The short-term behaviour of pile groups subjected to lateral pressures by deformation of a clay layer under an adjacent surcharge load was studied using three dimensional finite element analysis. The main aim of the analysis was to investigate the pile-clay interaction behaviour. A load-path-dependent, non-linear constitutive model was used to describe the clay, which required knowledge of in situ stresses and recent strain history. Numerical results compared well with those from a centrifuge model test. The effects of the different in situ stresses and strains likely in prototypes and centrifuge model tests were also studied with particular interest in the load-transfer relationships and soil deformation behaviour around the piles.