British Army is launching a major recruitment drive in the New Year to get women to join the ranks of tough front-line units such as the Gurkhas and Paras.
The campaign comes after ministers changed rules to let female soldiers serve in “close ground combat” roles from 2018.
The move ends the all-male tradition of elite formations such as the Guards, Rifles and Royal Marines. A small number of female soldiers have already been caught up in combat.
It follows the success of Our Girl , the hit BBC drama starring Corrie’s Michelle Keegan as Lance Corporal Georgie Lane.
The campaign will highlight chances for women to serve in roles such as paratroopers, snipers or tank drivers.
“Joining the infantry is not for everyone but there will be those who rise to the challenge and no doubt one day we will have our first SAS female soldier.”
Across the country military commanders have spent the past year making sure they are ready to accept women with separate accommodation and resources as well as female instructors.
According to a report in Mirror, around 50 Nepali women took part in army fitness tests as part of a Ministry of Defence pilot in 2007, but recruitment to the brigade remained closed to them.
The first female Gurkhas could arrive in the UK for infantry training in spring 2020, according to the report. The move is part of the British Army plan to boost the 3,000-strong Brigade of Gurkhas by an additional 800 troops in an attempt to plug a shortfall of more than 5,500 troops. Quoting a well-placed source, the Times reported that the new recruitments would include a new infantry battalion and new units of engineers and communications experts.
Britain first began recruiting Gurkhas in 1815, with the Nepali soldiers fighting in both world wars and more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan. Prince Harry served with the Royal Gurkha Rifles, the brigade’s infantry regiment, as a forward air controller in Afghanistan during the winter of 2007-08.
The British Army recruits around 250 men from Nepal each year. Candidates face grueling fitness tests, including carrying a load of sand up a steep, five-kilometre course in less than 48 minutes. However, fitness requirements would not be relaxed for women, according to the report. Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary, said this weekend, “The Gurkhas are renowned as one of the best fighting forces in the world with a proud history of serving Her Majesty, and it is right that women have the opportunity to serve in this elite group.”