What is the Cold Weather Survival Course (CWSC)?


The Cold Weather Survival Course (CWSC) is an all-encompassing and demanding training programme that introduces personnel to the important skills of survival, moving, and fighting in an Arctic environment.

It is delivered by the Royal Marines cold weather experts.

The Arctic is an environment that is brutal and can easily kill if you are not prepared.


The first thing personnel are taught is that the first enemy is the cold and second is the people they are fighting (personnel must learn to manage the climate to be capable of defeating their enemies in it).

  • The first (and perhaps most brutal) part of the course is the famous ice breaking drill.
    • Each person must answer a question and report their service number and name to their instructors before they can finally drag themselves out the water and pass this phase of the course.
    • It is designed to help personnel recognise and reduce the risks of cold shock: a physical response to being immersed in cold water that can rapidly incapacitate and even kill.
    • Although there are safety measures in place, personnel must be climb out unaided.
    • Personnel are taught how to recognise and counter cold shock as they are plunged into the icy water.
  • Personnel are taught to navigate by the stars on yomps (marches with weight) into the Norwegian wilderness.
  • Personnel are taught to live off their surroundings, with training also including the construction of snow shelters and even how to trap animals for food.
  • Personnel receive training on how to move on the snow and ice, including cross-country ski marches, covering up to 20km a day, alpine skiing and skijoring; where personnel are towed behind a BV all-terrain vehicle for rapid movement across the battlefield.

The CWSC is required for all personnel operating in an Arctic environment, and is considered the bare minimum skill set required to stay alive.


Navy News. (2021) Survivalist: The First Enemy is the Cold. Navy News. March 2021, pp.2-3.


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