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Historical Veterans Agency Information

In the Beginning

Since the dawn of British history, pensions in some form or other have been paid to the casualties of war. Ancient records reveal that in King Alfred's reign, pensions, or the equivalent in grants of land, were an established form of reward for disablement, and Queen Elizabeth I decreed that - "such as have adventured their lives and lost their limbs, or disabled their bodies in defence of Her Majesty and the State, should be relieved and rewarded that they may reap the fruit of their good deserving".

This "fruit of their good deserving" took the form of the Chatham Chest, a naval charitable foundation established around 1590. It was funded by a charge of 6d a month from the wages of every officer and rating in the Navy. It paid compensation for wounds and injuries sustained in action or on duty, and pensions for permanent disablement to warrant officers, ratings and dockyard workers. It also paid pensions to the widows of those killed in action. It was administered by a corporation of officers stationed at Chatham under the control of the Navy Board. In 1803 the administration of the Chest was transferred to the Greenwich Hospital and thereafter became known as "the Chest at Greenwich".

In 1713 a disablement flat rate of 5d (old pence) a day was given and some 150 years later, in the Crimean War, this became 8d a day for partial and 2shillings a day for total disablement.


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