Female officers and ratings in the RN front line.

Home Forums Nautical Research: 1830 – Present Day Female officers and ratings in the RN front line.

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    Malcolm Lewis

      I have been under the understanding that female officers and other ranks in the services do not serve in front line roles but viewing recent TV programmes involving an RN frigate and the Ark Royal I have noted female officers and ratings in front line roles. Reading Paul Brown’s award winning book Abandon Ship about the Falklands War (in which there were no female crew members) several harrowing action situations are described. Whilst one does not doubt the bravery of women in difficult battle situations I would not like my daughters to be put in such dangers.
      Interested to know other members views.
      Malcolm Lewis


        Women have been able to serve in frontline roles for a while, Kate Nesbit received the Military Cross
        As a woman one of the things that put me off joining the forces was that I could serve on the frontline at that point. My eldest son and husband have both served, husband also in Falklands, son on submarines.
        I feel the idea that women should and can’t serve in the frontline is somewhat old fashioned.

        Adrian J

          Hello Malcolm

          Apart from the obvious reasons – risk of death, maiming and mental trauma – what reasons do you have for not wishing your daughters to undertake front line duties in our armed forces?

          A genuine question – most women I know seem to have great fortitude, stamina and thinking – usually in excess of most men I know!

          There I leave the conversational hand grenade!

          Best wishes

          Adrian James


          CAROLINE D

            I agree Adrian.
            My daughter 23 is a coastguard, whilst this is not a frontline military role it is one that sees her often hanging off a cliff to rescue someone. As the smallest and one of the younger members of the team she is often the one chosen for this role. She along with other team members risk their lives often doe those that have chosen to end theirs.
            Women are every bit as capable.

            Frank Scott

              ‘Front-line’ in the Royal Navy is everyone in a ship from junior cook to captain, so the moment the RN allowed women to serve at sea in 1990 they were front-line. One RN frigate in Gulf War 1 had women in the crew, and after that the only hold-out for some years was submarine service, which claimed some medical issues (now discredited). The most senior female officers in the RN in 2023 are rear-admirals (2*), one surface fleet & one surgeon.

              Interestingly in India their Navy is very much in the van of women’s rights, and their most senior officer is a Surgeon-Vice Admiral (3*), so they can claim to be ahead of the RN. Moreover, unlike RN female officers who have WRNS legacy tricorns, the Indian Navy have normal peaked caps, and in my opinion this makes them look much smarter & more ‘of one company’.

              In fact the RN did experiment with small numbers of WRNS serving at sea in RFAs before 1990. Most notably WRNS air engineering ratings in RFA Engadine, the aviation training ship, who embarked for short periods with pilot/observer training classes. Not sure when that began, probably mid-1980s. In late 1982 one WRNS 2/O Met Officer embarked in RFA Fort Grange in support of 826 Naval Air Squadron (ASW Seakings) for a four month deployment to Falkland Islands.

              Somewhat counter-intuitively the feminist movement was very unsupportive when the RN first embarked women at sea, and was totally silent when the press predictably whipped up frenzy of sexist opposition & portrayed WRNS in very negative manner (“How will wives cope with their husbands exposed to all this temptation on ships”, etc.).

              Frank Scott

                Worth noting that although the RN & RFA were all male at the time of the 1982 Falklands War, the Merchant Navy was not, so Canberra (P&O), QE2 (Cunard), and Uganda (P&O) all retained their MN female crew members, and they embarked female nurses from QARNNC.

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