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Stupid question...

Before 1974, what was the mean length of service of most ratings? Was it 7 years man's time plus 5 in the Reserve?


Apologies in advance for being so thick... :slow:
Blimey Steve! The world was all black and white in them days!
10 Players for half a crown and all that :D

By 1961 it was 9 years mans time i.e. after the age of 18 years. It was later changed in the late 60's to starting at 17 years and 6 months. When you left you were in the Reserve but not RNR and could be recalled how long that lasted I have no idea as joining the Plod you were exempt reserve duty.

In the 50's they had the 7 and 5.



War Hero
Book Reviewer
In February 1956 a 9 year engagement was introduced which replaced the 7 and 5; there was a consderable transfer of 7 & 5s to this new engagement which carried a higher pay rate. The result was perhaps aimed to bridge the gap with the foreseen ending of National Service (although the Navy's takeup of NS ratings was quite small). Of course some 7 & 5s lingered on and some had to work out their 12 (hence ROMFT, the T is for Twelve). Further engagement was to complete 14 years and then 22 if I remember correctly, and then a few went on for a 'fifth five'. For all these engagements the clock started ticking at age 18 ("man's time"), so a 22 year man would be at least 40 when he left the Service.

Pension rates were also increased (but not retrospectively).

At the same time Centralised Drafting was introduced replacing drafting by Port Division, and new construction moved from hammocks to bunks and to dining halls instead of eating on the messdeck, certainly starting with Tiger class and Leanders (not sure about the original situation in Eagle and Ark Royal and possibly some late type 12s). The personal hammock gave place to drawing a camp bed/hammock on personal loan.

So goodbye .. I met a matelot old and grey/ On his back he had his kitbag and his hammock .. and no more was it the Jossman in Jago's Mansion who sent the Barrack Stanchion off to sea.

All these steps (which presumably had been in the egg for a couple of years, the Treasury does not agree such things overnight) were aimed at improving retention as well as recruiting - the Navy was one of the few ways a poor boy could get to see the world before the big passenger jets came in, and we still had Fleets or at least squadrons in every sea and ocean.


Nutty you are correct 7+5 at 18 but you could also sign on at 18 for 12 years then as was said they changed it to 9 years in 56, they also put you on the reserve when you did the 9 anyway.


War Hero
Certain branches were not open to 7+5 at various times. I joined in 1952 as a JACK II (Junior Assistant Cook - second class) and was obliged to sign for twelve years from age 18, as were most of my contemporaries.
We had one National Serviceman in our class (ex RNR), and a couple of adult ratings who were in for the 7+5, but for the majority of us it was twelve or nothing.
When it came to signing on, although the 9-14-22 scheme had by then been introduced, twelve year men signed for CS2 = pension, and weren't allowed to sign for 14.

So JACK is not a seaman but a cook! I shall look at my Tugg cartoons with renewed inspiration. ;)

Thanks for all the answers. My question stems from being interested in determining, given HMGs refusal to comtemplate pensions for all those who served less than the 22 year man's time pension qualifying period (the U22 servicemen), if it would be possible to estimate what the cost might be were all U22 servicemen who joined before 1974 given a pension, based on the average obligatory engagement. So let us say that all pre-74'ers campaigned for a pension for say just 7 years regular service: what would this cost the Treasury & would it weaken their case to refuse to pay the pensions, especially in the light of the ongoing Northern Rock handout?


Thingy, that is a difficult question to answer. But say average Pension now 10k pa.??? for 22 years.

Pure Guess at £10k

I was 9 active 3 reserve (1963-1972). So no pension. Some 7 years active.

Say average 8 years service pro rata 10k/22*8= say £3600 pa.

Approx. 60,000?? men and women (still alive) served all forces 1947-1974.

Gives £216,000,000 per year.

Very small beer compared to Northern Rock.

Would soon get less than this as someone at 18 in 1947 is now 79


Lantern Swinger
I joined in 1969 as a 16yr old and had to serve till 18 before my pensionable time started. I left at 27 and because I had done the boys time I did not have to do Fleet Reserve Time. When I was doing my discharge routine I was told that I would be entitled to a naval pension when I reached the age of 65 but it was totally my own responsibility to write to MOD when I reached that age to claim the pension. If I didn't they would not contact me and it would be lost. As it was I joined the police and transferred it over anyway. When I joined the RN I had to sign for 22 yrs and the earliest I could then leave was after completing 9yrs pensionable time. There was a facility in place that you could apply for Discharge By Purchase before that time and if successful it would cost about £100 to do so.
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