Overseas Service Pensioners' Association
The Overseas Service Pensioners' Association (OSPA) is comprised of members of the former 'Colonial Service', which was renamed in 1954 'Her Majesty's Overseas Civil Service' (HMOCS). The origins of that Service date back to 1837. These civil servants were a key component of colonial civil administration across the whole Empire (except in India and the Dominions which had their own arrangements). HMOCS was wound up in 1997 with the hand-over of Hong Kong, the last significantly sized colony, to China. The few expatriate staff in the remaining Overseas Territories are now appointed by or through the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.
The OSPA itself was formed in 1960 to represent, to safeguard and to promote the interests of members (and spouses), relating to their pensions. Over the years, its aims have broadened to spreading a better understanding of what the Colonial Service and HMOCS achieved and the varied roles which members played in administering and developing all the colonial territories (see table below or download as a PDF).
The OSPA publishes a well respected bi-annual journal for members, entitled the Overseas Pensioner. It participates in seminars and conferences on colonial themes in conjunction with the Institute of Commonwealth Studies of the University of London. Transcripts and records of these activities have been published and copies are held in the several Legal Deposit Libraries and elsewhere. Because of the roles its membership undertook during the colonial era, the OSPA is able to bring informed views and important perspectives on many aspects of the imperial and national histories of various parts of the former Empire.
The OSPA also serves as a social organisation allowing its members to maintain contact with one another, and recall their experiences. An annual Reunion is held in London and there are several regional lunches in other parts of England. Informal contacts with former territories are also cultivated.
Inevitably over time, OSPA's membership is diminishing. It is still actively engaged in assuring the pension rights of members. While most issues have been resolved, some still remain, such as the current non-payment by the Government of Zimbabwe of pensions for officials who served in Southern Rhodesia. But OSPA's chief interest now is finding ways to add to the permanent public record the first hand knowledge, understanding and personal experiences of members during their service in the colonial territories.
Britishempire.co.uk is delighted that the OSPA wishes to share its writings and the experiences of its members, and is keen to help bring this information to as wide a public as possible. The OSPA is kindly making available articles and reminiscences collected from its members over the decades of its existence, and related book reviews. This information will be incorporated throughout the site and fully accredited and acknowledged to the original authors where appropriate. Two good starting places to find OSPA material would be the Articles section and the Library for the book reviews.
How Did It All Begin
by F N Pusinelli
To celebrate the 150 years of Colonial and Overseas Civil Services (1837 - 1997) a special edition of OSPA's Journal included this brief overview of the establishment and success of OSPA since its inception. It was written by the then Chairman F. N. Pusinelli:
How did OSPA's story begin, what has it
achieved for Overseas Civil Servants, and what of the future?
The British Government's rigid 'principle' has always been that members of the
Colonial Service (HMOCS since 1954) were employees of the Government of the
colony in which they served and that the colony was responsible for their pay and
pensions. After World War II inflation began to erode the value of pensions,
particularly those which were derived from pre-war salaries. Few former colonies,
headed by Ceylon, were granting any pension increases after attaining
independence, or if granted they were at a rate less than inflation. Representations
made by civil servants associations in several colonies went unheeded, and anyway
these associations were mainly concerned with current salaries and terms of service
rather than looking ahead to the time when their members would become
pensioners. In the late 1950's associations of pensioners were formed in some
colonies, but their representations to the colonial or ex-colonial government
achieved little. Pleas to the Colonial Office received the standard response that
pensions were the responsibility of the colonial government as the employer, and
that in the case of the former colonies the continued payment of pensions was
safeguarded by the Public Officers' Agreements negotiated at the time of
In 1959 and early 1960 representatives of the West African, the East and Central
African, the Malayan, and the Ceylon Pensioners' Associations met in London and
decided that only by amalgamation and a unified approach on behalf of all
colonial/overseas pensioners to the Colonial Office would there be any prospect of
bending the British Government's principle.
These were the four constituent associations which came together to form the
Overseas Service Pensioners' Association on 1 October 1960. The Colonial Office
gave its support, and so did its successor the Department for Technical Co-operation
which took over responsibility for colonial/overseas service matters. An office,
two bare rooms, was provided in the C.O. at 3, Sanctuary Buildings. S.A. (Fanny)
Walden, a retired Senior Provincial Commissioner from Tanganyika, was recruited
as Secretary. A Council was formed, consisting of 5 representatives of each of the
four constituent associations and with power to co-opt up to 10 additional members.
This elected a smaller Executive Committee. Sir James Robertson agreed to
become President. A Constitution was drafted and then formally adopted at the first
Annual General Meeting in June 1961, which was attended by more than 700
Initially OSPA had no funds, but the four founding associations transferred their
residual balances to it. A public appeal in the press and in the house magazines of
relevant organisations resulted in some 6,600 members joining by June 1961.
Many made generous donations as well as paying an annual subscription. The rate by paying a commuted 10 years subscription. These funds enabled the offices to be
furnished, and a typewriter, copy machine and addressograph machine to be
purchased. Two part-time lady assistants were recruited and they remained with the
Association until its office moved to Hove in 1979. So OSPA was born.
The primary reason for OSPA's creation was to obtain parity with the Home,
Indian and Palestine Services in the payment of annual pension increases.
Delegations presented persuasive submissions to the Colonial Office. Mr Iain
McLeod, Secretary of State for the Colonies, attended the first Annual General
Meeting and received a rough time. But initially all this was to no avail in
breaching HMG's 'principle'. A publicity and Parliamentary campaign was then
launched, most ably supported by a number of MPs in all parties who had colonial
connections or interests, and in particular by members of the House of Lords,
including past Governors. Eventually on 17 July 1962 the Government gave way
and the Pensions (Increase) Act 1962 included Overseas Civil Service pensioners
and provided that any overseas increases paid by the former colonial government
should be topped up to give parity with other British public servants. These
increases were termed Supplementary Pension for Overseas Service, and thereafter
referred to as SPOS. This was the first and momentous success in OSPA's battles
on behalf of Overseas Service pensioners.
Fuller accounts of OSPA's birth and this first battle were published in The
Overseas Pensioner No 25, p13 L.G. Devereux, An Appreciation', No 33 p2 Birth
Pangs', and No 37 p3. Into Battle.
Since 1962 other successes have been:-
Reduction of the age for granting pension increases from 60 to 55.
Inclusion of colonial quasi-government pensioners - such as employees of certain
universities, corporations and town councils which had been devolved out of central
The Carr-Robertson assurances in 1964, expressly confirming that HMG would pay
'Loan Advances' in the event of the government of a former colony defaulting on the
payment of pensions within the terms of a Public Officers' Agreement (or in the
absence of one). The first case where this had happened was that of Somaliland in
1963, followed by Zanzibar in 1964.
The announcement in 1970 that under what was to become the Overseas Pensions
Act 1972, HMG would take over the pensions from former colonies. But it was
many years before this was fully operative and in fact there are still some overseas
pensioners who are paid on a Loan Advance basis.
The grant of pension credit for war service. Pensioners who had joined the
colonial service before WWII and then been released to serve in the Forces
during the war had always had that war service treated as pensionable. But recruitment might have been delayed by that service, only started their
pensionable service when they took up appointment in a colony. After 13 years
of persistence OSPA eventually gained parity with the Home Civil Service for
those post-war entrants, in 1988.
Colonial/Overseas Service pensioners who had been serving in Northern
Rhodesia or Nyasaland who were transferred with their work to the Central
African Federation could count their Federal Service for SPOS.
The denomination of all Central African Federal pensions, first in Zimbabwe
dollars and then in sterling at an exchange rate of Z$3.45 = 1 pound sterling.; the payment of
these pensions by the Crown Agents; and an additional contribution by HMG of
10.5m pounds to the Central African Pension Fund.
Acceptance by HMG that it has a special responsibility for Hong Kong members
of HMOCS and their widows beyond that provided by the Joint Declaration and
the Basic Law. This resulted in the Hong Kong Sterling Pensions Safeguard
Scheme. However certain details of this scheme are still the subject of
contention with HMG.
Apart from these policy issues, there has been a regular flow of individual
pensioner cases in which OSPA has been able to give advice and assistance in
correspondence with HMG. In some cases this has secured the payment of
substantial arrears. Many of these cases have involved widows pensions. On the
other hand there have been cases where despite OSPA's strong efforts,
representations have been unsuccessful.
The one substantial failure, although this has not yet been finally accepted, has been
in trying to persuade HMG to accept any responsibility to make good the devastating
loss in the value of Zimbabwe pensions due to the fall value of the Z$. HMG has
persistently declared that the Public Service in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe was a local
service, without any expatriate aspect, and that the British Government had not been
concerned with the recruitment, appointment or conditions of service of those public
servants. HMG has thus always disclaimed any responsibility for those pensioners,
who have been treated differently from Colonial/Overseas Service pensioners and their
Another recent and on-going matter has been the Jamaican Government's
derogation of the terms of the Public Officers' Agreement, which required the
payment of the pensions of pensioners covered by the Agreement and residing outside
Jamaica at the exchange rate of J$2 = 1 pound sterling. This affects a number of pensioners
whose pensions have not been taken over under the Overseas Pensions Act.
The sudden emergence of the Jamaican issue illustrates why there is still a
continuing role for OSPA, as without OSPA's co-ordination and support individual
pensioners who may appear to have been wrongly treated have less chance of
successfully representing their case to HMG. OSPA through The Overseas
Pensioner also provides a valuable and interesting link between Overseas Service
Following a proposal by Mr F.P. Ashcroft at the 1963 Annual General Meeting,
the Overseas Service Pensioners' Benevolent Society was inaugurated as a
registered charity in 1964. The Society has provided financial assistance to
members of OSPA (or those eligible to join), their widows and dependants, who are
in serious financial need. It also provides advice on various benefits matters, or on
possible assistance from other charities.
The Rt. Hon. the Lord Goodlad, KCMG
|Chairman of OSPA
Charles Cullimore, CMG
|Chairman of Benevolent Society Trustees
|Secretary, Treasurer and Editor
David Le Breton CBE
The Overseas Pensioner
|Overseas Pensioner Articles
|Grouped by Author
Grouped by Publication Date
Grouped by Subject
Grouped by Territory
Grouped by Title
|Grouped by Author
Grouped by Territory
Grouped by Title
|I Remember It Well
by David Le Breton
OSPA: Overseas Service Pensioners' Association Facebook Group
138 High Street
||Sir James Robertson
GCMG, GCVO, KBE
||Viscount Boyd of Merton
||Lord Grey of Naunton
GCMG, GCVO, OBE
||The Rt. Hon. The Lord Waddington
||Mr F. J. Lattin
||Mr L. G. Devereux
||Mr A. E. Wilson
||Sir Stafford Foster-Sutton,
KBE, CMG, QC
||Mr G. G. Carlyle
||Mr L. G. Devereux
||Mr F. N. M. Pusinelli
CMG, OBE, MC
2000 - 2004
||Mr J. J. I. Hawkins
2004 - 2013
||Mr J. F. Mathews
||Mr S. A. Walden
||Mr K. M. Cowley
1979 - 1992
||Mr C. D. Stenton
|Speeches and Addresses
Address by Sir Richard Luce|
Address by Kwasi Kwarteng MP
Address by John Smith CBE
Lord Gridley Address to House of Lords
Prince Charles' Address to OSPA
David Le Breton at Farewell Event
Lord Hennessy's 'Crown Service'
|Where to Leave Records of Overseas Colonial Service:
is happy to publish any images and accounts related to imperial topics on these pages. No hard copies of accounts or images need to be retained and all can be returned for deposting elsewhere such as:
The original collection of Colonial Service records was started by the then
Rhodes House Library in 1963 and continued under two projects until 1984.
These form the basis of the collections now held in the Weston Library. They
will consider taking written records, memoirs, diaries, tour reports, official
papers and government publications.
There are three separate libraries:
The Royal Commonwealth Society Library primarily for items that complement the existing RCS collections. Include well-captioned photographs, with diaries or related correspondence.
University's Centre of South Asian Studies
Covers Sri Lanka and South East Asia as well as India. Include memoirs,
oral history, correspondence, photographs and cine films.
University's Centre for African Studies
For African countries only. Include photographs, and written records.
Bristol Museum and Art Gallery and Bristol Archives
are able to accept donations of British Empire and Commonwealth related material that will
complement and build on their existing collections.
University of Vienna, Austria Project Voices are seeking to interview and preserve the personal histories of former colonial officers
University of Durham holds The Sudan Archive during the period of the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium.