Women will now be able to apply for any position in the military including the Special Forces and the Royal Marines, the government has revealed in a historic announcement.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said women already serving in the Army would be able to transfer into infantry roles immediately, while those not yet in the Forces would be able to apply in December, with basic training expected to begin in the spring.
Meanwhile, selection for the Royal Marines will begin before the end of the year.
Williamson said that by removing limits of gender, the armed forces would be “determined by ability alone” for the first time in history.
“Women have led the way with exemplary service in the armed forces for over 100 years, working in a variety of specialist and vital roles,” he told crowds.
“Opening all combat roles to women will not only make the armed forces a more modern employer but will ensure we recruit the right person for the right role.”
The move comes two years after a ban on women serving in close combat roles was lifted by then Prime Minister David Cameron. Women had previously served at the front line for a number of years in support roles.
Since November 2016, around 35 women have served or been trained to join the Royal Armoured Corps, a branch of the Army’s close combat services, with a number deployed to Estonia and Oman.
The RAF Regiment also began admitting women in September 2017.
It is understood the military does not expect large numbers of women to apply for close combat roles, but that the decision was made with the aim of “creating opportunities for individuals from all backgrounds and making the most of their talents”.