War Pensions - A Historical Introduction

AuthorAndrew Bano



Chapter 1

War Pensions – A Historical Introduction

1.1 The provision of pensions for those injured or killed in the service of their country and for their dependants dates back to the earliest times. In Britain, the history of war pensions has been traced back to the reign of King Alfred.1

During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, after the failure of a scheme to provide for wounded soldiers out of monies obtained from licence fees paid by butchers for being allowed to sell meat in Lent, the statute 35 Eliz. 1, c.4 (1592–93) was passed to allow parishes to impose a weekly tax so that disabled army veterans ‘should at their return be relieved and regarded to the end that they may reap the fruit of their deservings, and others may be encouraged to perform their like endeavours’.2

1.2 In 1681, the Royal Hospital Chelsea was built to care for disabled soldiers, and in 1685 a system of daily allowances administered by the hospital was introduced for non-commissioned ranks and other ranks disabled by service or who had completed 20 years’ service. Disabled officers also became entitled to receive a pension based on their degree of injury,3and in 1705, the Greenwich Hospital was opened to provide for disabled seamen. Up to the beginning of the First World War, the Board of Commissioners of the Royal Hospital Chelsea were responsible for administering army pensions, but at the start of the war responsibility for administering pensions for army officers was given to the War Office. By 1869, injured seamen had been provided with pensions instead of being cared for at the Greenwich Hospital and at the start of the First World War the Admiralty, which had taken over the functions of the Greenwich Hospital, was responsible for administering naval pensions.

1Halsbury’s Laws, Vol 49(1) (4th edn Reissue, LexisNexis), para 665, n 1.

2There is a very detailed account of this subject in a 1988 McMaster’s University Master’s thesis by Geoffrey Lewis Hudson entitled The English Privy Council and Relief of Disabled Soldiers, circa 1558–1625.

3CGT Dean, The Royal Hospital Chelsea (Hutchinson, 1950), pp 69–70.

4 War Pensions and Armed Forces Compensation – Law and Practice

1.3 In 1915, a Select Committee under the chairmanship of Lloyd George resulted in a Royal Warrant providing for a weekly pension of £1 and 5 shillings for injured servicemen who were totally disabled, and for a pension of...

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