The British Army’s Infantry Battle School (IBS) has told the UK Defence Journal that a soldier was “unfairly targeted” by a Mail On Sunday article after she failed a fitness test last week.
Corporal Daisy Dougherty was one of 15 who failed an 8 mile exercise last Tuesday. The group were not dismissed immediately while commanders decided whether to conduct a “re-test”. This is not an unusual occurrence; IBS said that retests are carried out “every now and then”.
It was later decided not to re-test and the 15, including Dougherty, were sent back to their units.
The Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson announced in October 2018 that all roles in the British Army would be opened to women. He said at the time “our Armed Forces will now be determined by ability alone and not gender”.
A Mail On Sunday article by Defence Editor Mark Nicol claims however that Dougherty was initially “allowed to continue…even though she failed a vital fitness test”. This, the article claims, led to those soldiers who had passed confronting commanders, who then reversed their initial decision and sent the 15 back to their units.
Woman who failed frontline infantry fitness test given a ‘pass’ by Army until furious male soldiers staged rebellion https://t.co/SmUOdPbnSR
— Daily Mail U.K. (@DailyMailUK) January 13, 2019
Speaking exclusively to the UK Defence Journal, the Infantry Battle School confirmed all those who failed had returned to their units, but said the decision not to dismiss them immediately “was never about a woman being in the mix”. They said that “the presence of a female clearly skewed the narrative”.
“Cpl Dougherty has been unfairly targeted for an event that had nothing to do with her gender and everything to do with course-loading and standards”
Dougherty had previously passed this test and the more challenging ‘Fan Dance’ exercise before Christmas.
The Ministry of Defence responded to the story, saying “there has been no change in policy or the very high standards set by the infantry. All those who fail are welcome to try again in future”. This they say is shown in that the 15 were sent back to their units.
The School of Infantry commander Colonel Peter Stitt said:
“Infantry courses are some of the most demanding in the Army and not everyone is ready to undertake them at their first attempt. Those not making the start standard will receive feedback on their performance and have the opportunity to attempt the course again later in their career.”