Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Pilfold, John

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PILFOLD, JOHN (1776?–1834), captain in the navy, second son of Charles Pilfold of Horsham, was born at Horsham about 1776. He entered the navy in 1788 on board the Crown with Commodore Cornwallis, and served in her during her commission in the East Indies, returning to England in May 1792 [see Cornwallis, Sir William, 1744–1819]. He then joined the Brunswick, in which he was present in the battle of 1 June 1794 [see Harvey, John, 1740–1794], and was specially recommended by Harvey for promotion. On 14 Feb. 1795 he was promoted by Lord Howe to be lieutenant of the Russell, and in her he was present in the action off Lorient on 23 June. In September 1795 he was appointed to the Kingfisher sloop on the Lisbon station, in which he took part in the capture of several privateers; and on 1 July 1797, being the first lieutenant, supported the commander, John Maitland, sword in hand, in suppressing a violent mutiny which broke out on board. Pilfold was shortly afterwards moved into the Impétueux, in which, on 6 June 1800, he commanded the boats in the destruction of the French corvette Insolente in the Morbihan [see Pellew, Edward, Viscount Exmouth]. On the renewal of the war in 1803 he was appointed to the Hindostan, from which he was moved to the Dragon, and afterwards to the Ajax. In the latter he took part in the action off Cape Finisterre on 22 July 1805. William Brown (d. 1814) [q. v.], the captain of the Ajax, went home with Sir Robert Calder [q. v.], who was to be tried by court-martial, and the Ajax was left before Cadiz under the command of her first lieutenant, Pilfold, who had thus the distinction of commanding her a few days later in the battle of Trafalgar, for which he was advanced to post rank on 25 Dec. 1805, and received the gold medal with the other captains present in the action. In 1808 he was granted an honourable augmentation to his arms, and in June 1815 he was nominated commander of the Bath.

From 1827 to 1831 he was captain of the ordinary at Plymouth, and he died at Stonehouse on 12 July 1834. He married, in 1803, a daughter of Thomas South of Donhead, Wiltshire, and left two daughters.

[Marshall's Roy. Nav. Biogr. iv. (vol. ii. pt. ii.) 963; Gent. Mag. 1835, i. 322.]

J. K. L.