British military history and the female gender

Written by Charis Gambon

The military has often been portrayed as a career for males historically. However more females are joining the military and opportunities are beginning to open up for the female sex. In ‘’April 2020, 10.9 per cent of the UK Regular Forces were female (15,900 personnel), as part of a longer term increasing trend since April 2017.’’ The military is portrayed as male due to views of aggression, manliness, and pure strength. It was historically viewed that males possessed the qualities needed for the military and that women did not.   Women were often encouraged to pursue other careers and when they could pursue a career in the military.  In 2002, only 19 years ago women were excluded from combat , with the government stating that women were ‘’ Not fit for service’’ and that having women ‘’in ground combat roles could adversely affect unit cohesion.’’

women have historically been discouraged from joining the army which can be further seen in the fact that all roles within the military where not opened up for women until 2018.  Prior to 2018 women could only sign up for specific roles within the British Armed Forces. Infantry roles were an example of a career that was previously off limits for female soldiers. From the 25th October 2018 females who were already serving in the army were able to transfer to an infantry unit if they wished to and from 21st December 2018 women who were not yet in the army were able to apply to be in infantry regiments This change in the British military was incredibly significant and important for women. The development marked a new era, one that would not attempt to hold women back due to their gender, women could now attempt the same processes as men and pass or fail based solely on their own merits no longer being denied the chance due to their gender.

In November 2019 two women made history by becoming the first females to pass the challenging six month training to become infantry soldiers, paving the way for others of the same gender to follow in their footsteps. In doing so the two women became role models that day for young women and girls whose aspiration in life is to be an infantry solider. Privates Chelsey Munday and Taylor Lewis will always be remembered as the first two women to pass infantry training at Catterick garrison in Yorkshire. There will hopefully be many more strong and brave women who will follow in the footsteps of these two outstanding and dedicated women.  Munday and Lewis defied expectations of women when they passed their training courses as many believed they were too ‘weak and feeble’ to be able to withstand the course.  Smashing stereotypical views of women out of the park and leaving the door wide open for others to follow. Another example of women making history in terms of females and the military, in 2016 the ban on women serving with the royal armoured corps were lifted and women were able to apply for the regiment for the first time in history.

Image of a female British solider from

One of the first units to open their recruitment process to women after the opening in 2016 was the Royal Armoured Corps, which operates tanks. ‘’The regiment was  the first ground close combat branch to open its doors to women in November 2016. Since then, about 35 women have either served in, or been trained to join, the Royal Armoured Corps.’‘ The uptake of women to the regiment demonstrates that women were never unable to pass the  training process or that women were not historically interested in the regiment. The uptake of 35 women to the Royal Armoured Corps demonstrates that women were always wanting to join the regiment but were barred from doing so due to government legislation. Once the outdated view that women were feeble and not strong enough for the military roles were lifted by government women jumped at the chance to apply. I believe strongly that women will continue to come forward and apply for the role now and in the future.  

Lance Corporal  Kat Dixon, who serves with the Royal Wessex Yeomanry, is the first female tank gunner in her regiment having joined the Army reserves two and a half years ago. She said: “I don’t want to say I am a trailblazer, but I want people to follow. I think women have a lot to offer. “If you can meet the necessary requirements, I don’t think anything should be off-limits, but you should have to meet the same requirements.”I firmly believe that women will be inspired by powerful and inspiring women breaking through the barrier in male dominated regiments in the army and choose to follow in their footsteps and go through the process themselves.  Young women are inspired by powerful role models and whole heartedly believe that  Lance Corporal Dixon can pave the way for a large number of females to follow.

British Female Solider image from

The last regiment I will speak about in my article in the parachute regiment. In 2017 Captain Rosie Wild madre history by becoming the first female to pass the parachute regiment recruitment process.  Captain Wild was described at the time of her success as a ‘’trailblazer’’ and comment was also made by the commander that he hopes ‘’ Wild’s achievement “will encourage other women to have a go” and that “A more representative force will only make us stronger’’  The view of the first woman passing the incredibly testing process was incredibly positive which strongly demonstrates that opinions and views of women in the military are changing and old, outdated views and no longer the norm.   I wholeheartedly believe that more women will attempt to follow in the footsteps of such an inspiring and incredible woman.  Not only did Captain Wild make history as the first female to pass the selection, but she also smashed the selection passing out as the best cadet from her intake with the sword of honour. She very clearly demonstrated that day that a woman can do anything a man can if she puts her mind to it, in fact going even further to prove that sometimes a woman can do a better job that a man can.

Women who have more recently in the past 5 years have proven that women do most certainly have  a place within the British military and in several cases have not only passed the selection but have came out top of their class therefore proving that there is no legate reason to not allow women. Those women who have made history by becoming the first woman or women to join a certain regiment will go down in history as inspirational and as women who do not let anything stand in the way of their goals and aspirations. Many young girls will look up to these women and will aspire to become like them. Finally thanks to these brave, admirable women young girls who want to join the army can see somebody like them achieving that same goal.

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