Women in the Infantry and Armoured Corps


I see that the Ministry of Defence has restarted this hoary old chestnut again – I believe as a result of some European requirement.  I shudder to think how much this will cost the taxpayer (spelt us) so I thought I’d give it a bash myself.  (In an earlier life I was a soldier, and I then got quite heavily involved in weapons research so I do know my stuff).  But actually it’s pretty straightforward.

Firstly let’s agree that the purpose of The British Army is to kill Her Majesty’s enemies.  It may well do other stuff, but this is the thing that only it can do.

Lots of bits of the army do killing, but only infantry and armour do it close up.  Infantrymen close with the enemy and kill them in close combat using rifles, grenades and bayonets.  They do this on their feet, carrying heavy loads of weaponry, water, body armour and ammunition.  In general their basic load is about 25 kilos, which is just about OK for an averagely built fit man to carry. Note that they carry this everywhere, at all times. Often the load increases as extra weaponry, kit and ammunition is added (as it is for machine gunners and mortar men, among others). The simple fact is that a British Army infantryman is supremely fit – to the point of being professional athletes.

Can an average woman carry this load and keep up with the average man? No.  Perhaps a few exceptional women can, but most can’t.  This is not surprising – women are weaker and slower as any study of any sport will reveal.  Do women play men at Wimbledon? No, they actually play best of 3 sets rather than best of 5.  Jessica Ennis is a seriously fit and strong person, but she does not compete against men. If she did she would get beaten.  By miles.  Same with rowing, same with football, same with anything.  So why should soldiering be different?  It isn’t.

Now, I have conceded that a few women might be able to perform satisfactorily, but the expense of providing them with kit (even these women have smaller heads, hands and feet) and amenities to get few extra infantry soldiers isn’t likely to be worth it.  And, of course, one has to include the cost of the failures who can’t make the grade.

Of course, one could drop the grade to what an average woman could achieve, but that would mean soldiers going into combat with less kit.  Less kit means less capable, and therefore less likely to succeed.  Is that what we want – a politically correct army that can’t actually win a battle?

Or maybe we could just accept that women carry less – and let them fight anyway -while male soldiers carry a heavier load.  Its still a reduction in capability.  The separation of infantry into two classes (the strong and the weak) will not do much for cohesion either.  And if the (male) machine-gunner (with the heavier kit load) becomes a casualty would a woman be able to take over?  Probably not.  Speaking of casualties, how may women can carry a man, plus 20kg of their kit plus 25+kg of the man’s kit?  Not many, but its a requirement for all men.

Similar arguments apply for armoured soldiers -not least because they often have to act as infantry anyway. Tanks are heavy and all the bits in them are too.  simple maintenance tasks require weightlifting and loading the main gun involves holding a 15kg piece of ammunition in ones arms and then pushing it into the gun’s breech.  Its hard work.  Again, its a fundamental tenet that anyone in the tank can do anyone else’s job (in case of casualties etc.) so a woman would have to be as strong as her male counterpart.

In any case, how many women actually want to be combat soldiers, and live in a hole in the ground or a small metal box with 3 blokes for weeks at a time?  Not many, I’ll bet (few enough men want to do it).

And spare a thought for the men’s wives…would they really be happy to know that her husband is spending 20 hours a day with another woman’s head resting by his knees (as tank gunners do)?  I suspect not.

I have not gone into the philosophic argument about women not being killers etc.  There is, I’m sure, something in that but certainly women flying Apache helicopter gunships in Afghanistan have killed their fair share of Taliban.  Its not necessary to make the argument for the simple fact that infantry soldiering is not physically possible for women.

One has to ask who is kicking up this fuss and why.  How many women are actually applying to be infantrymen?  And on what basis has someone decided that there is a right to be a soldier?  There is no such right as there are tough medical constraints, educational standards, behavioral standards (no drugs, for example) and political requirements (no Taliban, no communists).  This has all the hallmarks of some silly lawyer being allowed to misinterpret laws…

There you go.  Conclusive answer at no cost to the tax payer. Next problem please?