Frederick Alfred Pile

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Sir Frederick Pile
Sir Frederick Pile in 1937
Born(1884-09-14)14 September 1884
Dublin, Ireland
Died14 November 1976(1976-11-14) (aged 92)
London, England
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Service/branchBritish Army
Years of service1904–45
UnitRoyal Artillery
Royal Tank Regiment
Commands heldAnti-Aircraft Command (1939–45)
1st Anti-Aircraft Division (1937–39)
Canal Brigade (1932–36)
Battles/warsFirst World War
Second World War
AwardsKnight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
Distinguished Service Order
Military Cross
Mentioned in Despatches
Commander of the Legion of Merit (United States)

General Sir Frederick Alfred Pile, 2nd Baronet, GCB, DSO, MC (14 September 1884 – 14 November 1976) was a senior British Army officer who served in both World Wars. In the Second World War he was General Officer Commanding Anti-Aircraft Command, one of the elements that protected Britain from aerial attack.

Early life[edit]

Pile was born in Dublin as the second child of Sir Thomas Devereux Pile, 1st Baronet and his wife, Caroline Maude Nicholson,[1] Sir Thomas served as the Lord Mayor of Dublin from 1900 to 1901.

Pile had an older sister and two younger brothers, his youngest brother, Cyril John Pile, served in the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War, and was killed in action in 1917.[2]

Pile was commissioned into the Royal Artillery in 1904,[3] he initially served in India.[3]


Pile, with Winston Churchill and Churchill's daughter, Mary, watch anti-aircraft guns in action against V1 flying bombs, 30 June 1944

He served in the First World War and was involved in the retreat from Mons and was a Staff Captain with 1st Division before becoming a Brigade Major with 40th Division in 1916.[3] In the closing stages of the War he became a General Staff Officer with 22nd Corps in France.[3]

After the war he was appointed a Brigade Major at Brighton and Shoreham District,[3] he transferred to the Royal Tank Corps in 1923.[3] In 1928 he became Commander of the 1st Experimental Mechanized Force and Assistant Director of Mechanisation at the War Office,[3] he went to Egypt in 1932 as Commander of the Canal Brigade Mechanized Force.[3]

In 1937 he became General Officer Commanding 1st Anti Aircraft Division and in 1939, at the start of the Second World War, he was made General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Anti-Aircraft Command, a position he held throughout the war,[3] he was the only British general to retain the same command throughout the entire war. After Dunkirk he issued a General Order telling his men that they were the only British troops still firing at the enemy, he was to tell the story after the war, in his official dispatch and in his book Ack-Ack: Britain's Defence against Air Attack during the Second World War.[4] His plan for "Engagement of Long Range Rockets with AA Gunfire" (gunfire into a radar-predicted airspace to intercept the V-2 rocket) was ready on 21 March 1945 but the plan was not used due to the danger of shells falling on Greater London.[5]

Pile was created a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (GCB) in the 1945 New Year Honours.[6] After the War he became Director General of Housing with the Ministry of Works.[3]

He was also Colonel Commandant of the Royal Artillery from 1945 to 1952.[3]

Personal life[edit]

In 1915 he married Vera Millicent Lloyd, with whom he had two sons. In 1932 he married Hester Mary Melba Phillimore. In 1951, he married Molly Eveline Louise Mary Home.[1]

Pile's elder son, Frederick Devereux Pile (1915–2010) served as a major in the Royal Tank Regiment, he won the Military Cross during the British Army's advance into Germany in 1945. He was later promoted to colonel and succeeded to the baronetcy on his father's death in 1976.[7]


The Battle of Britain class locomotive Sir Frederick Pile at Bitton railway station in 2006

In 1948, a locomotive of the Southern Railway SR Battle of Britain Class was named after Pile at Waterloo station in London.[8][9] After residing at Woodham Brothers scrapyard in Barry, South Wales it was initially preserved at the Avon Valley Railway for many years, and then moved to the Watercress Line in 2011.[10][11] Hornby Railways have released a model of this locomotive.[12]


  1. ^ a b "Frederick Pile". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
  2. ^ "Cyril John Pile1". Retrieved 2 April 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "King's Collections : Archive Catalogues : Military Archives". Liddell Hart Centre.
  4. ^ Jacob, Ian (1950). "Review of Ack-Ack: Britain's Defence against Air Attack during the Second World War". International Affairs. 26 (2): 236–236. doi:10.2307/2605627. JSTOR 2605627.
  5. ^ Ordway, Frederick I, III; Sharpe, Mitchell R. The Rocket Team. Apogee Books Space Series 36. p. 262.
  6. ^ "No. 34066". The London Gazette. 3 July 1934. p. 4222.
  7. ^ "Colonel Sir Freddy Pile". The Daily Telegraph. 29 November 2010. Retrieved 31 March 2016.
  8. ^ "side view of the locomotive showing the SIR FREDERICK PILE name and crest". Archived from the original on 26 November 2004.
  9. ^ "Pile Family Crest as carried by the Southern Railway (Great Britain)-Southern Railway locomotive". Archived from the original on 26 July 2011.
  10. ^ "34058 – Sir Frederick Pile". 34058 Restoration Group. Archived from the original on 20 June 2006. Retrieved 8 July 2006.
  11. ^ "Rebuilt Bulleid WC/BB 'West Country' and 'Battle of Britain' class 4-6-2". Southern E-Group. 23 June 2003.
  12. ^ "Rebuilt Battle Of Britain Class Locomotive – Sir Frederick Pile". Hornby Railways Collector's Guide. Retrieved 31 March 2016.
Military offices
Preceded by
Sir Alan Brooke
GOC-in-C Anti-Aircraft Command
Succeeded by
Sir William Green