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It has now become necessary to bring the Association to an honourable close later this year at the end of October.  The reason is that after 57 years since OSPA's formation there are too few surviving members, almost all of whom are in their mid or late eighties or more, to sustain the Association or participate in its activities.  Until then OSPA will continue to carry out its objectives, and the full range of activities will be maintained.  The office will operate as usual, welcoming information or responding to questions.

OSPA's farewell event - Thursday 8 JUNE 2017

Please email: (see details/links below)

This Event was successfully held on the same day as the British General Election, 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
Sir David Tang, KBE
Matheson & Co. Ltd
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. [Applause]

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.  To see David Le Breton's statement, click on the button below:

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:

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; 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


OSPA's Membership

OSPA now has around 2,500 members, of whom nearly a quarter live outside Britain.  They include widows, and wives.  Membership of OSPA has been - and still is - open to all former HMOCS officers and their widows, and other people with similar service.  Non-pensioners, and anyone having a personal or professional interest in the work or activities of the Colonial Service or in colonial life and times generally, have also been welcome as Associate members.

OSPA also represents people who served the governments of Southern Rhodesia, the Central African Federation and the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, which were not administered by HMOCS.  Widows are 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 was founded in 1960 in order 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.

the public record of the colonial service/hmocs

The pensions issues have now mostly been resolved, though some still require attention.  OSPA has recently focused more on spreading a better understanding of what the Colonial Service/HMOCS was, who its members were, what they did, why and how they did it, and to what effect.  More generally, what was their life like?  OSPA believes that this information ought to be out on public record, in many different ways, so that people today and those of tomorrow can know about and have access to first-hand evidence of how the colonial territories were governed and developed during the colonial phase of the 20th century, especially after 1945.  To this end, OSPA has published a bi-annual journal - the Overseas Pensioner - which contains articles and book reviews about the colonial period.  The journal in October 2017 will be the final one.  OSPA also organized in conjunction with the Institute of Commonwealth Studies of the University of London a series of Witness Seminars and Convferences between 2001 and 2015.  The transcripts have been published by the Institute.

Historical Origins

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 has continued to exist for 20 years after that, representing the pensioners in relation to pension matters and their wider interests.