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Army pension for regular soldiers


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I am researching a regular soldier who served as a private from C1903 to the end of the war.  I have three questions please:


Was he entitled to a service pension?   

Was there a minimum period of service which led to a pension?

Would service in the reserve count towards any pension?


Any advice appreciated!

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Hello Rob, 

It was my understanding that pensions were typically for those who served 21 years. It seems commonplace to see comments on surviving service records for soldiers who extended their service especially to meet the 21 years pensionable service requirement.

On the subject of pay and pensions, below is a link to a digitised document, the original of which is in the archive of Harvard University

Royal Warrant for the Pay, Appointment, Promotion, and Non-effective Pay of the Army, 1899


By the sounds of it, your man could well have been "time expired" if he served 12 + 1 years from 1903 onwards, prior to the Military Service Act. Do you know the date that he enlisted?





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Going back to those comments on the service record, the soldier is having to serve all 21 years on Active Service with the colours.

If your man had a contemporary who did the following:

Enlisted in 1903 and served with the colours from 1903 to 1906 - 3 years
Saw out 1906 to 1914 in the reserve - 8 years
Served his final year with the colours 1914 to 1915 - 1 year, 12 cumulatively served
Served an extra year with the colours for the King 1915 to 1916 - one year
Retained in the army under the MSA 1916 to 1919 - two to three years colour service 
Requested an extension in the Army Reserve 1919 to 1923 - four years reserve service, 20 cumulatively served

I do not believe this would meet the needs for pensionable service, and that a minimum amount of years Active Service with the colours for a pension as specified in the warrant, extant as at 1903,  would have not therefore been met.

Edited by Keith_history_buff
Original edit to the sentence changed the meaning, edited part is marked in yellow.
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The following is from a table that was compiled by Forum user Muerrisch, in respect of terms of service, and how the 12 years was split between Active Service with the colours versus service in the Army Reserve :




6 years colours and 6 years on reserve or 12 years and no reserve … one or the other


Primary source:
Troyte, John Edward Acland (1881)

"Through the Ranks to a Commission"



7 years colours and 5 years on reserve




1902 May [monthly compilation]


3 years colours and 9 on reserve.


Army Orders (AO) 117/02


1902 Jul


Extensions for those on 3 years or 7 years initial engagement, can extend to 8 years or 12 years


AO 159/02




Proposed, not implemented: a ‘2 years with colours plus 6 years reserve’ engagement for Home, or ‘ 9 years with colours plus 3 year reserve’ for general service


The Development of the British Army


1904 Nov


Terms of service 9 years with colours and 3 years reserve


AO 189/04




2 years with colours and 10 years reserve for certain large regiments tentatively examined




1906 Sep to 1914


7 years with colours and 5 years reserve for all. Extensions to 7 years allowed


AO 209/06




3 years or the duration, and also as above



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A very interesting and informative thread, thanks to the OP and Keith. Re time with the colours and the reserves: I would add that I am aware of one man enlisting into an infantry battalion in June 1906 for 9 and 3 as per AO189/04 (1904) and contrary to AO 204/5 (1905) or AO 209/06 (1906). One man hardly constitutes a trend, and I am completely confident in Meurrisch's expertise and accept his data unreservedly as accurate. I'm just not familiar enough with the workings of pre-War recruitment to say if, perhaps, Army Orders took a while to be applied, or if my man is just one of those odd and inexplicable anomalies. I post this here for the benefit of anyone who might be puzzled if they turn up something similar, is all. 


The soldier in question extended his terms of service to 21 years to qualify for a pension just as Keith said; here's the wording in his service record for interest:


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The replies so far relate to pensions based on active service. However, irrespective of that, soldiers might qualify for a wound pension if they were discharged on health grounds. I believe that the amounts of these pensions were assessed my medical boards, based on the degree of disability.



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Pat, thanks for the reply. My "to do" list for the weekend was to try and find a service file with the extended to 21 years service notation recorded on the Army Form B 200    Statement of the Services. You have saved me a job.

The table of the Terms of Service compiled by forum user Muerrisch, whose avatar name was Grumpy, was originally appearing in the following thread, which I ought to have included a link to earlier. Belatedly, here is a link to that very thread: 

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Glad it was useful. As to Meurrisch's work, I've benefitted from Mr G's knowledge and generosity many times; thanks for the link. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks to all who have contributed here.   I do find it amazing (and sad) that at a time when part pensions were awarded in many occupations for those forced to retire early there was no equivalent for regular soldiers.   I have a policeman in the family who resigned after 18 years service in 1911 on ill health grounds and received a portion of his pension amounting to 18/60 of his final wage.  I understand similar arrangements extended to other public service pensions.    A soldiers lot is not a happy one.....

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Yes, and intriguing.   Our soldier seems to have served a period in Tralee (garrison town in Kerry Ireland) where he married (a soldier's daughter) and had children.  In the 1911 census his wife is in the barracks there, living at what seems her mother's home as "soldiers wife" with her children.  He isn't there but is at his mother's home in Dublin listed as an unemployed labourer.   Absolutely no question that I have the right person.   So the conclusion is that in 1911 he was on a period of reserve and looking for work where it was most likely to be found and at an address where the Army could find him.   He was in France in August 1914 with the RAMC.   After the war he was discharged in Dublin and then went to Tralee to join his wife.   He lived the rest of his life in the Tralee barracks which became civilian homes after Ireland gained home rule.  

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