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.