WELCOME TO OSPA
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, are also 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 pensions issues have now mostly been resolved, though some still require attention. 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 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 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. OSPA continued to exist after that, representing the pensioners in relation to pension matters and their wider interests.
Closure in 2017
It has now become necessary to bring the Association to an honourable end. This will happen later in 2017. The simple 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.
Click to see the Notice which was published in the October 2016 journal for the attention of members: