British armed forces to allow women in combat roles

 Women will be allowed to apply for all military roles in the British armed forces, including in frontline infantry units and the Royal Marines, the government has announced.

Women will also be able to put themselves forward for selection for specialist units including the SAS and SBS. The Ministry of Defense described the move as historic.

The defense secretary, Gavin Williamson, made the announcement during a land power demonstration on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire.

He said that with immediate effect, women already serving in the army could transfer into infantry roles. Those not currently serving would be able to apply for infantry roles in December, with new recruits starting basic training in April 2019.

Williamson also confirmed that women were now able to apply to join the Royal Marines, with selection starting before the end of the year. Training courses will begin at Royal Marines Commando training center in Lympstone, Devon, in early 2019.

While women have for many years served in war zones in a huge array of jobs, they were previously not allowed to serve in ground close combat’ roles. The ban was lifted in 2016 by the then prime minister, David Cameron.

He said at that time that the change would be phased in, and from November 2016 women were allowed into the Royal Armored Corps. In September 2017 the RAF Regiment – the air force’s fighting force – allowed women.

The army now has around 35 women either serving in or being trained to join the Royal Armored Corps, with a number of personnel already being deployed to Estonia and Oman.

An MoD spokesperson said, “While the military does not necessarily expect large numbers of women to apply for ground close combat roles, the changes are aimed at creating opportunities for individuals from all backgrounds and making the most of their talents.

“By making all branches and trades of the military open to everyone, regardless of their gender, the armed forces are building on their reputation of being a leading equal opportunities employer.”

The land power demonstration on Salisbury Plain involved some of the first women to join the Royal Armored Corps.