All combat roles in the armed forces now open to women

The defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, has announced that women will be able to apply for any role in the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, including frontline infantry units and elite special forces units, such as the SAS and Royal Marines.

He said: “I am delighted that from today, for the first time in its history, our armed forces will be determined by ability alone and not gender."

A ban on women serving in close combat units in the British military was lifted in 2016, following a government review and recommendation from the head of the army, General Sir Nick Carter. The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the Equality Act 2010 had previously allowed the armed forces to exclude women from these posts.

The Royal Armoured Corps was the first ground close combat branch to open its doors to women soldiers and officers in November 2016, with the RAF Regiment following suit in 2017.

Many hundreds of women served in Iraq and Afghanistan in a number of roles that took them into a combat situation. Four women were awarded the Military Cross for their actions in Iraq and Afghanistan (Gazette issue 59737 and 58183). 

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