AS a former soldier, I was intrigued by the suggestion that the ban on women serving in combat units may be lifted.
Don’t get me wrong, I do think women have a role in the armed forces, but not in the infantry.
As an avid reader of military history, I think no one better epitomizes a woman’s resilience and courage than Odette Sansom, a British agent parachuted into Germany during the war.
Captured, tortured and dispatched to a concentration camp, where she witnessed unspeakable horrors, Ms Sansom survived and was awarded the George Cross.
Today, women are represented in all three Services, and rightly so, but none serve in the field as infantry.
General Sir Peter Wall, Chief of the General Staff, suggests they should, adding that he wants the army to appear ‘more normal’ to society.
However, war does not respect the niceties of civilian life, as friends of mine who served in the Falklands conflict told me when they returned.
Quite apart from the fear of death, or worse horrific injuries, they lived in water-filled trenches, in freezing conditions, carrying packs weighing 120 lbs or more and attending to their most basic functions when and where they could.
As every infantryman will tell you, he does his duty for fear of letting down his buddy.
I would argue that it stands to reason that that buddy should be as physically robust, strong and of the same sex to ensure the integrity of the unit.
I suspect a woman in the mix would be a serious distraction.
This is not an ‘equality’ issue, in my view, but more one of practical considerations.
No one doubts a woman’s commitment or professionalism but, ultimately, clearing an enemy position with bullet and bayonet should remain a man’s job..