The Royal Navy’s Principal Warfare Officer Course, 1972–2015

By Andrew Livsey, published August 2017


The Principal Warfare Officer (PWO) course, which trains officers to direct warships on operations, has for the last 40 years been a key determinant in how the Royal Navy has fought. Four of the last six First Sea Lords, the professional heads of the Royal Navy, have been PWOs. This article explains why the course was created and how it has developed. It shows how the focus on anti-submarine warfare, anti-air warfare and other areas has waxed and waned to reflect changing institutional priorities and the practicalities of warfare. It also provides a useful case study of how change is instigated in a large, self-confident organization. The history of the PWO course suggests that the Royal Navy, far from being hidebound as sometimes suggested, continually updated its training to reflect new realities.

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Filed under: Post WW2 | Other (location)
Subjects include: Administration | Battles & Tactics

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