Overseas Service Pensioners' Association OSPA

Overseas Service Pensioners' Association
Overseas Service Pensioner Association
The Overseas Pensioner
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).

Overseas Service Pensioner Association
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 independence.

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 members.

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 government service.

  • 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 widows.

    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 pensioners.

    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.

  • Badge
    The Rt. Hon. the Lord Goodlad, KCMG
    Chairman of OSPA
    Charles Cullimore, CMG
    Chairman of Benevolent Society Trustees
    D'Arcy Payne
    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
    Overseas Pensioner
    Book Reviews
    Grouped by Author
    Grouped by Territory
    Grouped by Title
    I Remember It Well
    by David Le Breton
    OSPA: Overseas Service Pensioners' Association Facebook Group
    Past Presidents
    1960-71 Sir James Robertson
    1971-83 Viscount Boyd of Merton
    CH, PC
    1983-97 Lord Grey of Naunton
    1998-2012 The Rt. Hon. The Lord Waddington
    GCVO, QC
    Past Chairmen
    1960-63 Mr F. J. Lattin
    1964-65 Mr L. G. Devereux
    1965-68 Mr A. E. Wilson
    1969-72 Sir Stafford Foster-Sutton,
    KBE, CMG, QC
    1972-74 Mr G. G. Carlyle
    1974-78 Mr L. G. Devereux
    1978-2000 Mr F. N. M. Pusinelli
    CMG, OBE, MC
    2000 - 2004 Mr J. J. I. Hawkins
    2004 - 2013 Mr J. F. Mathews
    Past Secretaries
    1960-71 Mr S. A. Walden
    1971-79 Mr K. M. Cowley
    CMG, OBE
    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'
    The Last Hurrah
    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:

    Oxford University
    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.

    Cambridge University
    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.

    Colonial Territories' Independence Dates In Alphabetical Order
    Territory Present Name (if changed) Date of Independence
    Aden Yemen (part) 30 November 1967
    Bahamas 10 July 1973
    Barbados 30 November 1966
    Basutoland Lesotho 4 October 1966
    Bechuanaland Botswana 30 September 1966
    British Guiana Guyana 26 May 1966
    British Honduras Belize 21 September 1981
    Brunei 1 January 1984
    Northern Cameroons Nigeria (part) 1 June 1961
    Southern Cameroons Cameroon (part) 1 October 1961
    Central African Federation (of Rhodesia & Nyasaland) Dissolved 31 December 1963
    Ceylon Sri Lanka 4 February 1948
    Cyprus 16 August 1960
    Fiji 10 October 1970
    Gambia The Gambia 18 February 1965
    Gold Coast Ghana 6 March 1957
    Hong Kong China (part) 1 July 1997
    Jamaica 6 August 1962
    Kenya 12 December 1963
    Leeward Islands: Antigua Antigua & Barbuda 01 November 1981
    Leeward Islands: St Kitts-Nevis St Christopher & Nevis 19 September 1983
    Malaya Malaysia (part) 31 August 1957
    Malta 21 September 1964
    Mauritius 12 March 1968
    Nigeria 1 October 1960
    North Borneo Sabah
    Malaysia (part)
    31 August 1963
    16 September 1963
    Northern Rhodesia Zambia 24 October 1964
    Nyasaland Malawi 6 July 1964
    Palestine Israel/Jordan 14 May 1948
    Sarawak Malaysia (part) 16 September 1963
    Seychelles 29 June 1976
    Sierra Leone 27 April 1961
    Singapore Malaysia (part)
    Independent State
    16 September 1963
    9 August 1965
    Somaliland Protectorate Independence
    Somalia (part)
    26 June 1960
    1 July 1960
    Southern Rhodesia Zimbabwe 18 April 1980
    Swaziland 6 September 1968
    Tanganyika Tanzania (part) 9 December 1961
    Trinidad and Tobago 31 August 1962
    Uganda 9 October 1962
    Western Pacific Territories: British Solomon Islands Solomon Islands 7 July 1978
    Western Pacific Territories: Gilbert & Ellice Islands Kiribati / Tuvalu 12 July 1979
    Western Pacific Territories: New Hebrides Vanuatu 3 July 1980
    Western Pacific Territories: Tonga 4 June 1970
    Windward Islands: Dominica 3 November 1978
    Windward Islands: Grenada 7 February 1974
    Windward Islands: St Lucia 22 February 1979
    Windward Islands: Dominica
    St Vincent 27 October 1979
    Zanzibar Tanzania (part) 10 December 1963

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