1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

UK military opens all combat roles to women

October 26, 2018

Women will now be able to join all combat units in the British military, including the elite special forces unit SAS. Defense Minister Gavin Williamson called the change "historic."

England Frauen in der Armee
Image: picture-alliance/ZUMAPRESS/R. Pinney

Women will be able to able to apply for any role in the British military for the first time, including frontline combat units and elite special forces, the government said Thursday.

"For the first time in its history, our armed forces will be determined by ability alone and not gender," Defence Minister Gavin Williamson said.

Women have long served as sailors and pilots but were barred from units primarily engaged in combat. Britain lifted a ban on women serving in combat roles in 2016, but some fighting roles remained off limits.

The Royal Armoured Corps was the first close combat army unit to open its doors to women in November 2016. Since then about 35 women have joined combat tank units.  The Royal Air Force accepted women into combat roles in September 2017.

Now, women will be able apply for all army units, including the elite Royal Marines and Special Air Service (SAS).

"While the military does not necessarily expect large numbers of women to apply for ground close combat roles, the changes are aimed at creating opportunities for individuals from all backgrounds and making the most of their talents," the Defence Ministry.

The United States, Canada, Australia, Israel and Germany are among other advanced militaries that allow women in combat roles.

cw/xx (AFP, AP, Reuters)

Every evening at 1830 UTC, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.