Blogs Coffee House

Let women fight on the front line, but only if they pass the tests

8 April 2014

8 April 2014

The head of the British Army has given the clearest sign yet that women will soon be given the right to fight on the front line in a combat role. General Sir Peter Wall, chief of the general staff has said that lifting the ban on women serving in combat units was ‘something we need to be considering seriously’.

It is. Women can already serve on the front line with the artillery and as medics, engineers, intelligence officers and fighter pilots. So let’s open up all areas to women – but only if they can pass the tests to prove they are up to it. No quotas; no easier trials. There will be women who pass, and women who don’t. The ones who pass of course deserve to fight in frontline combat units . The ones who don’t may well be suited to other areas of the military.

If we hanker after gender equality, then it must be brought about fairly. Open up tests to everyone – but then accept that not everyone will pass. That’s the way it works in our education system; why not in our national institutions too?

More Spectator for less. Subscribe and receive 12 issues delivered for just £12, with full web and app access. Join us.

Show comments
  • peterchar

    Madness that must be learned the hard way. Such is the human want.

  • Jonathan Burns

    Correct bwims within a couple of years of lifting the combat ban on women, feminists will demand either standards be lowered for everyone or just women and quotas will be forced through. This has happened with the Fire Brigade, Lifeboats and Police. In fact they want to lower standards even more because chasing a suspect and having to hop over a fence is no longer viewed as necessary for a policewoman, as too many are failing. The US General who “supports” women in combat admitted standards would be lowered in not enough women qualified.
    Seriously does Lara Prendergast seriously believe in this age of women only shortlists for future MPs that standards will last?

  • bwims

    Has anyone considered that these women, if captured by hostiles, are quite likely to be raped?

    • CocoaNutCakery

      Depends on the hostiles, and some would be more likely to just murder them.
      And, for the record, I’m sure it’s something that any woman looking to fight on the front lines has considered and is a risk that she is willing to take.

  • Jonathan Burns

    One day we in the weak politically correct West will face an enemy who can take us on and we will lose.
    In 2002 the British Army found that only 0.1% of female applicants and 1% of trained female soldiers “would reach the required standards to meet the demands of these [infantry] roles.” The small number that did qualify were then more likely to suffer injuries than male soldiers.
    So are feminists really going to be happy with those results, with so few women qualifying, not bloody likely.

    • Alexandrovich

      Yes, and then what percentage of that 1.1% decide they’ll get pregnant?

    • disqus_KdiRmsUO4U

      quote: One day we in the weak politically correct West will face an enemy who can take us on and we will lose.

      Many think this has already happened.
      I refer to the UK withdrawal from Basra.
      Come to think of it WW2 defeats in Far East are difficult to explain.

      As for the victory of Dunkirk…

  • Jonathan Burns

    Actually the constant Hollywood propaganda showing female warriors has lead to people confusing this with reality.

  • Jonathan Burns

    MarianDavid your listing of shorter people who are still male actually the best shape for pilots G Force resistance is the male weightlifter (short and muscular).
    Check Olympic sports records, how many do women beat the men?
    Modern warfare means infantry have to carry heavier equipment.
    The military is there to win the most important sport in the world, WAR.

  • Your Correspondent

    I very much doubt if Peter Wall thinks this is a good idea. But does it really matter? It seems highly unlikely that we will ever deploy a fighting army again and if we did how many soldiers would actually risk fighting, knowing that another, alternative army, of British human rights lawyers would be waiting in the wings to accuse them of using excessive or unreasonable force.
    This is why Russia is strong and we are weak, decadence and decline. Russians have an almost unlimited capacity for enduring hardship and suffering where as we have a mental breakdown if we trip up the kerb.

  • Picquet

    It doesn’t work. No other competent army has ever made it work. Women are tremendously good at other roles, but as infantry they are wholly unsuited.

  • Jonathan Burns

    So Ben should the Olympics and other sporting events integrate women so there’s no more sexism?
    Will we watch Manchester United or Liverpool with a mixed team?
    The military like sport is there to WIN not to pander to the Politically Correct who probably hate the military.

    The journalist above is talking rubbish as she knows full well standards will be lowered for women and there will be quotas.

  • mariandavid

    All the anti-comment here are screamingly funny – predicated no doubt on watching Hollywood movies and giant American marines. In fact the best infantry soldiers of late have been Japanese, Vietnamese and Gurkhas, all of lesser stature than most Western women with a hanker for combat and in the case of the Vietnamese certainly weaker. Even worse is this assumption that infantry warfare revolves around body contact and bayonet drill, factors outdated well over a 100 years ago.
    The ONLY reason for greater upper body strength – the traditional failure factor – in the modern army is to carry the ludicrously heavy weights they are ordered to burden themselves with. Unfortunately most armies have hardly advanced from the days of the Somme and Verdun in this respect. While in terms of both stamina and reduced calorie intake rates females are more competent than males of comparable size, both factors of much greater import in modern warfare than the worshipped standard of upper body capability.
    Having said that I do concur in absolute and unqualified testing for all positions – which if carried out fairly (which is unlikely) would probably demonstrate that women make better pilots, artillery spotters, logisticians, signal officers, tank gunners or even Chiefs of the General Staff, if not ordinary riflepersons.

    • Des Demona

      ”in the modern army is to carry the ludicrously heavy weights they are ordered to burden themselves with.”
      Ummm…. there’s a reason for that. It’s called ”survival”

      • bwims

        I don’t the guerrilla fighters care about the Geneva Convention.

      • mariandavid

        Interestingly the claim of female inferiority lies not in lesser ability in carrying ammo, water, rations and the rest but only in lifting it onto one’s body. Which in decent armies is usually a co-operative act in any case.
        But I take your point on the strict issue of foot, heavy infantry warfare. Mine is that any handicap in this area is used as an excuse in armies with 19th Century social attitudes – such as the British – to claim limitations in all roles. After all male gunners are not declared inferior and subject to replacement because they lack the identification/application skills which women gunners, by some accounts, are superior in.

        • Des Demona

          I think you really need a citation for that claim. If they can’t even lift the gear on to their bodies do you really think they are going to be able to act effectively in a fast moving combat situation?
          Where has it been used as an excuse for ”limitations in all roles”? Women can and do already serve on the front lines but let’s not get carried away with PC guff about close combat.
          It is not about ”inferiority” it is simply that currently the male body is more suited to that role.
          It’s like a man demanding the right to become pregnant. Great in the name of equality, but practically and realistically, nah not really going to happen.

          • mariandavid

            You are right and I feel guilty for making a non cited statement in a site as reputable as this. Will do as soon as time allows (think it is from our Canadian Forces sources here). I think in a way we agree – I was complaining about how inadequacies in one respect are all too often used to limit access in all; you that shrieks for conformity result in ignoring true differences in skills and abilities.

    • La Fold

      Im intrigued as to why you think the Japanese and Vietnamese are the best infantry men of recent times? Also the couple of Gurkha fellas that work across the road from me doing security for Shells FSPOs arent exactly the shortest or thinnest of fellas to be honest.

      • mariandavid

        One point is that both were infantry-oriented armies – with the emphasis going on company/battalion level weapons. The other is that both were exceedingly hardy by Western standards, capable of heavy loads and requiring fewer provisions (as an example the Japanese routinely carried infantry with one-half or less the cargo capacity of western armies). Most important they were entrenchers par excellence, capable of extreme silence discipline, when regulars had very high morale and in the Japanese case resilient to a degree unmatched by any Western Army. As for the Gurkha – it is true that their reputation has been expanded compared with other Indian Army groups by being alone retained after Independence (in reality they were never considered elite during the two World Wars). But even taking that into account still showed immense stamina and tolerance of extreme front-line conditions.
        As to size – the Gurkha regiments traditionally recruited from specific groups or castes, some poor, others high caste. Therefore they tended to differ in stature – and certainly those chosen in British service regiments today have gone through a selection process that emphasis health, stature and education.

        • La Fold

          Interesting points to consider, thanks.

  • Ben Greenhalgh

    This is why the British Army should now allow women into close combat roles – Read it here at and have your say.

  • Jonathan Burns

    Also women would no longer be exempt from conscription.

  • Jonathan Burns

    Sorry gender normed, stupid spellchecker.

  • Jonathan Burns

    Slight problem is that only about 1% of women would qualify if you keep the tests the same and they would suffer from greater injuries. Feminists don’t want this they want women to make up 50% of combat roles. So what happens is standards are lowered for everyone or are gender formed for women. In other words a woman can pass even if she scores lower than a man who fails the fitness tests.
    Bizarre situation the sexes are segregated in most sports but not warfare?

  • Frank

    Hard to avoid the conclusion that the Army 2020 concept is dead and that recruiting enough males has proved much much harder than thought. What a surprise.

  • swatnan

    Women police carry small arms and even rifles, to shoot to kill if necessary. So why not women on the front line. They are as capable of killing the enemy as much as the next man.

    • P_S_W

      There is a major difference between Police carrying and firing weapons and a front-line army unit.

  • Mynydd

    As General Sir Peter Wall considered the possibility of a women fighting on the front line, being taken prisoner, and then shown on the internet being gang raped.

    • DazEng

      Interesting. Try asking any soldier why they were really afraid of being captured…especially in the middle east. You’ll find that happens whatever you’ve got between your legs.

      • bwims

        Maybe, but the chap wouldn’t wind up as a white slave in a harem.

    • disqus_KdiRmsUO4U

      Re sexual abuse of female prisoners:
      You have underestimated the subtle mind of the General.
      While said gang rape was occurring our troops could regroup and defeat the enemy.
      Re men being raped: due to affirmative non discrimantory action many might enjoy it.

      Actually I think the General is obliquely arguing for more expenditure on conventional male cannon fodder.
      I’m not an officer in the PC brigade but infantry are cannon fodder.
      Sad to say !

  • Bob Thomas

    Israel already tried this, and it didn’t work. We should learn from their experience, rather than consciously repeating the same mistake.

  • MrsDBliss

    The logical extension of this is that women are no longer seen instantly as deserving special status in domestic violence because some, a minority, would have similar capacities to men. They would therefore be treated like any other victim interms of their injuries, but there would be no acknowledgment that it is particularly evil as men having an automatic advantage over women due to their strength.
    This may not happen immediately, but over time there will be more violence against women in general because there will be a real erosion of the principle “boys don’t hit girls”.
    Our society has become so focused on the individual/victim group rights that we forget that it is by forgoing some rights that we reinforce more desirable social norms. This has already happened with the “right” of women to behave the same way sexually as men. How has that helped our teenage girls/children in the womb.

    • bwims

      This is why lunatic feminists are so valuable to the Marxist cause, that is, the destruction of bourgeois society – the bedrock of capitalism

      “boys don’t hit girls”, your example, is a bourgeois principle, still in the public consciousness, unlike these:

      nice girls don’t have intercourse before marriage
      It is wrong to have children out of wedlock
      divorce is the last resort for a failing marriage
      drug taking is wrong
      swearing is wrong
      censorship protects the young
      abortion is usually wrong
      hom osexuality is wrong
      adultery is wrong
      lying is wrong
      embezzlement is wrong
      murder deserves the death penalty or real life imprisonment

      All gone. Yours is next on the list.

      • MrsDBliss

        Feel like emigrating? I do!

        • La Fold

          I just came to this realisation today, in 18 months time Im out off of here, somewhere, anywhere!

          • MrsDBliss

            We hope to go in two years.

      • La Fold

        From My experience lots of feminism isnt the championing of femine values over those of mascualine ones, nor the desire for gretaer equality between the sexes but a bizarre marxist view of the world where men are placed in the role of oppressor and the women the oppressed.

  • Gareth Milner

    The only bar to serving in a role should be meeting the stated standards, not someone’s gender. Some of the tests may seem arbitrary, but often link to the need to carry set weight in austere conditions; be it equipment or a fellow soldiers body from a fire-fight. Many women are already capable of meeting these standards.

    • Kitty MLB

      Well women are not quite the frail little things you encounter in Jane Austen
      novels. Some are as large and fearsome looking as chaps and even have the tattoos. But they are not quite as strong as you chaps especially at certain times of the month and pregnancy.. and what about woman’s sense of
      direction when driving a tank… Only joking people- well sort of joking.

  • Peter L

    Several women have already attempted to pass selection (“P Company”) for the Parachute Regiment. None has passed. Yet it is a reasonable assumption that those who had the guts to try were among the most determined and athletic in the Army.

    Israel’s attempts to integrate women into fighting units were not a success and were abandoned.

    As the article states, women already serve on the frontline – in support units – where their courage cannot be questioned. As an example Kate Nesbitt, a navy medic, won a Military Cross for running across open ground under fire to treat a badly wounded comrade.

    What’s so broke about the current arrangement that requires fixing?

  • Colin

    I’m a bit concerned that you’re using terms such as: “The right to fight” and “deserve to fight in front line combat”.

    From personal experience and from talking to comrades, I’m not sure that I, or they ever felt that combat was a “right” or that, no matter how bad I was in the NAAFI on a friday night, that I deserved to be on the front line.

    It’s not a game you know. You do know that, don’t you?

  • anyfool

    This is the biggest load of nonsense for at least a week.
    Women are not physically able to compete on the battlefield, the weapons and the kit required are not light, the endurance required is way beyond the vast majority of females physical ability.
    This supposed general if a politically correct coward, you can see why the standing of the British Army has plummeted when you have idiots like this promoted to the general staff.
    The enemy will not have the burden of carrying extra kit to make up for those short on strength and who knows the mental capacity to kill without restraint.
    War is not in any way related computer games nor that recreation that uses paint balls.

    • Guest

      You’ve not understood this properly, have you? If they pass the tests to prove they are physically able to carry the kit, endure battlefield conditions etc, then there won’t be a problem, will there?
      If they don’t pass, they don’t get in. That’s the point of this article…

      • anyfool

        I am not disagreeing with the writer, I disagree with the whole concept, it is a silly idea generated by the witless to earn brownie points with the current PC consensus that has infected public life in the UK.
        The people we would go to war with would not have their hands tied by this sort of rubbish, nor would they be constrained by totally PC rules of engagement, something that has cause unnecessary deaths in the military, that another futile gesture to salve the conscience of the terminally gutless creatures who infect the upper echelons of the government.

        • P_S_W

          PC rules of engagement is not the issue. The physical and mental stresses of combat are.

          It’s not just about firing weapons at the enemy. It’s about fire and move, quickly. It’s about carrying enough equipment with you into battle to enable you to survive without popping to the nearest shop. If you are physically capable of doing all this, fine. If not, the efficiency of your unit is compromised.

          It’s that simple.

      • bwims

        No, the point of the article is that is how it SHOULD be. But you must realise that there will be howls of outrage when they all fail.

        They have already reduced the strength tests for fireMEN and lifeboat MEN so that women can get the jobs – at great risk to the people whose lives they attempt to save – and Cressida Dickless wants smaller guns for policewomen.

        Despite what you see on American TV, a buxom 100Ib, 5 foot 6 girl has no chance against a 200lb, 6 foot man with equal fighting ability.

  • Liz

    In civil employment, the average female physical performance is limited to two thirds of the physical performance of men by regulations. The different physical gender-performance is standardized in ISO 11228 (Ergonomics – Manual handling) and EN 1005 (Safety of machinery – Human physical performance).

    The Center for Military Readiness, an organization that seeks to limit women’s participation in the military, stated that “Female soldiers [are], on average, shorter and smaller than men, with 45-50% less upper body strength and 25-30% less aerobic capacity, which is essential for endurance”.

    The female skeletal system is less dense, and more prone to breakages. There is also a concern that, in aviation, the female body is not as adept at handling the increased g-forces experienced by combat pilots. However, there is evidence that the male body is less able to handle the g-forces than the female body with regard to black outs: women are less likely to black out due to shorter blood vessel routes in the neck. Furthermore, health issues regarding women are argued as the reason that some submarine services avoid accepting women, although mixed-gender accommodations in a small space is also an issue, as is explained in more depth below.

    The United States Marine Corps is implenting the Infantry Officer Course (IOC) to test the physical abilities of their female officer candidates for those who apply for the combat positions.

    With the above in mind, can you explain why men and women should undergo identical physical tests, Lara?

    • lard

      And you wonder why some men struggle with the feminist movement.

      Males are often less academic than women. So perhaps universities should offer places to men with lower scores than women need, right? Or is that the other side of equality you’re not quite as keen to push?

      If you can do the job, you should have a chance at getting that job. THAT’S equality. Not ‘we’d like to get a quota of a certain gender into this job so we’re going to make it easier for them to get in.’

    • La Fold

      When I done the old BFT many many many years ago now, I was considerably smaller than pretty much everyone else there so should I have been given a different set of tests to perform then to test my unique strengths and talents?
      Or did I have to do what I done best and sprint so hard I almost spewed and passed out on the end?
      The tests arent just there to test fitness but attitude and mental toughness.

    • bwims

      Blackouts are dealt with by pressure suits. The real problem is how do you deal with the physical stresses of G-forces?

  • Liz

    Close combat role:
    Royal Marines
    Forward observational officer
    Combat logistics patrols

    There is evidence showing women in both Iraq and Afghanistan have considerable success in acquiring intelligences from children and women. Besides the issue of women in combat, women have been a strategic advantage in training other women in police forces. This empowers women to have more of position in their community outside of their homes. Why isn’t that in the men’s test?

  • Liz

    “No quotas”

    Well that’s hardly fair, there are quotas for the men.

    • saffrin

      Get back in the kitchen woman.

  • Liz

    “but only if they can pass the tests to prove they are up to it. No quotas; no easier trials. ”

    How about more appropriate trials, designed to test women’s unique strengths and abilities in a close combat situation? And then how about introducing those to the men?

    • anyfool

      There is no unique strengths and abilities in close combat situations that women can bring to the table, they will be overpowered by males 99.9% of the time and would endanger the others in the unit, that Brienne of Tarth is like Game of Thrones a fable and like true equality between the sexes will remain so.

    • Des Demona

      Now you’re just making stuff up.

    • bwims

      How about hand-to-hand combat between a 5’6 woman and a 6’6 man with the same combat training. Winner gets in.

    • Uncontainable Spirit

      WTH? Seriously? Oh wait…. Liz is trolling us. smh. lol! Good one Liz!

  • Liz

    The infantry tests are arbitrary, Lara; designed so that an averagely fit man can pass them.

    It isn’t equality to hold women to an arbitrary standard designed by and for men.

    • Des Demona

      That’s a point. Then we can organize the battles to make sure women aren’t disadvantaged just because they are women.

    • saffrin

      Sexist pig.

    • bwims

      “designed so that an averagely fit man can pass” – No it isn’t.

      It’s designed so that a STRONG, VERY FIT man can pass.

      It ISN’T arbitrary – it is to give the soldier the best chance to fight an equally strong enemy.

      I don’t, somehow, think that the enemy will co-operate in having women battalions fight each other.

      Do you think it is all automatic weaponry now? No hand-to-hand fighting anymore?

    • Uncontainable Spirit

      Liz, have you ever served in the military before? These tests are definitely not designed so that an “averagely” fit man can pass them. They are designed so that the individual taking the test can essentially continue to fight when injured. Can carry his buddy to safety. Can throw artillery far enough to not be hit by shrapnel. Can have the best chance of survival against an enemy who is as strong as he is.

Can't find your Web ID? Click here