Bull College shield

Carved shield based on a design by Al Kohler
Created 1945/6
Acquired by St Catharine’s 1955

Wooden shield of Bull College

The Bull building on Trumpington Street (known at the time as Bull Hotel) was briefly home to United States’ service personnel enrolled on courses at the University of Cambridge. In October 1945, 149 troops arrived under the auspices of the US Army’s Training Within Civilian Agencies (TWCA) programme for a course of study closely resembling the first term of Part 1A of a Tripos. Only 60 could be accommodated across the different Cambridge Colleges, so 89 were billeted at the Bull Hotel. 

The name ‘Bull College’ was initially coined by Sir John Sheppard, the Provost of King’s College, and before long the new College had semi-official status: Bull is the designated College affiliation on TWCA students’ records held by the University Archives. It was Sir John who presented the shield and other mementos of Bull College to St Catharine’s in 1955. 

The two-foot wooden shield is carved with the Bull College coat-of-arms, which juxtaposes the Stars and Stripes, the Union Flag, the University’s arms, a bull’s head and the American eagle. While the 1955 edition of the St Catharine’s Magazine describes it as “magnificently indifferent to the subtleties of heraldic design”, the coat-of-arms became a widely recognised symbol of Bull College during the institution’s short lifetime. 

Bull College became well known across Cambridge as its students distinguished themselves in sporting competitions, notably sinking the St Catharine’s boat in the 1946 Lent Bumps.

Magnanimously, the 1955 St Catharine’s Magazine comments, “Let us not forget these exiled students from a far and friendly land who came to fight a common enemy – and having fought, laid aside their weapons and founded for a brief season an academic home away from home.”

By the end of 1945, the British military reclaimed the Bull Hotel for Russian language courses and the TWCA students were given alternative accommodation in barrack-style rooms. Although a second intake arrived in October 1946, the TWCA programme was cancelled the following spring.

Contact details

Matilda Watson

01223 338343