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Mon, 3 August 2020

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By PoliticsHome staff
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Fewer than five women soldiers take up chance to join infantry since all Armed Forces roles made open to them

Fewer than five women soldiers take up chance to join infantry since all Armed Forces roles made open to them
3 min read

Fewer than five women have taken up the opportunity to become infantry soldiers – more than nine months after all Armed Forces roles were made open to them.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) had heralded the rule change as a watershed moment, with a senior commander saying the Army “will be more effective in war” because of it.

But a Freedom of Information request revealed that so far only a handful of female soldiers have switched to infantry roles since October 2018.

And the figure could be as little as one, as the MoD say they have rounded it up so as to “protect personal information”.

Insiders have defended the small numbers, saying they never expected there to be lots of women moving to infantry, the largest branch of the Army, and one focused on ground close combat.

Women were unable to serve in any combat roles until David Cameron lifted the ban in 2016, with the Royal Armoured Corps the first branch to open its doors, followed by the RAF.

But a whole raft of jobs were still closed off until last year, when the then-Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson announced all were now open to female soldiers, including the Royal Marines and the SAS.

Those already serving would be able to immediately switch across and complete their infantry training, while new recruits would start in April this year.

At the time Mr Williamson said: “Opening all combat roles to women will not only make the Armed Forces a more modern employer but will ensure we recruit the right person for the right role.”

And Commander Field Army, Lieutenant General Patrick Sanders, said: “Some of the best soldiers and most promising officers I know are women.

“And let’s not forget that women have been serving on the front line in combat, often under fire for the last 15 years.

“Simply put the Infantry will be more effective in war if we include the best talent our country can breed – male and female.”

Back in March this year it was revealed the first, and possibly only, woman to join the infantry section had completed her training.

The un-named soldier was said to have passed the Section Commanders Battle Course, meaning she was now qualified to lead a team of eight and could be considered for promotion to the rank of Corporal.

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: “We have always said that we do not expect large numbers of female personnel to join ground close combat roles.

“This is not about numbers, but about allowing all personnel, regardless of gender, to maximise their talent and purse opportunities in all roles in the armed forces.”