WELCOME TO OSPA
The OVERSEAS SERVICE PENSIONERS’ ASSOCIATION (OSPA) was founded in 1960 in order to protect the pension rights of members of Her Majesty's Overseas Civil Service (HMOCS), which had earlier (until 1954) been known generally as the Colonial Service. Members had worked as civil servants for the Governments of the former British Colonial territories, ultimately under the former Colonial Office in London.
OSPA now has around 2,600 members, of whom nearly a quarter live outside Britain. They include widows, and wives. Membership of OSPA 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, are also welcome as Associate members, and these are a growing number.
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.
The pensions issues have now mostly been resolved, though some are still live, and others may yet arise. OSPA now focuses 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 publishes a bi-annual journal – the Overseas Pensioner, and has organized a series of Witness Seminars and Conferences, the transcripts of which add to the public record and are available to purchase through the OSPA office.
The Colonial Service, and Her Majesty’s Overseas Civil Service
The historical record of our 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 be 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.