The Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson today confirmed that all roles in the British Army will be opened to women. 

From today, women already serving in the Army will be able to transfer into infantry roles. Those not currently serving will be able to apply for infantry roles from December, with new recruits starting basic training in April 2019.

The Ministry of Defence said it “does not necessarily expect large numbers of women to apply for ground close combat roles”, but that the changes are “aimed at creating opportunities for individuals from all backgrounds and making the most of their talents”.

The recommendation was made to the Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson by 4 senior generals, including the Commander Field Army, Lieutenant General Patrick Sanders.

Sanders denied that the decision was motivated by political correctness, saying it had “no place on the battlefield”. He also denied that it was influenced by a difficulty to maintain numbers. The British Army currently has 76,880 regular personnel, short of its 82,000 target.

“For the first time in its history, our armed forces will be determined by ability alone and not gender”

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson

He instead said that the decision was made due to “the difference women have made in other parts of the British Army”.

Sanders also confirmed that there will be no drop in the selection criteria or the physical standards required for acceptance: “If a male or female soldier can’t achieve the standards, they won’t be able to serve in the infantry”.

“The enemy doesn’t care what sex you are, neither do I, and nor should you”.

Women will now be able to serve in the SAS, the British Army’s most elite unit. It is understood that women already hold positions in the Special Reconnaissance Regiment.

The decision brings Britain in line with other nations including the US, Israel and Australia.

84 COMMENTS

  1. Women served in The Det, which was 14 Intelligence Company and part of DSF, back in the late 80s. Now the SRR. Some currently do apparently.

    Some have what it takes. But surely just a handful with the physical limitations.

    Will they undergo full selection with the SAS?
    If not is that not diluting standards?

    Our ex soldiers on the site can comment far better than I ever will be able to.

    • You’ll be surprised how many are in srr. You probably have more fingers.

      The army has lost sight of what lethality is. Sad times.

          • @rgr Anyone can pull a trigger. Its the 3 day 50 mile hike over inhospitable terrain in awful conditions to get to the fight, that’s the hard bit. If she can do the second bit, she can do the first bit.

            Now explain to me your concept of lethality?

          • I’m not slow at all. I’d like you to explain what you meant. Preferably without personal abuse.

      • But I understand SRR has differing requirements than SAS SBS so I can well believe it would have women in its ranks.

        A woman after all pushing a pram down a street while on CTS looks a lot less threatening than a man.

        Even the Security Service used old ladies with shopping bags. They blend in.

        A bit different from a beasting while attempting the fan dance.

        • Sure, I get that Daniele, they most definitely have a role in SRR without question.
          Hard charging, down and dirty grunt work they most definitely do not.

          Any Yazidi, IDF examples are not welcome as their model is vastly different to the British army.
          One might point the pro women grunt arguments in the direction of the recent USMC trials into the issue.

    • Late in the N.I. troubles an under cover female scout was approached by two men who pursued her. She shot and seriously injured one before the other identified himself as R.U.C. James Bond is b*llocks obviously, entertaining but nothing like reality. If we don’t use what women can do and do well we are being very short sighted.Terrorists don’t make that mistake. Two French detectives who went to arrest a male suspect in the 70s ignored the woman he was with. She killed them both. Afterwards the rule among the French secret service was ‘shoot the woman first’.

    • Yep, I am all for this as long as the physical and mental requirements are the same. After all if a woman can pass the same course as the guys then they have the right to be there.

    • Hi Danielle, there certainly were some very, very brave females who served in 14 Company back in the day and they may also have worked with the Det but I don’t think they were part of that unit. On the wider question of infantry and SF selection I fear the Army is another institution that has fallen to Gramsci’s infamous march through the institutions. The officer corps by dint of their selection and training are largely signed up to the post modernist philosophy that dominates Academia, The Media and Politics. I recently reminded a current Battalion Commander that his role is to ensure his men are ready physically, psychologically and technically ‘to close with and destroy the enemy’. (The Inf Platoon in Battle, MoD Pamphlet). As a former Platoon Sgt used to say; ‘your job is to kill …people’, But he did n’t use the word people!! That idea seemed shocking to the Bn Cmdr who preferred to talk about Defence Diplomacy and other more cuddly topics. I fear that this development will only be reversed by a serious operational failure, then perhaps the Social Justice Warriors at the head of the Army will be once again replaced by real warriors.

      • Thank you Bill.

        I tend to agree, this PC stuff seeps in everywhere it seems.

        As for the Det. I believe that and 14 Int were one and the same. The Dets being North South East detachments of 14 Int Coy, whose training depot was at “Camp Two” at PATA. Though that’s not named in the books that were released by former members as that place was not well known at the time.

        “One Up” and “She who Dared” both come to mind.

        • You are most likely correct Danielle things change; at one point at least I think the Det was purely SF, so we may be referring to different things. I would also be really surprised if the SRR did not retain the female contingent. But after my time so again things could have changed.

          • Cheers Bill.

            Not being funny, but it’s 1 L in my name not 2 please.

            I usually let it go as it happens all the time. I’m not female.

            We’ve been here before on UKDJ!

  2. In my very limited STAB experience, our female colleagues dropped like flies after 3 days in the field. Tiredness and extended load carrying led to a lot of minor injuries.

    The problem with that of course is that someone else had to carry essential kit or undertake more duties.

    But in every other regards they were equal and often better at many other aspects, including comms, navigation, decision making and marksmanship.

  3. If you watch the original Alien film, you will see how lethal women soldiers can be. One of the few positives that will transpire from our post Brexit world.

  4. The British Army currently has 76,880 regular personnel, short of its 82,000 target.

    76,880 on the payroll. True strength? A bit lower.

    Woman in the infantry or cavalry is one of those rabbit hole topics best avoided.

    Its worked well for the navy…………………. 🙂

    • Cultures must change if they have no impact on doctrine. The Israelis have used women soldiers very effectively and so too have the Kurds.

      • There is a significant impact on doctrine, rates of pregnancy amongst front line troops is a significant and expanding issue. Likewise, unprofessional relationships between soldiers is on the rise, I am reminded just off the top of my head of the story that occurred on one of our SSN submarines. Having single sex units in certain environments is jolly sensible, and any argument saying otherwise is blinkered.

    • There is a dimension to this that gets over looked and the reason why eventually standards will be changed.
      This move by the MoD isn’t about ‘equality’ per se. It isn’t so the Zoe’s, Tracey’s, Teegan’s, and Amy’s from the council estates of the Midlands and North can rally to the colours to fight and die for British values, whatever those are these days. It is so Caroline’s and Annabelle’s from the nicer parts of the Home Counties can get to command a fighting formation and perhaps then go on to be CGS or even CDS. That will be carefully managed so not to put too much at risk. Unfortunately it does mean some Zoe’s, Tracey’s, Teegan’s in units commanded by men may well come into harms and not come out of it well. If they pass selection. There’s a good video on YouTube about women in the Finnish forces. The women are portrayed as modern Amazons; the narrative falls apart when one of the women say the men are really nice and help carry her equipment in the field. We should also consider the distinction between elective conflicts and existential conflicts.

  5. Hmmmm who would want us to have a weaker armed forces? Probably the same people who want to undermine our traditional culture and values. Wake up people for gods sake!
    We need (for frontline combat operations) the strongest, biggest, baddest men we can get. We could be going up against (potentially) Russian spetnaz or even currently the ISIS barbarians.
    God save us!

  6. Near enough no change at all, since if the standards are the same across the board, women simply won’t make the cut

    • I think you are underestimating women… Sure I would imagine less will make the cut than men but there are some super fit women out there that could pass the course. Women fight in other armies of the world in an effective way.

        • It’s an example of women being used on the front line. How can this be a terrible example? From my own albeit limit knowledge women are used widely in IDF. But my first point can’t be questioned, if you’re good enough then you’re good enough.

          • I would go to do some research on how the IDF employees women.

            Perhaps also consider the difference between elective wars and extensional conflict for national existence.

    • Not in Line Infantry units. Not since the Independence War. Women in Israel and other countries that practice Female conscription use them to preform rear area and lower risk duties.
      For instance Border Security and Base Security in addition to simply deploying them to quiet sectors in order to free up male units.
      The idea to put women in integrated front line combat units is not only ludicrous it is a act of Moral Cowardice to suit the politically correct and mentally infirm. The idea that women can be put on to the front line in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria and expect them to be treated as POWs or even for their corpses to not be mutilated (as happened in the Israeli War for Independence) is sheer idiocy.
      The Army is not and should not ever be a social experiment.

      • ‘The Army is not and should not ever be a social experiment’ – quite right but I think this is a case of necessity, given recruitment levels across all the services.

      • ‘The Army is not and should not ever be a social experiment’ and therefore has no right to apply different rules on gender equality to the rest of the society it serves.

  7. Well, I guess the point being that we should be striving for the same standard across the sexes without compromise.

    Let’s not forget the amount of serving male military personnel who are currently clinically obese and could probably be beaten by a 12 year old girl in an egg and spoon race!

    Get away from male or female mindset and just think People.

    They ( male or female) either make the necessary standard for the job applied for, or they do not….

    We need to attract the best and brightest youngsters into the armed forces, personally I couldn’t give a rat’s arse what sex they are….

  8. 1. Psychologically women are as capable as men at making good decisions (or bad ones) under pressure and able to make lethally critical decisions.
    2. A few number of women will be able to pass the various selection criteria in terms of physicality in terms to be recruited.
    3. Once recruited however there will be issues of difference in terms of the regular and consistent physical loading on women’s bodies – especially after calcium degredation following childbirth.
    4. In a battle/conflict situation where planning falls apart (such as the sinking of the Atlantic Conveyor in the Falklands conflict – along with her loss of Chinooks and Wessex helicopters, severely reducing the capability of the task force to ferry troops across the island – meaning the extreme loads carried during the marches to Stanley. Women’s bodies are simply not designed the same as mens and so there would have to be re-assignment of women in these situations away from ”pack carrying”.
    5. Having said all of that I would expect very few women to actually choose to enter these roles in the first place as they tend to want to do other things than live in a shitty field for days and weeks at a time shitting in a hole or a bag and dealing with everything that comes at them. From my experience in the merchant navy we get a few deck officer females (nice and warm on the bridge, loo right there, kettle right there, biccies etc), very few engineering office females (noisy and smelly in the engine room, the Chiefs a perv and/or a tranny etc), and I have never sailed with a female AB on deck (shitty weather, hard on your fingers…). All of these positions have been available to females since forever.

    All in all I don’t think there is too much to worry about here.

    • You say that, but lets look at the women who regularly trek many miles in African heat while carrying stupidly heavy containers of water at the same time as carrying their children with them… I do not think there is any evidence that suggests women are not capable of carrying large loads for long distances.

        • I agree with your points Billy, I can’t see many women choosing to go into an infantry role requiring them to carry their body weight on their shoulders over 20 miles when there are so many other roles in the Army they will be well suited to.
          I also think the Army being so male dominated is one of the reasons they struggle to attract and retain male recruits. Most of us can only handle that toxic masculinity in limited doses.

      • It isn’t just carrying their own body weight plus over a good distance and over rough terrain it is the requirement the other to go straight in a contact or dig a hole big enough to stand in.

        • This isn’t a gender issue though. Whilst the average male is stronger than the average female, there is a wide crossover. There are plenty of fit strong women out there who could do this.

          It is therefore not acceptable to discriminate on the basis of gender. Define an appropriate and challenging standard and hold all applicants to it equally, but don’t reduce this to a question of gender.

    • I may be wrong but didn’t the guards have trouble making that trek by foot. Wasn’t it only the Royal Marines that actually walked all the way to Stanley?

      • There were some stories of individuals not able to make it – they’d been on mainly ceremonial duties shortly before so fitness must have been affected.

  9. If a women can meet the physical standards demanded, then I see no reason why she cannot serve in an infantry or an SF unit. Frankly speaking, there are literally thousands of fat male soldiers out there that are equally incapable of meeting even basic requirements, so where do they stand?

  10. Agreed Lee. All that is being suggested here is all roles open to either sex to apply for, that’s absolutely the right thing and well overdue in 2018.

    There is in fact evidence that women make better fast jet pilots, they have ( I believe) better G resistance and on avarage are more capable of multi tasking …..

    The real issue is we struggle to attract youngsters into the armed firces, it’s not seen as a viable profession…..

    That needs to be sorted out without delay …. And like most of out threads, it goes back down to lack of resources.

    Until we return to 3% of GDP and ring fence it, we simply won’t make any real improvement, recruitment and retention need to be the first things to be addressed.

  11. This is great news.

    All the services are currently down against their target numbers, and so opening up to capable and keen woman, will help fill those gaps.

    Whatever your view on the capability of a woman solider (positive or negative) you can’t argue that any solider is better than none.

    Woman also bring a different way of thinking and approaching a problem (mentally and physically) that can only be a positive.

    Yes it might mean the forces need to adjust their tactics slightly to cater, but change is often a positive and certainly not always a negative.

    The challenge is avoiding political correctness coming in with it. In an ideal world it would be 50/50 male/female in every role and job in the world, but we don’t live in that world yet and so we just have to be careful not to create problem by forcing the numbers up. Promote on capability and not on gender, although easier said than done i know.

    • You cannot avoid the political correctness as it is inherent in this policy. Just as you will never attain a 50/50 gender split in any job as it is anathema to the species. Evolution it’s kind of a thing.

      “Woman also bring a different way of thinking and approaching a problem (mentally and physically) that can only be a positive.
      Yes it might mean the forces need to adjust their tactics slightly to cater, but change is often a positive and certainly not always a negative”.

      That may be some of the most ridiculous mental contortions I have ever seen. Right up there with the inane ramblings of the Berkeley sociology and humanities departments. War has not changed and war will not change. The idea that this generation or the next generation will find some magical new way to fight war that has eluded our ancestors is hubris and narcissism of the highest order. Technology changes, war however does not.

      As for whether any soldier is better than no soldier? That is a dangerous fallacy, because I would not want a soldier who would be a detriment to the unit.
      Scenario: Sgt. John Smith and PFC John Doe and PFC Jane Atkins are part of a Infantry Company on a peacekeeping mission to a East African country initially deployed by helicopter and vehicles. During a Operation to capture a local warlord the convoy is ambushed and two transport helicopters shot down. Triggering a 24hr running gun battle throughout the streets. Now does this sound tiring yet? Towards the end of this merry little day and night on the town the Company is told that they have to cross a additional kilometer of city to the rally point under fire as a unit in good order. While being deprived of sleep and water. At which point PFC Jane Atkins collapses due to dehydration. Sgt Smith and PFC Doe attempt to go back and retrieve their comrade as is their duty. As they are now separated from the rest of their unit and low on ammunition the locals swarm over them. Sgt Smith and PFC Doe are later found to have been hacked to pieces with machetes whether they were shot first is indeterminate. While PFC Atkins is gangraped then killed. Real world historical incident modified as a result of these policies with a extra 3 unnecessary casualties.

      Women have a place in the Military, that place is not however in the Artillery, Armor, or Infantry. That place is Pilots, Supply, HR, and the Navy.

      • What a load of nonscience. If you look at any war and I mean any, the tactics of how to win changes between before and after the war, everyone there is realisation that the tactics going into the war were outdated and defunct. If warfare has never changed then we would still have our soliders wearing bright red and lining up and slow marching against canons.

        Just because women weren’t on the front line before, diesnt mean that having them there tomorrow isn’t a positive. Warfare is a constantly moving goal.

        • That is not the nature of war. I am referring to the fact the basic function of war is to destroy the enemy by eliminating their ability to wage war. That means kill them and wreck their shit until they surrender.
          Tactics change as technology dictates. The nature of war does not change and will never change.
          Also do you really think the attacking on the flank or the pincer movement to envelop the enemy is new? Read classical history before you answer.

        • Yes technology constantly changes. But in the areas we are talking about (mostly) the infantry things haven’t change much. And are unlikely to change until somebody invents some legged drone capable of fitting human sized spaces for a good price (see Boston Dynamics) which isn’t far off. Also you should never confuse female medics or specialists being deployed with a ‘team’ as them being infantry.

  12. It’s not the physical abilities of women that could prove the most detrimental, it’s the effect on unit cohesion. This is probably going to be a controversial opinion, the army, and the armed forces in general, aren’t places where 2018 ideals like political correctness, diversity, and equality should have priority.

    People are generally most comfortable and efficient when they’re working with those they have a lot in common with. The more differences you introduce, the more chances of disunity and problems arise. Regiments used to be primarily drawn from the counties they were based in; now downsizing has meant most regiments are drawn from much larger areas. The army’s recent advertising campaign of “This is belonging”, focusing on diversity and acceptance, has been a complete failure. Introducing women into the mix adds a whole raft of other potential issues that COULD further divide what used to be tightly-knit brotherhoods.

    I’d like to clarify that I’m not saying diversity is ALWAYS going to cause issues in the forces. Soldiers are adults (mostly) like the rest of us, and the British Army has a reputation for world class discipline and professionalism. In many if not most situations, they will most likely conduct themselves like the professionals they are. When it comes down to it though, you have to think of Murphy’s Law: what can go wrong, will go wrong. In life and death situations, you need to have absolute faith in those you’re fighting with.

    • Callum I think the fear of difference is the only thing that undermines cohesion.

      Surely the same argument can be made for ethnic minorities and gay people.

      Once people get used to the change everyone wonders what all the fuss was about.

      Heaven forbid teams won’t all think exactly the same. That’s never got anyone into trouble.

      In some scenarios such as counter insurgency you can see the opportunities in terms of gaining the rust of local people and gathering intelligence.

      • The difference is minorities and gays are not objectively incapable of hauling the average male plus their own equipment to safety if they are wounded.
        Fear of difference is not the concern and clapping your hands over your years and calling everyone a sexist if they disagree. Does not make it so.
        Have you ever been involved in a counter insurgency? Because you are suggesting that women would somehow make better liaison officers in countries are only rarely allowed to drive and are often killed for the “sin” of being raped or teaching girls to read.

  13. Evening all
    Unit cohesion has been challenged a lot over the last 50 years.
    Blacks, gays, Indians etc. and now women.
    Every single time the unit got over it, the unit will continue to get over it. The unit is not made by the creed, Colour or sex of the individual but by the code of the unit/Regt/Sqn/ships Coy they are in and by the ethos of the military they join.
    We represent society, they expect us to be representative of them, we are after all the ultimate instrument of policy that ensures the freedom of us all.
    I don’t care who serves along side me, I care that they have achieved the same standard that I have achieved, they believe in me, my section, my troop etc. They share my ethos, my units ethos and that they are focused, when it comes to meat meeting metal, as a member of the team to kick the living shit out of everything in front of us to achieve the mission.
    If you can pass the course – meet the standard you are joining the best club on the world, couldn’t care less who or what you are.
    Good luck ladies, the reward is awesome!!

    • Then society should expect less. Society is soft and full of welfare rats who expect everything to be handed to them like Mardi Gras beads for nothing. In the Military accomplishment and advancement is earned, that is not reflective of society and good thing I wouldn’t want to send lambs to the slaughter.
      The ethos of the unit should always be accomplishing the mission. What it should never be is pander to whatever social justice issue is in vogue.

  14. On balance, I’m for this.

    Main worry is that pressure will be applied to unofficially relax standards for women in order to meet an equally unofficial, but very real, PR-led quota. My sincere hope is that someone, possibly people on here, will be brave enough to blow the whistle if they see it happening. It can’t be allowed.

    • ‘sex’ is not a gender issue. Unless you are suggesting that there has never been a sexual relationship within an all-male unit.

      And if your concern is about heterosexual relationships occurring, well doesn’t that require a breach of the rules involving both a male and female soldier? If so, the failure is once again not about gender.

  15. John. I would be staggered if men serving in the Infantry are fat and unfit. Being in such a state would be a weak link and would endanger their comrades.

  16. I don’t think it really matters what the military might think of this issue any more. Society has moved on and restricting any role in any organisation based solely on gender just isn’t acceptable anymore. Like it or not the military are not separate from broader society, they are a part of it and are bound by the same broad social understandings as that society.

    Of course they are also employed by and paid for by society and if wider society no longer accepts gender discrimination then they are quite entitled to expect the military to conform to that expectation. The military being what it is, will no doubt grumble and claim that it will mean the end of the infantry soldier. Then they will get on with it and make it work.

    • “I don’t think it really matters what the military might think of this issue any more. Society has moved on and restricting any role in any organisation based solely on gender just isn’t acceptable anymore. Like it or not the military are not separate from broader society, they are a part of it and are bound by the same broad social understandings as that society.“- A steaming pile of horse manure.
      Thank you for once more demonstrating this has nothing to do with the effectiveness of the institution of the Army and all to with ideology. As for whether society and the military are separate or not? They are they emphatically are and have been since the unadvisable end of National Service. Consider the percentage that sign on the dotted line vs those who don’t.
      “Bound by the same broad social understandings as society”. – You mean cowed by the politically correct, dissidents, and agents provocateur. Who have caused discipline and efficiency to breakdown across all society. That has no place on the battlefield.
      Dismissing the protests of as grumbling then saying they will just have to make it work? Please due volunteer to write and deliver the next set of “We regret to inform you” letters.
      The social contract is that society supports it’s defenders not that it undermines them and gets them killed for fashionable politics.

      • Elliott, we seem to represent two very different views on this issue, and perhaps ones that won’t find much common ground over this issue anytime soon.

  17. Having a good read of the comments here I thought id put my Oar in so to speak.Having worked in Metal Fabrication for 20 years,it was almost exclusively a male environment,it was very rare to have Women on the shop floor although now I suspect this should be changing.The last company I worked for as a Welder employed a young Lady,despite her being made welcome but without making a fuss of her she lasted no more than one and a half days.Now I work within the NHS,obviously being a predominantly Female environment I’m amazed at the fact that a lot of young Women who start their careers are Physically very Tall and very strong too,im over 6ft and I’m regularly working with Nurses etc who are significantly taller than me,as a race we are getting bigger/taller/stronger,the causes are well know so no need to go into them here.The point is that the Physical Demands of being in the Armed Forces are now less of a constraint to Females,im all for Women serving in the branch or department of their own choice provided that they meet the standards required,no diluting of standards,lowering of bars or moving goalposts,iif they are good enough they are good enough.I appreciate that Mental toughness is another thing altogether but that applies to both sexes.In my opinion maybe all-female units would be a better idea than mixed ones,they do exist in other countries I wonder if they are a success,im sure someone will enlighten me.

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