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Unveiling of a plaque to wartime president Sir Thomas Peirson Frank

17 November 2014

On the 29 October 2014, Chair of the Board, Andrew Taylor and I represented the RTPI at an unveiling of a plaque to wartime president
IMG_0006Sir Thomas Peirson Frank (1881-1952). Sir Thomas had an interesting career which started on being appointed Chief Assistant to the Borough Engineer of Dewsbury in 1903. In 1908, he secured his first independent post as City Engineer of Ripon.

He joined the Royal Engineers in 1915, was commissioned in February 1916, and was posted to the 237th Field Company in France. He was a Colonel in the Engineer and Railway Staff Corps from 1932 onwards.

Whilst working in Cardiff he acted as Surveyor to the East Glamorgan Town Planning Advisory Committee, and did the same for the South West Lancashire Committee while at Liverpool, where he also lectured at the University. Another past president Thomas Sharp was a planning assistant to the Lancashire Committee.


In 1930, he became City Engineer and County Surveyor to the London County Council, working on improvements in main drainage and sewage, housing estate developments, the widening of Putney bridge, the building of a new bridge at Wandsworth. He was a member of the Experimental Roads Committee of the Ministry of Transport, of the Highways Research Board of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.

He was a member with Raymond Unwin of the Marley Commission established in July 1931 to look at the experience of garden cities to date and to advise the government what steps it should take to extend the practice of garden cities and satellite towns.

Throughout the 1939-45 war he was Co-ordinating Officer for Road Repairs and Public Utility Services for the London area, and directed the repair services that enabled London to carry on in spite of the severest air raids. Sir Thomas operated the Thames Flood Prevention Emergency Repairs and although the Thames wall was hit at least 121 times during the war years the city never flooded. In recognition of his work he was knighted in 1942.

In July 1946, at the age of 65, he retired from the London County Council and a month later joined, as a partner, the Westminster firm of Coode, Vaughan-Lee and Gwyther, consulting engineers.

Sir Thomas was President of the Town Planning Institute in 1944-45. He subsequently became President of the Institution of Civil Engineers from 1945 to 1946. He was also a Fellow of the Surveyors Institute and a Fellow of the Royal Sanitary Institute, as well as being Member of the IMG_0008Institution of Municipal Engineers. In 1941 he became a Member of the Executive Committee of the Automobile Association and in November 1950, Vice-chairman.

The plaque which is a fitting memorial to one of our past presidents can be found at the Embankment side, Victoria, Tower Gardens, London.

Peter Geraghty is a past-president and chair of the international committee at the RTPI