The United Service Institution of India was founded in 1870 by a soldier scholar, Colonel (later Major General) Sir Charles MacGregor. The story of its growth is the story of the growth of the Indian Armed Forces. It was founded for ‘furtherance of interest and knowledge in the art, science and literature of the Defence Services.’
First housed in the old Town Hall at Shimla, in the foot hills of the Himalayas, the Institution moved to the then Army Headquarters. In 1908 its own building was erected at a cost of Rs. 26,000/- near Cumbermere Post Office in the Shimla Hills. As the partition of the sub continent approached, the Council decided that the USI and its Journal should continue as before; but that was not to be. Four issues of the Journal (January, April, July and October 1948) did go out as that of the United Service Institution of India and Pakistan, with flags of both the countries on the cover. In the event, the Institution remained a purely Indian one.
The post Independence years were financially a testing time for the Institution. The property in Shimla had to be sold off for Rs. 18,000/- and the Institution was moved to Delhi in 1953, where it was located, till mid 1996, in Kashmir House on Rajaji Marg ( the premises of the Engineer-in-Chief’s Branch, among others). Notwithstanding the difficulties, the Institution pulled through by the sheer dedication and selflessness of the then Secretary, Colonel Pyara Lal, who managed it from 1957 to 1987. Amongst the distinguished officers who have been the Secretary, the name of Field Marshal W J Slim, MC stands out (early thirties). Since 1987, the designation of the Secretary has been changed to that of Director. Major General S C Sinha, PVSM (Retd) was the Director from November 1987 to 30 June 1996. Lt Gen Satish Nambiar PVSM, AVSM, VrC (Retd) was the Director from 01 July 1996 to 31 Dec 2008. Lt Gen P K Singh, PVSM, AVSM (Retd) was the Director from 01 Jan 2009 to 31 Dec 2019.
The foundation stone for the new premises was laid on 26 April 1993 by the then Chief of the Army Staff and Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee, General S F Rodrigues, PVSM, VSM, ADC, in the presence of the then Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral L Ramdas, PVSM, AVSM, VrC, VSM, ADC and Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal N C Suri, PVSM, AVSM, VM, ADC.
Maj Gen BK Sharma, AVSM, SM** (Retd), assumed Charge as Director on 01 Jan 2020
The Institution began with a membership of 215 members. When it moved to its present premises, the number stood at about 3500, and now it is over 12,928 as on 01 Jan 2021.
A “History of USI” from 1870 to 2008 has been written by Col V K Singh. VSM (Retd) Former Dy Director (ADM): It is being updated every year.