The Royal Navy Pension Scheme

In 1590 the Chatham Chest was established to provide pensions to wounded seamen of the Royal Navy. This was probably the first funded occupational pension fund in the world. Each month 5% was deducted from seamen’s wages and paid into the chest.

Pensions were payable on a fixed scale according to the degree of injury. The pensions were payable for life but were regularly reviewed and could be reduced or terminated if the pensioner was found to have recovered sufficiently to be capable of employment.

In 1672 a state superannuation scheme for retired naval officers was introduced, and is believed to be the first occupational pension scheme in the world to provide lifetime pensions on retirement due to old age.

There was no fixed retirement age, and the pension, which was 100 per cent of salary and allowances, became payable to any officer who became unfit for performing his duties because of age, provided he had completed at least 15 years’ service.

This image shows a petition, dated July 1702, from Thomas Bates asking for a county pension after serving in the Royal Navy and losing his left leg in the battle of Martinique in the West Indies in 1667. © MJ/SP/1702/07/004 London Metropolitan Archives, City of London Corporation