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USC - The United Services College

The United Services College forms an interesting side story in the history of Haileybury. Established in 1874 under Cormell Price, a former Housemaster of Colvin, the College produced many famous sons including Rudyard Kipling. Nurtured by Price, Kipling became one of Britain's greatest writers and was a major influence on British thinking for generations.

USC - The United Services College

Origins of the USC

In 1874, in response to a growing discontent amongst officers in the Services about the lack of affordable public schools for their children, a group of Army officers under General Sir Charles Daubeney founded the United Services College at Westward Ho! on the North Devon coast.

By comparison to the great Victorian foundations which aimed to prepare their pupils for Oxford and Cambridge, the USC trained for careers in the military. It was affordable but it was also basic.

The Haileybury connection

Despite these somewhat humble beginnings, the USC had a significant asset in its first headmaster, Mr Cormell Price.

Price, a former Housemaster (Colvin) at Haileybury, was a man of strong liberal views and who had already proved himself there by formally setting up the Modern Side at the College.

The Modern Side was revolutionary; its innovations allowed boys to pass directly into Woolwich and Sandhurst, instead of spending vast sums of parental money supporting them through military crammers.

Price was the perfect headmaster for the new USC. His experience with developing the Modern Side, made him convinced that the USC existed to provide "a public school education of the highest class, at as low a cost as might be compatible with efficiency, and of the kind especially needed by them (the boys)". In 1878 a new pupil joined the College who was to help seal its place in history, and indeed that of Haileybury. His name was Rudyard Kipling.

Rudyard Kipling

The young Rudyard Kipling was put into Price's care in 1878 and so began a relationship that was to last until Price's death.

It was Koji, as Kipling's family called Price, who set Rudyard on his career path as a journalist and writer. Price made Kipling editor of the USC Chronicle between 1881 and 1882 and allowed him time to visit Bideford to learn the art of "hot metal" typesetting.

Kipling's education at the USC was based on Haileybury's Modern Side and many of the School's traditions, such as Pastimes, came from Price's previous school. Kipling himself took part in the 1881 Pastimes production of Sheriden's The Rivals and he wore Colvin House colours on his Crofts House cap.

Kipling had a huge affection for "Coll", as USC was known, and he continued to support the school even after it became known as the ISC.

The end of the USC

Although Kipling was USC's most famous old boy, the College was very successful in producing a number of especially distinguished army officers. These include Major General Lionel Dunsterville (Stalky in Kipling's Stalky and Co), Brigadier General The Honourable Alexander Gore Arkwright Hore-Ruthven, VC, Major General Sir Hubert Hamilton, who was killed commanding a division in the First World War and Lieutenant Colonel Gerald Hill who, as well as winning the DSO and two bars, represented Ireland in tennis and running.

However, USC's success was also the reason for its decline. Soon the major public schools, including Haileybury, became alert to the College's success and modernised their approaches, attracting pupils back who would otherwise have attended the USC. Worse, the school was suffering administratively and its remote position was not helpful in attracting new pupils.

In the end, the School's shareholders decided to wind it up but an unlikely saviour appeared in the form of the Imperial Service College Trust, under the chairmanship of Lord Chelmsford.

He was determined to secure the School's future so, in 1904 the USC at Westward Ho! moved for good and, after stays at Harpenden and then Richmond, finally arrived at Windsor where it merged with St Mark's School.

In 1911, at a meeting of the Board of Governors, the United Services College voted to change the name of the "Old Coll" to that of the Imperial Service College.

Learn more about Haileybury's history

Since 1809, the history of Haileybury has been associated with a number of educational establishments, fundamentally entwined with the history of the College as it stands today, Read more about these here:

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