Former senior British Armed Forces leaders have raised concerns about the prospect of women taking up combat roles on the frontline claiming female soldiers lack “killer instinct” and that male soldiers do not need “distractions looking after women”.
Currently just under 16,000 women serve in Britain’s armed forces and those in the Army have restricted frontline roles in non-combat positions such as intelligence specialists, artillery spotters, logisticians and signallers. Women are also restricted from other soldiers roles in providing logistics and medical assistance.
West, the former First Sea Lord has said that women are not suited for ground assault roles saying he wants Britain to have “forces that can win”.
Speaking to Sky News he said he has “some nervousness about women in the infantry and the Royal Marines, where they have to actually advance on the enemy, climb into a trench and fight and kill each other…not because there aren’t some women who can do that but, when you are looking at averages, women have one-third less upper body strength”.
Major General Patrick Cordingley, former commander of the 7th Armoured Brigade, agreed and said “You don’t want distractions looking after women, which inevitably you will do.”
Their comments came as a result of the Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent pledge to change the system, following a six-month Ministry of Defence (MoD) evaluation to investigate whether females could serve in infantry and tank regiments.
Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph this week the Prime Minister said: “We’ve already lifted a number of barriers in our Armed Forces with the introduction of female submariners and women reaching the highest ranks in all services.
“We should finish the job next year and open up ground combat roles to women.”
Colonel Kemp, the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, warned “it will undermine the fighting ethos of the British infantry.”
“Sadly, the Prime Minister’s decision is the latest crazy move in society’s obsession with politically correct gestures. Cliques would form – with men and women both to blame – which would undermine unit cohesion and fighting spirit. While some right-on politicians may be ‘gender neutral’, nature is not.”
Retired Army Colonel Richard Kemp said he has “as much admiration for their dedication, professionalism and heroism as I have for their male counterparts”.
“At the end of this process, government ministers will be happy, the generals involved will get promotion and the nation’s feminists will claim a victory over the last bastion of male chauvinism. But, more importantly, our nation’s defences will have been weakened.”