was well known and well liked, not just for his enthusiasm but also his ability to help lead the next generation of the industry. He travelled extensively and visited battery manufacturing sites in every continent they existed: Europe, Africa, Asia and all through the Americas, sharing knowledge and comparing manufacturing techniques, looking for a competitive advantage over his local UK/European competition.
“I had the pleasure to work with Geoff as technical, quality and R&D director for his company CBS Batteries from 1986 until 1990,” says Doug Lambert, vice president for sales and technology at Wirtz Manufacturing, a global battery machine developer.
“His vision and drive were instrumental in the development of my career, and I have always appreciated his support and the opportunity he gave me to visit many other battery manufacturing plants even as far as South Africa, which in the early 1980s was an adventure and even included a trip through Soweto.
“A heartfelt ‘Thank You Geoff’ for everything…”
Other industry veterans described him as a ‘true gentleman and a great character’, well known and respected throughout the industry, world-wide.
“He was enthusiastic about batteries, life and caring for his family, friends and employees,” says one.
John O’ Wirtz, the retired head of Wirtz Manufacturing, said: “I always had the highest respect for Geoff, as well as his wife and team mate Carmel. Geoff was always happy to share his thoughts on the lead acid industry.
“When I first started travelling to Europe to establish relationships with the European battery manufacturers, Geoff always took the time to explain an overview of the industry, and also his opinion as to the direction of the industry.
“I viewed Geoff as a spokesman and an ambassador for the lead acid battery industry, and will always be thankful for his friendship.”
His son Greg, who shared part of his early years of his career with his father, said: “He loved talking about the industry and was as much at home talking with, say, a grid casting machine operator in a small manufacturing site in Kenya as he was chatting with the chief executive of one of the largest battery manufacturers in the world. He was friendly and very gregarious.”
Geoff also led the way with the development of traction batteries and the firm became the first UK manufacturer of block batteries for small EVs.
He retired from the industry in 1998.
Geoffrey leaves behind Carmel, his wife of 61 years, and his son Greg.