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Essex Field Club
Essex Field Club
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Noteworthy naturalist

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Alfred James Peile (1868-1948) Artillery Officer, Malacologist and Conchologist

Alfred James Peile was born on 5th August 1868 at Harley Road, north west London. He died on 30th July 1948 in St. Thomas’s Hospital, London. A photograph taken of Peile in his mid fifties shows him smartly dressed with a clipped military moustache and penetrating clear eyes. He had London connections and retired to 18 Leopold Road, Wimbledon, Surrey.

Alfred James Peile was the son of James Kenyon Peile (1825-9th February 1892), a civil engineer of Hampstead and Matilda Chadwick (1833-3rd December 1881) who had married at Hampstead in 1866. He had at least two younger sisters. Peile married Marion MacDonald Peterson in Bombay in 1894. She was the daughter of Dr. Peterson, professor of Sanskrit at Elphinstone College, Bombay. They had three daughters Agnes Christall Peile, Bertha Margaret Peile and Nancy Winifred Peile. Their only son John Selby Chadwick Peile, who was born on 1st January 1896, was tragically killed in action, near Ypres, on 2nd June 1917.

Alfred James Peile was an officer in the Royal Artillery. He was enlisted as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery on 17th February 1888 and promoted to Lieutenant on 17th February 1891 and Captain on 18th April 1898. Peile served in the South African War 1901-1902 for which he was awarded the Queen’s Medal. He was an instructor at the School of Gunnery at Shoeburyness by 10th February 1903. Peile was promoted to a Major in the Royal Artillery on 29th September 1906. He served in France and Belgium in the 1914-1918 War and was appointed Lieutenant Colonel on 20th May 1915. Peile was educated at Cheltenham College and the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich. He served in India, Bermuda, South Africa and at the School of Gunnery at Shoeburyness, Essex. He visited Ceylon and Australia in 1896. Peile served in the 1914-1918 War with the heavy artillery which led to his deafness. He saw service at the Seige Artillery Schools at Lydd and Borden. Peile was interested in molluscs, especially the study of gastropod radulae and he perfected techniques for their preparation. Between 1920 and 1940 he was a voluntary worker at the Natural History Museum, London where he worked on the Gwatkin collection. Peile was also interested in land snails and collected from Bombay and also Bermuda 1907-1911. Between 1897 and 1947 he published at least 56 papers. Some 60% of these related to gastropod radulae. He also wrote on fossils from Bermuda. Peile was elected a member of the Conchological Society in 1921 and served as President from 1935-1937. He was elected a member of the Malacological Society in 1903 and served as President 1925-1927. His Presidential address to the Malacological Society in 1926 was entitled “The Mollusca of Bermuda”. He presented marine mollusca (1910), post-Tertiary mollusca, cirripedia (1939), and bird bones (1910) from Bermuda to the Natural History Museum as well as Post-Pliocene mollusca from South Africa (1906) and Purbeck fish (1928). In addition he bequeathed land and freshwater from Bermuda to the museum. The Royal Scottish Museum, Edinburgh has his main collection of molluscan radulae. Colonel Peile donated to the Natural History Museum, in 1913, probably in situ fossil Nipa burtini (Brogniart) fruits from the London Clay of Shoeburyness (V12913-14 & V. 12917). They were associated with a double row of septarian nodules. The discovery was made by Quarter Master Sergeant J.J. Gurnet, a junior Officer, after a severe storm who reported to Peile that he had found the remains of a “buried Viking ship complete with a litter of iron spear-heads”. Specimens were also donated to the Geological Survey Museum.

Chandler, M. E. J. 1961. The Lower Tertiary Floras of Southern England. Vol. 1 Palaeocene Floras: London Clay Flora (Supplement). BM (NH). Page 38.

Cleevely, R.J. 1983. World Palaeontological Collections. BM(NH). Page 227.

Reid, E. M. and Chandler, M. E. J. 1933. The London Clay Flora. BM (NH). Page 131.

Winckworth, R. 1948. A.J. Peile. 1868-1948. Journal of Conchology. Vol. 23 (1) p.21.

Winckworth, R. Alfred James Peile. Proceedings of the Malacological Society of London. Vol. 28(1) pp.5-7. Includes bibliography.

Likeness: A fine photographic portrait of Alfred James Peile was published in Vol.19 (1930) of Proceedings of the Malacological Society of London.

Will. A.J.Peile wrote his will on 1st February 1933. Estate valued at £11,780.

Account provided by Mr William George
page last edited on Mon May 4th 2009 by site user 68