Friday 24 October 2008

Women Gurkhas

Newark MP Patrick Mercer has been quoted in national papers today talking about whether women should be let into the Gurkhas.

For anyone who doesn’t know, there are four Gurkha regiments from Nepal who fight for the British Army – a remnant of imperial days.

The men are famed for their combat prowess and have fought all over the world with the Brits, receiving 13 Victoria Crosses between them.

According to newspaper reports army chiefs are angry at being forced to recruit female Gurkhas saying it may mean they have to lower combat training standards.

Patrick told the Daily Mail: “The end result will be a less flexible brigade of Gurkhas and a less capable British Army.”

It’s important to note here that the Gurkhas are unique in being the only regiment where every single soldier does infantry training.

So unlike the rest of the army, the cooks, desk-clerks and engineers can all fix bayonets at a moment’s notice and go into combat – herein lies the issue.

Speaking to Lobbydog Patrick explained that in the forces women are trained as gunners, airmen, sailors etc, but they do not serve in combat arms of the infantry.

So the problem as army chiefs see it is that women could not be let into the Gurkhas without giving them infantry combat training – to have ‘non-fighting’ troops would reduce the “combat efficiency” of the regiment as a whole.

But to combat train women – a precedent across the entire army – they suspect they may have to lower the standards of the male soldiers as equality rules dictate everyone must have the same training.

Patrick emphasises that he thinks women should be able to do whatever they are capable of and has served with armed women when he was an intelligence officer in Northern Ireland – as he puts it, “they were bloody good.”

But he adds: “I just don’t think there is a place for women yet in an infantry section. I don’t say that to be controversial, I say that because it’s straight-forward hard-nosed practicality.”

What do you think?

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