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This is the residual website for the Overseas Service Pensioners’ Association. 
It records OSPA’s closure in October 2017, and summarizes its history, purposes and activities, for information of would-be contacts or enquirers.

The OSPA website will be maintained until December 2019.


The Overseas Service Pensioners’ Association will be closed from the end of October 2017.  The reason is that after 57 years since OSPA’s formation in 1960, there are too few surviving members, mostly aged in their mid- to late eighties or more, to sustain the Association or participate in its activities.  There will be no residual organization, though some individual members may choose to maintain informal contacts or arrange social functions.


OSPA’s existence reflected and helped to record the later years of the British Colonial Empire, particularly in the period after 1945.  OSPA was created in 1960 as the combined successor to four earlier colonial pensioner associations for Ceylon, Malaya, West Africa and East and Central Africa.

Its prime purpose was to protect the pension rights of members of Her Majesty’s Overseas Civil Service (HMOCS), which had until 1954 been known generally as the Colonial Service.  Members had worked as civil servants for the various governments of the former British colonial territories, ultimately under the former Colonial Office of the British Government in London.  But they were not employed by the British Government and their pension terms were not assured after a territory became independent.  Later its membership was extended to include people who served the governments of Southern Rhodesia, the Central African Federation and the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, which were not administered by HMOCS.  Widows were also included.  HMOCS included members of the Colonial Audit Service and Queen Elizabeth’s Colonial Nursing Service which had previously been distinct from the regular colonial services.

OSPA’s aims and activities were summarized in a statement by the last OSPA Secretary, David Le Breton, speaking at OSPA’s “Farewell Event” held in London on 8 June 2017.

The relevant extract is:

The initial purpose of OSPA was quite narrow. It was to persuade the British Government to provide annual pension increases for colonial civil servants after Independence to match those given to other civil servants in Britain. There was strong resistance from the UK Treasury, but OSPA lobbied persistently, with its first Secretary, Mr Walden, spending many hours in the House of Commons, explaining the position to MPs and seeking their support. In December 1962 the Pensions (Increase) Act was passed which gave HMOCS pensioners the same annual pension increases as other UK civil servants. Of course, that applied to widows too.

So the objective was achieved. Should OSPA therefore close down? But in 1963/1964 two newly independent governments in Somalia (incorporating the former British Somaliland) and Zanzibar (after a revolution overthrowing the Sultan’s rule) refused to pay pensions to former officers, despite the agreement that had been reached at the time of Independence. This gave OSPA a new purpose, and there were more pensions issues that arose later.

It took ten years of persistence by OSPA to overcome the reluctance of the British Government to protect the pensions, until the Overseas Pensions Act was passed in 1973. Then there were ten more years of negotiations with the various governments concerned to complete the process.

So by 1979 the question was raised again. “Whither the Association now?” asked the Council chairman. There were two different reasons for continuing. The first concerned pensions which remained OSPA’s prime objective. The second was the wider matter of the records of our service and our reputation. I will come back to that. Relating to pensions, there was a new question of the security of the pensions owed to the people who, although not members of HMOCS, had served the Crown in the colony of Southern Rhodesia before the Unilateral Declaration of Independence in November 1965. That is an issue that still concerns us now, 37 years later. But it meant that in 1980 the headlines in two successive journals were: “The Association Continueth” and “From Strength to Strength”.

Then in 1981 there was the first reference to pensions to officers serving in Hong Kong. That took almost 15 years to resolve. Then questions about Central African Federal pensions, an active issue still which OSPA will be taking up shortly with whichever government is elected today. Other pensions matters which OSPA has dealt with are entitlement to War Service Credit; “frozen” State Retirement Pensions for residents overseas; some pensions paid by the Government of Jamaica, and the payment long out of time of arrears of National Insurance Contributions that Colonial officers were never told about.

I now turn to the second category of OSPA’s achievements: to provide the record of our Service in the colonial territories and to uphold our reputation. In 1963 the Rhodes House Library, then part of the Bodleian Library in Oxford, formed the Colonial Records Project to collect documents, diaries, letters and other records about colonial service work. It continued under other titles for many years. Here today we welcome the Senior Archivist of the Weston Library in Oxford, part of the Bodleian Library, who will be taking more of OSPA’s records shortly for adding to the archives – Lucy McCann!

As well as Oxford University, more records are held at Cambridge University Library, especially those with films or photographs. Sudan records are held at the University of Durham. There are more in Scotland, at the University of Edinburgh, and at Bristol where the City Museum and Archives are a most important location, still deeply engaged in absorbing the collections of the unfortunate British Empire and Commonwealth Museum, but willing to receive fresh material if it fits in with what they already have. So we welcome Jayne Pucknell who has come from Bristol to join us. 

The University of London has been another key centre for recording our colonial history. There was a major conference there in 1999 as part of the great Joint Commemoration that year, attended by The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in Westminster Abbey. That was followed by two phases of seminars, workshops, and conferences recording OSPA members’ experiences, at the Institute for Commonwealth Studies, which published the proceedings. We welcome today Professor Philip Murphy and his colleague Olga Jimenez for their most excellent service in making those functions both possible and memorable. Professor Murphy, and Olga Jimenez!

There are two more enterprises which will be of first rank importance for researchers and historians for many decades to come. One is the website , inspired and produced so enthusiastically and skilfully by Stephen Luscombe with the help of his wife Cheryl. He has enhanced the articles and book reviews published in all our journals since the early 1980s, increasing their interest and usefulness far beyond what the original text ever did. He is keen to receive any more material about the colonial times from any source. Stephen Luscombe, and Cheryl!

The other is what we have termed “Project Voices”, at the University of Vienna, created by Dr Valentin Seidler, who I expect has even today obtained some more offers of contributions. The importance of this project is that it aims to assess, or evaluate, the work of HMOCS officers, as well as simply to record their experiences. The project receives funding from academic sources in the USA so that gives OSPA a wider international understanding. Valentin Seidler!


The historical record of the Service begins with the publication on 30 March 1837, in the reign of King William the Fourth, of the first set of what became known as Colonial Regulations, relating to “His Majesty’s Colonial Service”.  It can therefore be said to have been the oldest of all the overseas services, predating the formation of the Indian Civil Service (1858) and the Sudan Political Service (1899).  

Initially there was no actual corps of officers employed in the colonies and “plantations”, but that changed as the colonial empire grew during the rest of that century and into the 20th century.  There were progressive moves during the 1920s and 30s towards the unification of the varied types of service that developed across the widely differing territories.  Finally in 1954 they were all combined under the title of Her Majesty’s Overseas Civil Service (HMOCS), which continued until 1 July 1997 when the largest remaining colony, Hong Kong, was handed over to the Peoples’ Republic of China. OSPA continued to exist for 20 years after that, representing the pensioners in relation to pension matters and their wider interests, until its closure in October 2017 (the same day as the British General Election).


This Event was successfully held in the De Vere Grand Connaught Rooms in Central London.  There were over 400 people present, chiefly OSPA members and their families and friends, plus a number of other guests including representatives from some of the sponsors who had generously contributed towards the cost.  The sponsors were: The Swire Group, The Beit Trust, the late Sir David Tang, KBE, Matheson & Co. Ltd, CDC Group PLC, Stephenson Harwood LLP

The Event took the form of a Reception at midday, followed by a Luncheon in the Grand Hall.  Charles Cullimore, OSPA Council Chairman, gave an introductory welcome at the Reception.  Click on button below to view:


HRH the Prince of Wales was the Guest of Honour at the Reception.  He stayed for over one hour, and was able to meet and speak to many people as he moved through the crowded throng.  He then made a short speech, recalling his visits to many of the Commonwealth countries where OSPA members had earlier served.  For a full transcript of HRH the Prince of Wales' speech, click here:

David Le Breton, the OSPA Secretary, presented him with a copy of the book "I Remember it Well", the collection of members' reminiscences of their lives and work in the various colonies, published in 2010.  His words were: 

Your Royal Highness, we are truly honoured by your presence at this event and by your recognition, as you have expressed, of our sense of pride in having been members of Her Majesty’s Overseas Civil Service.

Please accept this little book which contains even more reminiscences by OSPA members of their work and lives in the former Colonial Empire. These articles were published in the OSPA Journal between 1980 and 2009. As first-hand recollections they are part of the true record of that period in British and world history. Thank you, Sir. 

For the Luncheon, there were 43 tables for all the guests, demarcated in four regional zones covering all the former dependent territories.  Each table was decorated with a bunch of miniature flags of the Commonwealth and the Union Jack.  The three-course meal was followed by a toast to "The Queen", proposed by OSPA's President, Lord Goodlad, and a second toast to "OSPA members past and present, and their memories", proposed by David Le Breton.  He gave a short summary of OSPA's past history, and described the arrangements for the preservation of its records, as well as for the ongoing methods of collecting members' memoirs and other documents, photographs and films about all aspects of their life and work in their former territories (see above). 

Lord Goodlad then introduced the Guest Speaker, Professor the Lord Hennessy, whose address was on the topic of "Crown Service".  To see Lord Goodlad's remarks, and Lord Hennessy's address, please click on the button below:

'CROWN SERVICE' by Professor the Lord Hennessy, introduced by Lord Goodlad

The function ended with the singing of the National Anthem, "God Save The Queen", accompanied by a Caribbean Steel Band who had played during the Reception and the Luncheon.



There was also a professional photographer present, whose pictures of the whole Event can be seen on his Gallery Links below.  These are low resolution images, and not suitable for personal reproduction. Prints can be ordered from [email protected]; mobile number: 07958 915484.

Prints come in two sizes and prices:

7.5 x 5 inches - £12 each (inc. p&p)

9 x 6 inches - £25 each (inc. p&p)

Gallery no 1:

Gallery no 2:

These are viewing galleries only