Juliet Company 42 Commando Royal Marines
A routine patrol of Lashkar Gah, during which the Royal Marines had to deal with a broken vehicle, an injured civilian and also visited a school within the Provicial Capital.
Front and center is the patrol medic.
Picture property of photographer who is unknown to me.
General Sir Peter Wall, chief of the general staff, told the army’s Soldier magazine that lifting the ban on
women serving in combat units was “something we need to be considering seriously”.
Call me cynical, many do, but to hear this argument being raised at a time when morale in the armed
forces is low and recruitment is proving difficult due to the appalling ways that the British Government
has been treating its soldier’s smacks of political desperation.
Still this is something that should be looked at and dealt with and doing so for the right reason or the
wrong reason still gets it out in the open.
Britain allows women to serve with artillery and engineering units and also as medics, Military Police,
pilots of aircraft and helicopters and as naval personnel aboard ships. But combat units which are
expected to fight enemies close up have a ban on female soldiers serving in them.
In this matter Britain is part of an ever shrinking group of countries, Last year the US removed its ban
on women in front line combat units and in doing so joined the likes of Germany, France, Holland,
Denmark. Norway, Canada, Australia and Israel who allow women to serve in any unit of their armed
To be honest Britain’s views on this are rather old fashioned and based on the last century. They are
based around several primary objections:
Women lack the physical strength to serve in the front lines.
A valid point. Standards for physical fitness in the armed forces are high; the loads carried by our
infantry units are staggering and ever growing. Lowering these standards to allow women to meet
them runs the risk of lowering the overall standard of the soldiers reducing combat capability and
possibly increasing casualties. Body armour, weapons and heavy packs make a significant load for
a healthy man, a woman needs to be extremely fit to manage the weight and remain effective.
But technology can make equipment and armour lighter. Many infantry units operate from vehicles
and so only carry part of their combat load. Much of what a soldier carries as a load has not been
changed since they prepared to fight the Russians across Germany.
Body armour and boots can be designed for women so they are smaller, lighter and the right shape.
Women lack the aggression to make good soldiers.
Yes and no. Women on the whole are not blessed with a surfeit of testosterone and tend not to be
found picking fights outside pubs on a Friday night. For many women violence is not their first choice,
it is their last choice and for close combat units in the armed forces this may make them reluctant to
attack. Charging across minefields and rolling across barb wire all the while under machine gun fire is
the sort of thing that requires a lot of testosterone and adrenaline. Are women willing to do this sort
of thing, if they are then they can join the Royal Marines, if not there are still plenty of units that are
somewhat less aggressive while still being fully effective.
But as a separate note, there are many situations where less aggressive soldiers is a good thing. Where
a calmer and more reasoned response is better. Are women more likely to be calm and reasoned when
their unit has taken casualties and they are under fire, I don’t know but I don’t think it would be a bad
Women cannot fight.
This one is almost as weak an argument as the front line danger one. Anyone can fight if they are
properly trained. Being able to shoot a rifle, pistol or machine gun is a matter of training not gender.
Martial arts training can counter the size, weight or upper body strength disadvantages faced by women
in hand to hand combat. There are fighting styles and variations on military training regimes that allow
women to fight and win against untrained men.
Properly trained, properly equipped, properly lead and properly motivated a woman can fight. Perhaps
not to the standards of the Special Forces and a properly trained man has an advantage when fighting
a woman with the same level of training but the point of armed forces training is to be better than the
Very few armies can match the training that would be available to a woman in the close combat units
of the British armed forces.
Women soldiers will not be respected by Britain’s enemies.
In some parts of the world no woman is respected, women in the armed forces are considered no better
than whores in uniform. The general response to this attitude should be a female soldier demonstrating
that she earned the right to that uniform and some idiot bleeding in the dust.
However political correctness means that this is a very real problem in a number of countries since the
British government among others actually issues orders that force female soldiers to accept a more
subservient role when dealing with these bigots.
But outside of a handful of third world dust bowls women have every chance of being respected when
dealing with people who look to what they have done and can do rather than do they have tits.
Ask the Germans if they respected Lyudmila Mykhailivna Pavlichenko during the second world war.
Women are at greater risk of abuse if captured.
This one calls to the natural instinct of all men to protect the weaker sex; we cannot let them get close
to the enemy because they could be raped if they are taken prisoner. Yes indeed they can but that risk
is not unique to being in a front line unit, in the parts of the world where Britain’s armed forces end up
fighting any woman in any unit is at risk of such abuse.
Should a woman be placed in a position where she could be captured and abused because she is a
member of the armed forces, is her risk any greater than that of a man who could be tortured, executed
and have his head paraded on Facebook or Youtube by some Jihadist?
How many of the enemies Britain has fought this century are signatories of the Geneva Convention
regarding the treatment of uniformed prisoners of war. How many places where British women would
be involved in fighting and run the risk of being captured are renowned for the fair and decent way they
I’ll give you a hint, it’s a very small number.
Women should be spared the risk of front line combat.
This one is, I think, the weakest argument and the most old fashioned. We men need to keep those
poor weak women safe at home in case they get hurt. By keeping women out of the close combat units
we can keep them away from the front lines and therefore keep them safe.
To this I ask, in the 21st century where asymmetric warfare, IEDs, snipers, ambushes, guerrilla warfare
and enemy units hiding within civilian populations or even being members of supposedly friendly units
have become the norm, where exactly is this front line?
Women serve in units in Afghanistan just as they did in Iraq and just as they do in many other parts of
the world. Being an engineer or a electrician or a communications specialist does not make a woman
immune to a roadside bomb, not does it provide protection from mortar or rocket attacks launched
against army bases.
The picture at the top features an army medic; she runs exactly the same risks as any man in that
patrol as they drive the roads of Lashkar Gah Province.
Even if they remain within the main bases behind high concrete walls women are still at risk of rockets
or bombs coming over those walls or of infiltrators.
To my mind the bottom line in this argument is simple, can they do the job to the standard expected
of men in the same role. If they can then there is no reason why they should not serve in combat units.
If they cannot make the standards then relaxing those standards simply to have more women under arms
is madness as it lowers combat effectiveness in a force that depends on being effective in combat, but if a
woman can reach that standard then there should be nothing else stopping her.
It’s the 21st century, you cannot discriminate based on Gender anywhere else, and it’s about time the
armed forces caught up.