The Provost entered service with the RAF in 1953 with the first batch of aircraft delivered to the Central Flying School (CFS) at RAF South Cerney. The CFS carried out intensive flight trials in May and June 1953 before instructor training commenced. The Provost was more capable than the Prentice it replaced which allowed the students to move straight on to the De Havilland Vampire after training on the Provost. On 1 July 1953 6 Flying Training School at RAF Ternhill started to re-equip with the Provost. The first pupil training course to use the Provost started in October 1953. No. 22 Flying Training School at RAF Syerston was the next to convert and it was followed by 2 FTS at RAF Cluntoe, Northern Ireland, 3 FTS at RAF Feltwell and then the Royal Air Force College at RAF Cranwell.
From 1956 the Provost was issued to some University Air Squadrons, with the first being the Queen's University Air Squadron, Belfast in January 1956. The last RAF production aircraft was delivered in April 1956. The aircraft served with the RAF until the early 1960s, when it was replaced by the Jet Provost. A few Provosts continued in service during the 1960s with the Central Navigation & Control School (later Central Air Traffic Control School) at RAF Shawbury until the last example was retired in 1969. Several retired airframes were renumbered with maintenance serials and used for training of airframe and engine tradesmen. At least five Percival Provost have survived as civilian aircraft.
The first export order was placed in May 1953 by Southern Rhodesia for four T.1 aircraft which were designated the T.51. Later the Royal Rhodesian Air Force followed with an order for twelve armed trainers designated the T.52 which were delivered in 1955.
In January 1954 the Irish Air Corps ordered four T.51 aircraft and in 1960 a further order for six armed T.53 variants. The Burmese Air Force also ordered 12 armed T.53 variants in 1954 and eventually operated 40 aircraft.
In May 1957 the newly formed Sudan Air Force ordered four T.53 armed variant, two were lost in accidents shortly after delivery, a further three were bought in 1959 followed by five former RAF aircraft.
Former RAF aircraft were delivered to Royal Air Force of Oman as armed T.52 variants. In 1955 the Royal Iraqi Air Force ordered 15 armed Provost T.53s with the first delivered in May 1955. The final export customer was the Royal Malaysian Air Force who obtained 24 T.51 trainers between 1961 and 1968.
In 1968 Rhodesia obtained further aircraft using a convoluted route to get around an arms embarago.