The Parish Return for Yeovil consists of 114 pages about the war effort carried out by the people of Yeovil, old and young, during the First World War. Amongst these documents is a list of the men who received Honours for their work in the war years.
Highlighted in the editor’s red pen is the MBE given to Alfred John Sutton Pippard for his work as ‘head of a subsection in the Technical Dept of the Air Board.’
Alfred John Sutton Pippard was born on 6 April 1891 in Yeovil, the son of Alfred and Alice Pippard. Pippard’s interest in craftsmanship and the construction industry was the result of his involvement with the family business; Bird & Pippard. However his interests would develop a more academic and scientific purpose which would continue throughout his life, beginning with a first class honours degree in Civil Engineering from Bristol University in 1911.
To complete his studies for his qualification as a member of the Institute of Civil Engineers Pippard had to embark on a course of practical training. He was lucky enough to qualify for an Industry Bursary after being nominated by Bristol University. He then combined his paid employment with his continued interest in the academic side of his career.
When war broke out in 1914 Pippard found that he was unable to join the Royal Engineers due to his eyesight, he then sought another path to support the war effort. He registered his interest with the Institute of Civil Engineers and was placed on ‘the newly formed technical section of the Air Department of the Admiralty’. He began his war work under Harris Booth in January 1915, working on the structural stresses of aeroplane frames to ensure safety during flights.
This work would then be passed on to the firms working for the ‘Admiralty and, later, after the R.A.F. came into existence, to all contractors to the Air Ministry or Ministry of Munitions.’
The work undertaken by the structures section increased significantly during the war years and Wing-Commander Alec Ogilvie became Head of the Department. Pippard was recognised for his role in the rapid development of structural science and aircraft safety during the war years, and was awarded the MBE in January 1918.
Pippard continued to acquire academic accolades throughout the rest of his career which included the publication on Aeroplane Structures in 1919. This became a ‘standard work’ being revised in 1935 following advances in the subject. In 1920, Pippard was awarded the D.Sc. degree of Bristol University.
Pippard remained in employment in the South West following the First World War until 1933 when he moved to London with his family. He continued his academic work as head of the civil engineering department at Imperial College, whilst ensuring a strong scientific and industrial influence on his students. He remained at Imperial College until his retirement in 1956. He died in November 1969.
Sources & Further Information:
Entry for Pippard in Imperial College Archives