Born in Walsall in 1924, Francis Tombs worked as a St John Ambulance first aider during the Second World War. In 1946 he worked as an electrical engineer with the General Electric Company (GEC). He joined the South of Scotland Electricity Board (SSEB) in 1969 as Director of Engineering and was later promoted to Deputy Chair and, in 1974, Chair. In 1977, he was invited to head the Electricity Council, the industry’s supervisory body, and held the post for three and a half years. Lord Tombs became chair of the Weir Group in the early 1980s and took over as Chair of Rolls-Royce in 1985, having been a board member for three years.
Lord Tombs was knighted in 1978 and became a life peer in 1990, taking his title from a Warwickshire village. He sat as a Crossbench peer until his retirement in 2015 and was a member of the Lords’ Science and Technology and Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee; he also chaired a Select Committee on sustainable development.
He served as President of the Institute of Electrical Engineers, now the Institution of Engineering and Technology, in 1981 and was a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
Lord Tombs was the University of Strathclyde’s second Chancellor and held the post from 1991 to 1997.