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.

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.”

17 COMMENTS

  1. Henry, I think your piece hare is technically correct. But such is the political pressure on the British army and MoD to be “right on” when it comes to gender issues I suspect the IBS was tempted to bend the rules in this instance. Arguably, had there not been the publicised reaction there was from those who had passed this sorry episode might have passed unnoticed.
    I am a long term advocate of all arms in the army being open to women, and was told my ideas were “preposterous” only 20 years ago. We must allow women to apply and, if they’re good enough, to pass. But lowering standards to allow them to do so – positive discrimination – helps neither them nor their comrades.

    • I suspect he is correct Adam as this person was there and failed the eight miler it seems. The newspaper story probably originated from someone on the course or the DS picking up the phone. The response from the IBS is predictable would have been dictated by the Army’s PR Dept. As for the individual involved, being RTU’d like this used to result in a fairly convincing bollocking. Units spent considerable time and effort in preparing people for Brecon and would not appreciate people failing so early solely due to fitness. However it’s not Sonny on the causeway and there is always the opportunity to go back and nail it at the second attempt. The lesson for the IBS is ‘walk the talk’!

  2. We have to remember women in the teeth arms is nothing to do with equality so Sharon and Tracey from a council estate ‘oop north’ to die for their country in a myriad of exciting ways. It is so a Caroline or a Jessica from a good middle class family from the Home Counties can perhaps one day become CGS or even CDS and we call pat ourselves on our backs about how egalitarian we are. Of course if a Sharon or Tracey should get to die in one of myriad exciting ways so that can happen so be it. BZ Sharon and Tracey………

  3. Why did 15 people of any sex fail this baseline test before the course starts proper? To an infantry soldier and certainly to a potential leader the 8 miler should be a piece of cake. Most Regiments will not send people on these courses til they have completed beat up trg internally.

  4. Sadly the standard of journalism across the entire British newspaper industry continues to plummet almost as fast as their sales figures 😏

  5. Slightly off topic,

    When I joined the police in the 1990’s, we had two seperate fitness tests for males and females… after a year, we went back for the advanced training, where they had changed the fitness test to a single gender free test…. you either passed or failed…. the males generally passed as the requirements were easier, a lot of the females failed….
    Then they just lowered the standard even more till all the females passed….

    So i’m Pretty sure that’s what will happen with the army…..

  6. i don,t think fitness is just a gender issue in the military but overall a society issue,when i was serving in the infantry we did all our bft,s in combat trousers boots and t shirt,then came along with the scrapping of running bft,s in boots due to shin splints and people crying to there parents and the press but as a battalion we still did run in our boots,after all you don,t go into combat in trainers,but new male recruits coming to battalion after me were failing bft,s or struggling to keep pace and given they were a lot younger they should have been a lot fitter and ran circles around us old timers but they could not,the red vest pt squads got bigger and bigger right up till i left,the same used to happen on icft,s young blokes failing to do 8 miles under the 2 hrs,we used used to do it off our back no problem even after heavy nights out drinking,and all this was back in the middle. 90,s so is it a military fitness issue or is it society as a whole what happened to cross country runs at school or playing around with the medicine balls or is it because this blame and claim society has taken over especially when kids can no longer play fottbal with a tennis ball in the yard or play a game on conkers without the risk of injury and some claim being put in????

  7. People seem to be jumping to conclusions.

    The article above states “Dougherty had previously passed this test and the more challenging ‘Fan Dance’ exercise before Christmas.” If this is accurate then clearly she was capable of successfully completing the 8-miler and the 24 km Pen Y Fan exercise, based on recent past performance.

    Did her fitness lapse over Christmas? Was she suffering from a cold or other illness that undermined her fitness/endurance? How much did she or any of the others fail by? Were weather conditions a more significant factor than usual for the test? Who knows which if any of these are pertinent, but they might certainly play into a consideration of whether to allow a re-test or not for any of the failing candidates in this class or any other.

    If course rules require a pass for a specific exercise at a specific time then a candidate will have to live or die on that determination. However, what the armed forces would actually seem to require is someone who maintains a consistent physical ability, not someone who just trains up and peaks for a test. According to the DM, Dougherty is a member of the Army’s athletic squad which suggests a commitment to consistent fitness. Whatever the reasons for her failure to pass this test I hope she perseveres and tries again.

  8. I posted this earlier. The reply is eye opening.
    January 3, 2019 at 17:41
    It would be interesting to hear from the grunts that slogged around Helmand in 45deg C, lugging 100 lb sacks what they thought.
    BV Buster January 3, 2019 at 22:48
    I have had a female medic out in Afghan carrying as much kit as I was, med bergans are heavy, although she volunteered to be attached to us so I suppose it takes a certain sort to actually want to do that sort of thing. I have had some howlers though, a few of my smaller lads were struggling on a particularly hot day, turns out the medic made the lads carry all her kit on top of all the other crap they have to carry, her med bergan was empty, she got moved on thank F**K.
    To be honest I don’t care what is going on in their pants, if they can fire, move and communicate then that’s good enough for me.
    BV

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