Ahoy there, Captain!
Captain Philip Russell RN is the new Captain Sea Cadets
Ahoy there, Captain!
Meet your new Captain and find out his most exciting moment at sea
By Contributor profile



Every few years, we choose a new Captain Sea Cadets, who is our Director of Operations, and uses their experience to provide an important link between Sea Cadets and the Royal Navy.

The latest recruit is Captain Philip Russell RN, who has many years of experience in the Royal Navy, working at sea and on shore, in roles from engineering to operations. 

The role of Captain Sea Cadets involves attending events, supporting cadets and units’ achievements, and presenting awards at official ceremonies. Many of you might have met the former Captain Sea Cadets, Captain Jonathan Holloway RN, who has now retired. 

Captain Holloway RN (left) and his successor Captain Russell RN at the Change of Command ceremony at HMS Raleigh on 25 April

Current grabbed a few minutes with Captain Russell to find out a bit about him, so without further ado let’s meet our new Captain…

What are you most looking forward to in your new role?

Sea Cadets is all about people, not like engineering! So I’m really looking forward to meeting cadets and seeing what they get up to.

What inspired you to join the Royal Navy?

I’d wanted to join since I was nine or 10, when I was inspired by an open day on board a Royal Navy warship. I’ve always loved the sea, and was a member of the Royal Navy section of the Combined Cadet Force when I was at boarding school.

What’s the most exciting thing that’s happened to you at sea?

Probably when our ship ran aground – it literally ended up on the beach! I was responsible for repairing it, which was quite exciting but very demanding. We all had to pull together as a team to get the ship seaworthy again as soon as possible.

What was it like training for the Royal Navy?

I really enjoyed it. I was only an average cadet but the skills I learnt have stayed with me for life – a lot of the same ones you learn at Sea Cadets: self-belief, self-reliance, courage. I’m dyslexic, so I had to push myself and work really hard at school, but it paid off.

What made you apply to be Captain of the Sea Cadets?

About 20 years ago I was on HMS Gloucester and was liaison for the local Sea Cadet unit, which was very inspirational. I later worked in the MOD (Ministry of Defence) and helped open up more Sea Cadet units in schools. This gave me an insight into the cadet forces, and everyone was so enthusiastic about Sea Cadets – it really stayed with me.  

Do you miss working at sea?

Yes and no. I’m 6’5 so being able to stretch my legs is great – I couldn’t do that on a ship! I loved working at sea – everyone is dependent on each other, you have to work as a team and play your part. The sea is unforgiving, but it’s exciting too – you’re at the top of your game, the adrenaline is flowing – you just don’t get that on land.

If you could go back, would you change your career choices?

No, I love being part of the Royal Navy. I’ve changed roles many times, so it’s offered me a varied career and given me a lot of confidence in my abilities.

What would you have done if you hadn’t joined the Royal Navy?

I would have applied for an apprenticeship as a goldsmith, so I’d be making jewellery.

What advice do you have for cadets?

Believe in yourself. Have the courage to dream big and go for it!

TIMELINE: Captain Philip Russell

Grew up in South London.

1988: Graduated from Loughborough University and joined the Royal Navy.

1988: Trained at Britannia Royal Naval College, the Royal Naval Engineering College Manadon and at sea on board HM ships Euryalus, Campbeltown and Juno.

1991: Joined the Type 42 destroyer HMS Gloucester as Deputy Marine Engineer Officer.

1996: Attended University College London as one of the first Royal Navy officers to undertake an MSc in Naval Architecture.

Became the first Naval Officer to be accepted as an associate member of the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors.

1997: Went to work for the Directorate of Naval Architecture in Bristol, responsible for developing trials and safety for the Navy’s multi-hulled vessels.

1999: Returned to sea on HMS Campbeltown as Marine Engineer Officer, where he oversaw successful repairs after a ‘close encounter’ with the edge of a Norwegian Fiord! 

2005: Earned an MA in Defence Studies and was promoted to Commander. Took a break from engineering to join Directorate Reserve Forces and Cadets, where he was responsible for MOD cadet policy and secured provision of the replacement cadet rifle.

2010: Worked on Operation ELLAMY, the UK mission enforcing a United Nations resolution to protect Libyan civilians and civilian populated areas from attack.

2012: Returned to Bristol to join the Commercially Supported Shipping team as Chief Engineer for Hydrographic and Patrol vessels, overseeing engineering support and repairs to maintain the highest standards of operational availability within the Royal Navy.

2015: Selected as Captain Sea Cadets!