The pre-1975 service pensions grievance affects British ex-servicemen and women who served as regular 'Other Ranks', and left the armed forces before April 1975 without completing a full 22-year career. They have no pension for their years of service in the Royal Navy or Royal Marines, British Army or Royal Air Force. The issue also affects the widows and widowers of pre-1975 service personnel.

For reasons explained below, BAFF does not campaign about this matter but we understand that a few of our veteran members are affected by it, so this article is presented for information.

The Armed Forces Pension Group (AFPG) [disbanded 2015] explained that:

Our aim is to secure equality of pensions for former regular members of the Armed Forces who served for fewer than 22 years at any time to April 1975 and who were discharged before 5th April 1975. This also applies to those regulars who were discharged prior to 1981 who do not meet the criteria of length of service and age. We ask Her Majesty's Government for pension rights based on years of service and related, pro rata, to pensions received by contemporaries who completed 22 years of service.

According to Veterans UK:

Service deferred pensions. Prior to 6 April 1975 there was no provision for a preservation of pension benefits and service personnel who left the armed forces had to have completed 16 years from age 21 (officers) or 22 years from age 18 (other ranks). Those who left before that date without completing the above criteria, lost all pension entitlement. The rules changed on 6 April 1975...

"Deferred pensions" are also known as "preserved pensions".

Comparison with treatment of pre-1975 "early leavers" from the Civil Service

Some campaigners have encouraged the belief that pre-1975 early leavers from the armed forces were not only treated badly, but treated much worse than their contemporaries in other employments, particularly those in the civil service.

The theory seems to be that, unlike their counterparts in the armed forces, pre-1975 civil service "early leavers" were retrospectively allowed to qualify for preserved pensions, which came in after they had already left the service.

A variation on that theory is that if pre-1975 civil service early leavers didn't qualify for preserved pensions either, at least they hadn't suffered the same injustice as their armed forces counterparts, because civil service pay (supposedly) took no account of the employer's pension expenditure.

Another demonstration of the need for an independent armed forces federation

A Pensions Advisory Service expert (already quoted in the above Fact check) also said in 2002 that

The loss of these servicemen's pension rights is now becoming important to them 27 years on but they should have been campaigning back in 1975.

One of the most troubling aspects of the pre-1975 service pensions grievance is that the service authorities made no realistic attempt to inform personnel after the Social Security Act 1973 had been introduced in Parliament, and then passed into law, but not yet fully implemented.

Although the legislation was passed in September 1973, having been in preparation long before that date, outrageously it was not until the last moment - March 1975 - that the MoD took the trouble to issue a leaflet to explain the main features of preserved pensions, and give notice that they would apply to those who served on or after April 6 1975. Given the time typically taken to distribute such material in UK or overseas, very few personnel would have seen the leaflet (if they saw it at all) before the changes had already taken place.

Some personnel had already been discharged against their will when the authorities already well knew that the changes were pending. Many others left voluntarily without knowing that they would be missing out on significant pension benefits in later life.

If an independent representative armed forces federation had existed at the time, service personnel would at the very least have been better informed about their options before leaving the service voluntarily. And those faced with discharge against their wishes in order to evade their pension entitlement could have found an independent champion, which the chain of command did not - and could not - provide.

Why BAFF hasn't campaigned about this pension issue

As a British armed forces veteran, any ex-serviceman or ex-servicewoman affected by this issue is very welcome to join BAFF.

But we always left active campaigning about the pre-1975 pension injustice to the various groups which were formed for that specific purpose. Because we made that clear from the start, BAFF had only one early enquirer about representation on that issue, whom we supplied with contact details for "CAFFUK" (not a current recommendation).

BAFF did offer assistance and cooperation in a purely supportive role both to "Combined Armed Forces Federation" (CAFFUK), and to "Armed Forces Pension Group" (AFPG). AFPG readily accepted research assistance using BAFF overseas contacts. CAFFUK responded 'differently'.

A third campaign group was formed in 2010: "Equality for Veterans Association" (EFVA).

AFPG and EfVA both decided to wind up in 2015. See Updates about the pre-1975 service pensions injustice.

An online petition is actively running as of Spring 2018:

Officer pensions

A similar issue arguably affects commissioned officers who served for less than 16 years but they, in many cases, at least received a gratuity which was not available to their non-commissioned counterparts. For example, a QARANC Lieutenant who left in 1974 before completing 16 years might have received a gratuity, whereas one of our members, a QARANC SNCO who left at the same time after the same period of service, with the same professional qualifications and having performed the same duties, left with nothing. Officer gratuities were not in lieu of pensions, but intended to assist those with short or limited service with their resettlement into civilian life; no such provision was made for "Other Ranks".

Advisory Committee on Recruiting under the Chairmanship of Sir James Grigg (1958)

One of twelve recommendations by the Grigg Committee (1958) would have benefited pre-1975 armed forces "early leavers" who took up later employment in the Civil Service:

Picture of a paragraph in the Grigg Committee's recommendations

but the Government never accepted that recommendation.

If it really had been accepted it would have needed legislation, as well as financial provision.

Also, despite any claim to the contrary, the recommendation wouldn't have helped pre-1975 early leavers who didn't take up subsequent employment with the Civil Service.