Defence Survive, Evade, Resist, Extract Training Organisation

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Defence Survive, Evade, Resist, Extract Training Organisation
Defence Survive, Evade, Resist, Extract Training Organisation badge.png
Organisation badge
Active2008 – present
CountryUnited Kingdom United Kingdom
Branch Naval Service
 British Army
 Royal Air Force
TypeTri-service training organisation
RoleSurvive, Evade, Resist, Extract (SERE) Training
Part ofNo. 22 Group RAF
LocationRAF St Mawgan
Motto(s)Constant Endeavour

The Defence Survive, Evade, Resist, Extract (SERE) Training Organisation, otherwise known as DSTO, is a military training organisation based at RAF St. Mawgan, Cornwall In the United Kingdom. DSTO is a tri-service organisation and trains personnel of the British armed forces in survival techniques, evading capture and resistance from interrogation, prior to overseas deployment.



The Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force have what has been described as a "rich history of survival training". Crews were often lost at sea during the Second World War, with an attrition rate of 80%, which prompted this training to be initiated.[1][2]

Prior to the DSTO being established, each of the UK's armed forces carried out their own SERE training. The RAF and Royal Navy each provided their own defence, survive, evade and extract training whereas the Resistance Training Wing trained provided all services with resistance training.

Royal Air Force[edit]

The Royal Air Force can trace such training back to May 1943 with the formation of the School of Air/Sea Rescue, located near RAF Squire Gate in Lancashire. The school taught RAF and USAAF crews rescue procedures and familiarisation with rescue equipment.[3] It relocated to RAF Calshot in Hampshire in 1945, when it became the Survival and Rescue Training Unit, before moving to RAF Thorney Island in West Sussex during 1946. It disbanded in April 1949, but was replaced by the Survival and Rescue Mobile Instruction Unit (SRMIU), again at Thorney Island, in January 1950. The SRMIU would provide training to personnel during annual visits to RAF stations, however this method was considered inadequate and in 1955 the Search, Rescue and Survival School was established as part of No. 2 Air Navigation School. The School moved to RAF Mount Batten near Plymouth In June 1959. At that time it was renamed the School of Combat Survival and Rescue (SCSR), reflecting the combat environment which it was expected that survival and rescue skills would typically be used. RAF Mount Batten closed in 1992, with the school relocated to RAF St Mawgan in Cornwall, where it remained until 2008.[4][5]

Royal Navy[edit]

Before 1943, Royal Navy survival training and equipment was the responsibility of two ratings trained by the RAF. The significance of the work however resulted in a reorganisation whereby the navy would train its own Survival Equipment Officers and ratings. The new Royal Navy Survival Equipment School (RNSES) initially took up residence at Eastleigh in Hampshire before moving to improved accommodation at Grange Airfield (HMS Siskin) in March 1947. In 1955, the school moved to a former boy’s preparatory school (Seafield Park) at Hill Head. It remained at Hill Head until September 1991 when it relocated to the former Naval Aircraft Technical Evaluation Centre (NATEC) building at RNAS Lee-on-Solent (HMS Daedalus).[6] In February 1995, the RNSES become part of the Royal Navy Air Engineering School which was renamed Royal Navy Air Engineering and Survival School (RNAESS). When Lee-on-Solent closed in March 1996, the RNAESS was relocated to a purpose built building at HMS Sultan in Gosport. The unit was renamed the Survival Equipment Group and formed part of the Air Engineering and Survival Department, remaining at HMS Sultan until 2008.[6]

Resistance Training Wing[edit]

Formerly 4 Conduct after Capture Company (4 CAC Coy), the Resistance Training Wing (RTW) was part of the now disbanded Joint Services Intelligence Organisation (JSIO) based at Defence Intelligence Security Centre Chicksands in Bedfordshire. The wing trained personnel resistance to interrogation techniques.[7]


The Defence Survive, Evade, Resist, Extract (SERE) Training Organisation (DSTO) was created in 2008, when the RAF's School of Combat Survival and Rescue was amalgamated with the Royal Navy's Survival Equipment Group and the Resistance Training Wing. Although DSTO is a tri-service organisation, it comes under the control of No. 22 Group within RAF Air Command.[5]

Previous to this, training was undertaken at three different sites across the three services at diverse locations such as Chicksands and at HMS Sultan.[8] The Royal Air Force is the lead on aircrew-focused training for military personnel in the United Kingdom and their second training centre (ASTC) is located at RAF Cranwell in Lincolnshire. The patron of ASTC is Ray Mears, who himself was in a SERE situation whilst filming in 2005 when his helicopter crashed in Wyoming. Mears managed to recover all of his crew to safety after the incident.[9]

Role and operations[edit]

Military personnel practising survival and rescue skills.

SERE is an acronym for Survive, Evade, Resist and Extract.[10] At a basic level, this is a core aspect of training for all UK military personnel on an annual basis. Regular Army personnel are tested as part of their Military Annual Training Tests (MATTs)[11] as befits their frontline nature (similar processes are run by the Royal Marines and RAF Regiment) with non-frontline personnel mandated to watch a DVD detailing SERE methods.[12]

UK armed forces personnel who train at the SERE school, may be subject to methods of interrogation that are prohibited under international law. This training is carried out under strictly controlled conditions and is only delivered to enable the trainees to understand the methods that may be used against them if they are captured by hostile forces who are not signatories to, or adherents of, the Geneva Convention or of international law.[13]

SERE is mandated for all aircrew (from across all three services) and involves sea drills for those that require it. Sea drill involves jumping into the sea and spending some time adrift before hauling oneself into a dinghy from where the servicemember can be rescued. The Royal Navy and Royal Air Force aircrews practice this with regularity.[14] SERE training is also delivered to aircrew because the nature of their job makes them vulnerable to capture if they have to bail out over or crash an aircraft into hostile territory.[15]

Notable students[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "RAF - Defence SERE Training". Retrieved 10 February 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e Mander, Simon (30 November 2018). "Survival of the Fittest". RAF News (1456). p. 18. ISSN 0035-8614.
  3. ^ Pitchfork, Air Cdre Graham (2007). "Training and Survival Aids" (PDF). RAF Historical Society Journal. 40: 58–67.
  4. ^ Mill, Flt Lt Philip (2007). "The RAF Mount Batten Experience" (PDF). RAF Historical Society Journal. 40: 122–133.
  5. ^ a b "History of RAF SERE Training". RAF St Mawgan. Archived from the original on 6 August 2015. Retrieved 29 July 2018.
  6. ^ a b "History of Navy SERE Training". RAF St Mawgan. Archived from the original on 18 September 2015. Retrieved 29 July 2018.
  7. ^ "Witness Statement of Lieutenant Commander S059". Baha Mousa Public Inquiry. 5 May 2010. pp. 2–3. Archived from the original on 15 February 2012. Retrieved 29 July 2018.
  8. ^ "Military return to st Mawgan welcomed | Newquay Voice". 8 April 2009. Retrieved 10 May 2018.
  9. ^ Allen, Tracey (21 October 2016). "Survival of the fittest". RAF News (1405). Royal Air Force. p. 21. ISSN 0035-8614.
  10. ^ "JOINT WARFARE PUBLICATION 3-66 JOINT PERSONNEL RECOVERY" (PDF). Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Extraction. SERE is an inclusive term (of US origin) that has recently superseded phrases previously used such as Escape and Evasion and Conduct After Capture. It encompasses all practical and theoretical measures required to prepare personnel for isolation, captivity and recovery.
  11. ^ Defence Information Notice 2008DIN07-109
  12. ^ Gage, William, ed. (2011). "6: Survive, Evade, Resist & Extract (SERE) training given to UK service personnel". The Baha Mousa Public Inquiry report. London: Stationery Office. p. 1256. ISBN 978-0-10-297492-8.
  13. ^ "Army Inspectorate review into the implementation of policy, training and conduct of detainee handling" (PDF). British Army. 15 July 2010. p. 22. Retrieved 10 February 2017.
  14. ^ "Royal Air Force aircrews based at RAF Coningsby regularly undergo Survive Evade Resist and Extract (SERE) training in the North Sea". Retrieved 10 February 2017.
  15. ^ Gould, Matthew; Meek, Daniel; Gibbs, Tony; Sawford, Hannah; Wessely, Simon; Greenberg, Neil (February 2015). "What Are the Psychological Effects of Delivering and Receiving 'High-Risk' Survival Resistance Training?". Military Medicine. Kensington, Maryland: Association of Military Surgeons of the U.S. 180 (2): 168–177. ISSN 0026-4075.
  16. ^ Wilkins, Warren (19 October 2016). "Star Carol's survival training". Newquay Voice. Retrieved 10 February 2017.