100 years of women at war (in uniform)

Alison in the 1980s

It’s been a hundred years since women were allowed(!) to join the armed forces in the UK. I was very proud of serving my six years and doing all sorts of exciting and interesting things!

Of course, women have been attached to or even commanded armies and navies in historic times since at least the ancient Greeks. Some women war leaders have defeated the best armies in the world at least on one occasion (Looking at you, Boudicca, Artemesia of Caria, Lakshmibai, Joan of Arc) but this anniversary celebrates formal integration into British uniformed services.

Back in 2014, they let us go into front line combat roles which raised a lot of interesting discussion. Of course, I blogged about it!

This is, in my eyes, a normalisation. No person willing to die for their country should be barred from any role purely on gender grounds. I served in a mixed unit with mixed education, abilities and temperaments. The esprit de corps and bonding were based on shared purpose, experience and achievements. The only criterion was ability to do the job.

A video from the BBC looking at then and now. A fresh recruit and a former sergeant, who served in World War II, discuss the changing role of women in the British army.

Photo: BBC video


And BBC’s Newsbeat met three women who served their country in very different times.

‘We served our country, 70 years apart’ (Photo: BBC)

Update: A terrific summary from the UK National Army website:  A Timeline of Women in the Army

I raise a glass to all these women and to those currently serving.

For the girls (sorry, chaps) – do you have any memories of uniformed service in the military?


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO, CARINA (novella), PERFIDITAS, SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA, NEXUS (novella), INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO,  and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series. Double Identity, a contemporary conspiracy, starts a new series of thrillers.

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6 comments to 100 years of women at war (in uniform)

  • Juliet

    My grandmother served in the United States Marines during World War II as a mechanical drawer, doing warehouse layouts and the pictures for how to assemble guns. She told me that when they trained in New York City (during the middle of the summer) and did drills, the people in charge said that if anyone felt faint they should raise their hand. No one did.

    • Alison

      Lovely story! Thank you, Juliet.
      Women were significant in pursuing the war effort in the Second World War (as in previous wars), but their contribution is neglected (as for previous wars). This is a great opportunity to celebrate their often quiet, but essential, work they carried out.

      • Juliet

        Sadly true, especially in the case of the switchboard operators in World War II who helped translate orders from French into English and back again and the WASPs (both were denied veteran status in spite of their sacrifices and both were subject to military discipline.)

  • Alison

    Good to see that today it’s so different for young women serving now.