Collective PME

Leadership Lessons from ‘Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World’

By The Cove March 26, 2021


One of my favourite series of books is the ‘Aubrey – Maturin’ nautical historical novels written by English novelist Patrick O’Brian. The series is set in the era of the Napoleonic Wars, and follows the war adventures of Captain (CAPT) Jack Aubrey and his friend Stephen Maturin, naval surgeon and spy.

Although the books are a hard read (due to the use of period and nautical language), I really enjoy them, they sweep you away to the setting and return you delighted that they did. ‘Master and Commander’ is the first title in the 20 novel series.

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World’ is a 2003 Peter Weir film starring Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany. Although the film uses some of the characters and events from the novels, it does not faithfully reproduce the plot of the books. That said, I did enjoy the film to the point where I have seen it several times. During one of my many viewings I realised that the film had many leadership vignettes that could be used to facilitate leadership training.

This PME package can be conducted as you see fit: you can sit down with your section, watch the film and discuss the questions at the end; or get your section to watch it at their leisure and discuss the points at a later time as a group. What is important is that you have a discussion with them about how they answered the questions so the group can reflect on the answers.


The Defence Library Service has 18 DVD copies of the film, you can order it using this (DPN) link.

Discussion Points

  • Did Mr Calamy do the right thing by making the decision for Mr Hollom by ordering the ship to beat to quarters? (Time Log: 0h:6m)
  • Do you think that CAPT Aubrey thought that Mr Hollom had done the right thing? (Time Log: 0h:7m)
  • Why did CAPT Aubrey bring the book about Lord Nelson to Mr Blakeney? (Time Log: 0h25m)
  • Why did CAPT Aubrey personally cut the man overboard away? (Time Log: 0h:52m)
  • Why did CAPT Aubrey hand the man overboard’s cousin the axe to help him? (Time Log: 0h:52m)
  • In his words for Mr Hollom, CAPT Aubrey blamed all of them for his death, was he (CAPT Aubrey) to blame? (Time Log: 1h:25m)
  • Did CAPT Aubrey stop pursuit of the enemy ship and take the doctor back to land because he was his friend? (Time Log: 1h:29m)
  • Why does CAPT Aubrey put up with Killick’s poor attitude and rude behaviour?
  • What were Mr Hollom’s faults as a leader?
  • How could Mr Hollom’s faults have been overcome?

Concluding Comments

This is by no means an advanced leadership tool. It is designed to get young private level soldiers to start thinking about and discussing the challenges of leadership.

If you have any suggestions for improvements or alternative discussion points – or if you just want to provide feedback, please contact the Cove Team via soldiercove [at]



The Cove

The home of the Australian Profession of Arms.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

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