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18 September 2014
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Women at War: 'She-Soldiers' Through the Ages

By Peter Craddick-Adams
Image of Jo Salter, flight lieutenant, next to a GR1 B Tornado
Jo Salter, Flight Lieutenant, with GR1 B Tornado ©

The world wars of the 20th century caused immeasurable misery, but also offered a new freedom to many women. Take a look at how they adjusted to their new situation - on the Home Front and in the battlefields.

Women's role

Throughout history, the business of war has generally been the preserve of men. In the 20th century, however, the role of women in the armed forces began a process of transformation that is still happening to this day. Women now serve in an increasingly wide range of jobs, including positions as jet fighter pilots in the Royal Navy, RAF and US Air Force.

'So what is the situation today, and what went on in earlier eras?'

Despite this, there remains an over-riding public perception that women continue to be excluded from the combat arms of land forces, especially the infantry, armour and artillery, apart from in administrative roles. And people seem to forget that, for example, in the Red Army during World War Two, women served as tank crew, infantry, snipers and military police - although once the emergency was over, they reverted to the supporting arms.

So what is the situation today, and what went on in earlier eras?

Published: 2005-03-01

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