Half pay (h.p.) was a term used in the British Army and Royal Navy of the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries to refer to the pay or allowance an officer received when in retirement or not in actual service.
The maritime adventure novels of the Horatio Hornblower series, set during the Napoleonic Wars, include numerous references to the protagonist and his fellow naval officers' fear of being retired and "stranded ashore on half-pay", which they consider as their worst nightmare.
- Oxford English Dictionary (subscription required)
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