Dame Kelly Holmes Women at War: 100 Years of Service


Dame Kelly Holmes

Dame Kelly Holmes returns to the army training grounds where she enjoyed a successful career as a physical-training instructor.


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Transcript


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It's 100 years since the first pioneering women

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joined the British Armed Forces.

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Today, women serve alongside men,

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together in combat, on the front line.

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If you can do it and you want to do it, you should be able to.

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To see how much things have changed...

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-Love it!

-How do I look?

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..five well-known faces revisit either their own...

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Morning, ma'am. I'm the captain of HMS Puncher.

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You called me ma'am, how sweet.

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..or a family member's military past.

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They just got stuck in.

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It was exciting.

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War was intense.

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From defending land...

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-..sea...

-I don't want to go that way.

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..and air.

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These are the extraordinary stories of a century of women at war.

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Today, double Olympic champion Dame Kelly Holmes retraces her own career

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in the Army, and fulfils an ambition once closed off

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to women in the military.

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It's a Challenger 2 tank! I'm so excited about this bit!

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She meets a World War II veteran who was a trailblazer for women

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serving on the home front...

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All the boys were going off.

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I was 17-and-a-half. So I joined up.

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You wanted to do your bit.

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..hears from the first ever woman

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to pass the elite All Arms Commando Course...

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There were no concessions. They made me feel part of the team,

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they made me feel that it was right for me to be there.

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..and gets the chance to train the next generation

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of young female recruits determined to serve Queen and country.

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Lean slightly back. Take the one rope in the middle.

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I want to do the assault course.

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I want to be up there on the ropes!

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Kelly Holmes bringing it home for Britain!

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Can she get there? One more yard! Come on, Kelly Holmes!

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It's gold! Kelly's won the gold for Great Britain!

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The sheer joy and surprise on the face of Kelly Holmes

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as she claimed the first of her two gold medals

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remains one of the most memorable moments

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from the 2004 Athens Olympics.

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In my eyes, you ran because you wanted to be good

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and you ran because you wanted medals.

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But before she became one of Britain's

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greatest-ever sporting heroes,

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Kelly had followed another dream, to join the British Army.

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I needed a career and, you know,

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I wasn't a girl that wanted to be a hairdresser or beautician.

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I felt that, by going in the military,

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it would give me a bit of, again, identity, something different.

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I didn't want to stay just at home.

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I wanted to feel that I could achieve something, meet new people,

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travel and possibly toughen up a little bit.

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Kelly's desire to toughen up came from her childhood

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in Hildenborough, Kent.

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I think back in the '70s, you know, it wasn't really

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the thing for a white girl to have a mixed-race child

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and growing up, for my mother, my mother was only 17 when she had me,

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and so for her,

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you know, it was a pretty tough life

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and I didn't know my father.

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He left before I was one.

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Kelly didn't let any of that hold her back, and her natural athletic

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ability soon caught the attention of her teachers at school.

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I wasn't academic at all.

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But I loved running

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and I loved running just because I was good at it and I used to win.

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And it brought me alive and it gave me a sense of belonging.

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And it was because of my PE teacher, who was just, you know,

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a fantastic woman, and I think she knew when people needed help

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and pushed them in the right direction.

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And when an Army recruitment officer came to her school,

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Kelly realised she could turn her love of sport into a career.

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When I was 14, I watched a - videos back then - of the Army...

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Go!

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Soldiers, the PTIs screaming and shouting at the other soldiers

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that were going under the scramble nets

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and over the 12-foot walls, and I wanted to be both.

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I wanted to be the one getting down and dirty and the one,

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you know, shouting and screaming,

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so from 14 I pretty much knew what I wanted to do in life.

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It was Kelly's PE teacher at school, Debbie Page,

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who believed that a life in the Forces

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could be a good fit for the lively teenager.

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Wow, this takes me back.

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Good old sports halls!

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You needed a bit of leadership.

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I thought the Army would give you a focus.

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-Yeah.

-Because you didn't want to be tied to an office.

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Structure was probably good for you.

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For me, who was interested in sport or outside life, or whatever,

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-I don't think there's many options.

-If you think about it,

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if you were a girl back then who was interested in sport

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and you didn't want to necessarily go down the teaching route,

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then the life to be outside and to be active

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was going to be in the Army.

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With her mind made up,

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Kelly's next task was to convince her mum

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the Army was the right career choice.

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After I decided I was going to be in the Army, I was 14,

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I made her take me to the careers office and said,

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"I want to join the Army."

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They said, "Come back when you're 17 and nine months."

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When I was 15, I told my mum to take me again, just in case it changed,

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and 16 and 17, until I could actually do my entrance test,

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so we went every single year until I was old enough to get in,

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so she knew I wanted to get in!

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Shortly before her 18th birthday,

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Kelly signed up to the Women's Royal Army Corps.

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It was the end of the 1980s,

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a decade featuring a high level of military involvement from

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British Forces,

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with the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and the Falklands War.

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It was a time of huge political and social change.

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Women were still struggling for equal pay,

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but as a result of changes to employment practice,

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the percentage of women entering the Armed Forces doubled.

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But before Kelly could find her place in the Army,

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she had to undergo her basic training,

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adjusting to a new life of discipline, routine and order -

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and that also meant getting to grips with her new uniform.

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So I've got my first beret

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from when I joined the Women's Royal Army Corps.

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I actually had a big Afro then,

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so you can imagine trying to get an Afro into that little cap.

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Yeah, I never looked that cool, really, I have to say.

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I'll probably keep hold of that for ever.

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It's nearly 30 years since Kelly joined the force and today,

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she's come to the Army Training Centre in Pirbright

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to meet its newest recruits.

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Kelly's curious to see just how different things are

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from when she joined up.

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Her first stop, the dormitories.

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One thing that's reassuringly familiar

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is the high standards of laundry expected.

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Show us your sleeves.

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Do you still use starch or are you not allowed?

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We're not allowed to use starch yet.

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-OK.

-But we do the soap method.

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Look at that. Razor sharp, that is.

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Razor sharp.

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So, have you all had your kit chucked out your cupboards?

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-Yeah.

-Yeah.

-Yeah?

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Beds turned upside down?

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Yeah. I'm glad they keep it up.

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How did you find drill? Because I personally...

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-Drill?

-..find it quite difficult.

-Yeah.

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I did get in trouble a lot on drill, to be honest.

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Because I used to laugh. I thought it was quite funny.

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When you're a new recruit and you're camel marching,

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they say "halt", and you all bang into each other...

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-It looks really funny.

-You all...

-Yeah, exactly.

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But, no, it's all part of it, isn't it?

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But some things have changed.

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When Kelly trained in the late '80s, she slept in a women-only base.

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Now the boys are just one floor below

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although, as you'd expect, there are strict rules.

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You've got about ten on this floor, females.

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Any interaction with the guys or it's total separate?

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Total. You have to be separate.

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I was told you're not allowed to pretty much interact,

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-otherwise you could be chucked out, right?

-Exactly, walk the other way.

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Does it seem weird that you just can't say hello or...?

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Surprisingly, no.

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-No? It is what it is?

-Yeah, you just get used to it.

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Kelly's interested to meet some of the male recruits

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to find out what they think of the new closer arrangement.

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All bulling their shoes.

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Now, they should be perfect, because you're on your last week, right?

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-RECRUITS:

-Yeah.

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-Yeah? Not too bad.

-Getting there.

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What do you think about why they separate you?

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If people were to start having relationships and, you know,

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sort of fraternising and stuff like that...

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-Yeah.

-..obviously then that can lead down the route of arguments

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and stuff like that, so I can understand why we're kept separate.

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Can't be having any distractions off your training and stuff like that.

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-Mm-hm.

-So it helps to keep you focused,

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helps you keep in that professional mind-frame.

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What's your perception of women in the Army? A good thing?

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-Yeah, yeah, really good thing.

-They should, shouldn't?

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Something I've noticed is, they're a lot more organised than we are!

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-OK.

-You know, especially when the girls get told to sort of do this,

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do this over the weekend, do this, do this, so it gets to Monday,

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everything's done and we're a bit like, "Oh, we forgot to do this."

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You have to tell them like to do one thing and then straightaway...

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And they're straight in there.

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-Yeah.

-And do you think it's good that women now have a chance to

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pretty much do any role in the Army, where before they maybe didn't?

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I think it comes down to the individual.

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-Yeah.

-There are some women that are a lot stronger than some men.

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That's a very mature approach.

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Good luck for the parade and good luck for your careers.

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-Thank you.

-Thank you.

-All right, take care. Very nice!

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Kelly's impressed by the attitude of the new generation of recruits,

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because now, unlike in her day, over a 14-week period,

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these young women will experience the same gruelling training

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as their male counterparts...

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Hard, fast and aggressive, let's go!

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-Set. Go.

-Recruits, move!

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Move.

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Next two down.

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..learning to fight...

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Ready? Fire.

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RIFLE CLICKS

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OK, your rifle fire's all right, rifle fire's all right, rifle stops.

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..and survive on the battlefield.

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What I'd like you to do, in pairs, work out where you are.

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The Army was the first of the three British military forces

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to open close-combat roles to women.

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100 years ago,

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the Army was also responsible

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for forming the inaugural all-female unit,

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the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps.

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By the Second World War,

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it evolved into the Auxiliary Territorial Service, or ATS.

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More than 250,000 women served during World War II

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in roles as varied as clerks, drivers and ammunition inspectors,

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and as part of the crews that operated anti-aircraft guns.

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By the end of the war,

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it was acknowledged that women would be a valuable asset

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to a peacetime army and so, in 1949,

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the Women's Royal Army Corps was formed

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and for every woman who's served over the decades,

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horizons have been opened.

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I joined to travel,

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because travel was something which, when I was growing up,

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you only did if you were rich

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and things like that, so it was more for adventure.

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It was in my mind to leave home.

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I wanted...just wanted to get away, that's all, and do something.

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So I went and signed on

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virtually the day I was 17-and-a-half.

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You felt a bit like a pioneer, because before that,

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they didn't accept women, but there were thousands of us

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at that particular time.

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Today, women account for 9% of the Army,

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and Kelly's joining some of them for lunch.

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I'm a big believer in men and women should do the same.

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-Yeah.

-I think if a guy can do it, then a girl can do it, too.

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-What do you think?

-I think at the end of the day,

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we're in the same job as them, if we can't keep up with them,

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then it's our problem, not theirs.

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I'd be with you on that, I have to say.

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Do you think there's any particular challenges that women are facing

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currently that maybe men don't?

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What about having children, then?

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I had my son when I was a little bit younger,

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which has now encouraged me to join the Army,

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-so I can make a decent life for him.

-OK. How old is your son?

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-He's eight now.

-Eight? Yeah. Oh, wow. If you don't mind me asking,

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who looks after your son while you're here?

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-Right now, he's with my parents.

-OK.

-Yeah, so he's quite far away.

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A lot of people think that if you've got a child you can't join the Army,

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but that's absolutely not true.

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I mean, they help out with childcare, as well.

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I'm lucky enough to have my family's support,

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so they're looking after my child now for me,

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but once I get sent to my section, he can come alongside with me.

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-Looking forward to that?

-Definitely, yeah.

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-I've missed him.

-And what about this? I mean, this is humongous.

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-Do you all get them tailored?

-Mine is tailored.

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Yours is tailored?

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Even though I'm in the Army and I love being in the Army,

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I am so girly. Like, so, so girly, and at times you just feel like...

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Right, what am I wearing? Like, it's ridiculous.

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-And you do look like a man in it.

-It's so cool to speak to you all.

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I love it, I love being back here. I'm, like, oh, in my element.

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What's nice is you're seeing the men and the women side by side.

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I just love their attitude

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and positive thinking around the fact that we

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just want to be the best we can be.

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We don't want to be discriminated against,

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but more heart-warming was the men saying the women should be given as

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much opportunities. I thought that was great.

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Kelly's dream when she joined up was to become

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an Army physical training instructor,

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but first, she had to serve her time in a different Army job.

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Determined to keep on the move,

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Kelly decided to train as a heavy goods vehicle driver.

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I used to drive these.

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Double the clutch and all of that!

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Rrr!

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I was lucky I'd passed my driving test before I joined the military,

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though. So I had one step ahead.

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Not only did Kelly deliver supplies and soldiers between different

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military bases, she also got her hands dirty.

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It wasn't just driving,

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it was actually doing all the mechanical work on your vehicle,

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so obviously I learned a lot then.

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Since the First World War,

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women were recruited as mechanics and to drive ambulances.

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And when the world went to war for a second time,

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the British Forces once again

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called on female drivers to play their part.

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You must admit that the ATS look pretty good!

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In 1942,

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Veronica Webb was one of the girls who responded to this call-to-arms.

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She joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service as a freshfaced 17-year-old

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and served for four years as a driver.

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We were all terribly keen to do our bit in those days,

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and all the boys were going off, I was 17-and-a-half,

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so I joined up.

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I already drove and I'd been in a garage with a friend, you know,

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just learning about cars, actually, for six months.

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I eventually became a driver-mechanic.

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-Mm-hm?

-And then I went to York and drove an ambulance...

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-You went to York? Oh, I was in York.

-Were you?

-Lovely there, isn't it?

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-Yes, yes.

-Yeah.

-Yes, it was.

-Gosh, so you drove an ambulance in York?

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I drove an ambulance in York, at York military hospital.

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Sometimes we would take very badly burnt airmen, really...

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-Yeah?

-..to Lincolnshire, I think it was.

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It was a long way, so you had to drive jolly carefully.

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That must have been quite difficult then, to see all of that.

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Yes. I had to collect a whole lot of soldiers

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who'd come back who were mentally sort of...

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-Traumatised, I suppose, were they?

-Traumatised, yes.

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And they just sort of came out like zombies,

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you know, and I remember them being put into the back of the ambulance,

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you know... Very sad.

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-They just found it unbearable, I think, you know?

-Yeah.

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What do you think the men made of women doing their roles?

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Never had any nastiness at all.

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No, they were always delighted, I think, really.

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The only sort of nastiness occasionally from some...

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..of the rather aggressive women that...

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..quite frankly, who...

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Well, no, the men couldn't be more pleased, I think,

0:17:270:17:30

-that we were there, you know?

-So you drove cars, ambulances...

0:17:300:17:36

-And lorries.

-Lorries.

0:17:360:17:38

Would you have loved to have driven a tank?

0:17:380:17:41

-Yes!

-If that was your option back then,

0:17:410:17:43

would you have wanted to drive one of those?

0:17:430:17:45

I don't know, I don't think I would've been that optimistic

0:17:450:17:48

in those days. I'd have been more likely to do it today.

0:17:480:17:52

So lovely to meet you and, you know,

0:17:520:17:55

from myself and I'm sure all of the women that are now in the military,

0:17:550:18:00

we're really proud of the work that you did.

0:18:000:18:02

-Thank you.

-I'm going to have to hug with that.

0:18:020:18:05

Meeting Veronica was amazing. I mean, what a wonderful woman.

0:18:080:18:11

92, full of passion and life, you know,

0:18:110:18:14

said how much the military meant to her and, actually,

0:18:140:18:18

she just wanted to play her part.

0:18:180:18:20

We had a lot in common, you know? Both 17-and-a-bit when we joined,

0:18:200:18:23

both drivers.

0:18:230:18:25

I just hope that I'm going to look as good as her when I'm 92!

0:18:250:18:29

Throughout their decades in service,

0:18:310:18:34

women have always been pushing back the barriers

0:18:340:18:36

and taking on roles traditionally seen as the preserve of men.

0:18:360:18:40

Against all expectations, in 2002,

0:18:420:18:46

Pippa Tatershall became the first woman to pass

0:18:460:18:48

the notorious nine-week All Arms Commando Course,

0:18:480:18:53

which is some feat.

0:18:530:18:55

Nearly half of all volunteers either drop out or are dismissed before

0:18:550:18:58

finishing the course. Run by the Royal Marines,

0:18:580:19:02

the course prepares soldiers to fight as part of the elite

0:19:020:19:05

3 Commando Brigade, Britain's highly trained rapid-reaction force.

0:19:050:19:10

I was actually in Kosovo, and Commando Logistic Regiment

0:19:100:19:14

were with me at the time on the same base,

0:19:140:19:17

so I went and spoke to a few of the guys that I was training with

0:19:170:19:20

and said, "Do you think this is a realistic thing to do?

0:19:200:19:23

"What do you reckon?" And I spoke to my boss back in the UK, as well,

0:19:230:19:26

and asked her what her thoughts were and she said, "Yeah, go for it.

0:19:260:19:30

-"What's the worst that can happen?"

-Yeah, exactly. You fail.

0:19:300:19:33

No-one's passed it, so, you know, that's it.

0:19:330:19:35

-How many were on the course in total?

-There were three females.

0:19:350:19:38

-Three females?

-So I think there was about 90 guys.

0:19:380:19:41

What about accommodation-wise?

0:19:410:19:42

The guys had the main part of the accommodation,

0:19:420:19:44

which they were used to using,

0:19:440:19:46

and there was a sort of side corridor that was a storage corridor

0:19:460:19:50

-that they'd...

-Oh.

-So exciting!

0:19:500:19:51

Yeah. But I didn't bother unpacking

0:19:510:19:54

because I just didn't think I was going to stay.

0:19:540:19:56

-You didn't even think...?

-No!

-Right, OK.

0:19:560:19:58

Literally, every day I'd sort of, you know, wake up and go, "OK,

0:19:580:20:02

it's another day, see how I get on and see how I do,"

0:20:020:20:05

and then I'd go to bed that night, think, "OK, managed today,

0:20:050:20:08

"let's see how tomorrow goes."

0:20:080:20:11

Every volunteer gets three opportunities at passing the course.

0:20:110:20:15

But Pippa failed on her first two attempts.

0:20:150:20:18

Feeling pressured from above to drop out,

0:20:180:20:21

she was unsure whether to carry on.

0:20:210:20:24

I really didn't know if I was going to go back.

0:20:240:20:27

I think the main driving factor behind it

0:20:270:20:31

-was support from the guys on the course.

-Yeah.

0:20:310:20:33

And the fact that they made me feel part of the team,

0:20:330:20:35

they made me feel that it was right for me to be there...

0:20:350:20:39

You didn't feel no discrimination whatsoever,

0:20:390:20:41

they didn't make you feel inferior?

0:20:410:20:43

No, not from the other people on the course, they were 100% behind me.

0:20:430:20:48

So, what was the feeling when you actually did it, then?

0:20:480:20:50

It didn't sink in, it really didn't sink in for a while.

0:20:500:20:53

Slightly disappointing afterwards was, obviously, the sort of...

0:20:530:20:57

Lots of different people saying, "Ah, but she didn't do this or that,

0:20:570:21:00

"or she must not have had anything in her backpack,

0:21:000:21:02

"or she must have had something like this..."

0:21:020:21:04

They're just jealous.

0:21:040:21:05

The only people that know that are the people that run the course

0:21:050:21:08

and the other guys that were on the course.

0:21:080:21:10

-Yeah.

-There were no concessions and that's the great thing

0:21:100:21:14

about the All Arms Commando Course,

0:21:140:21:15

is their standards have been their standards for years.

0:21:150:21:18

-Yeah.

-They don't change them and they haven't changed them.

0:21:180:21:21

Despite proving that a woman could pass the commando course,

0:21:210:21:24

Pippa's achievement still wasn't enough to break down every barrier

0:21:240:21:27

for women serving in the Army.

0:21:270:21:29

At that time, the law still prevented women from taking up

0:21:300:21:34

close-combat roles,

0:21:340:21:36

so, instead, Pippa found herself serving with the Commando Brigade

0:21:360:21:39

support arm when she was deployed to Iraq in 2003.

0:21:390:21:44

Do you think having women in close-combat roles

0:21:450:21:48

upsets the balance?

0:21:480:21:49

Serving with 3 Commando Brigade afterwards and deploying to Iraq,

0:21:490:21:55

there were situations where it was evident that having

0:21:550:21:58

a female walk into the room, you know, created an atmosphere.

0:21:580:22:03

-A change of dynamics.

-It changed it

0:22:030:22:04

but I think that when push comes to shove on the ground,

0:22:040:22:07

you're there to do a job, and the guys are focused on it,

0:22:070:22:10

and that female's there to do a job as well.

0:22:100:22:13

If the guys can't handle that and get on with it,

0:22:130:22:16

then they're the ones that are not professional.

0:22:160:22:18

So, Pippa, I have to say I'm actually in awe of you,

0:22:180:22:21

listening to your story

0:22:210:22:23

and obviously being a fond ex-military person myself,

0:22:230:22:27

I think your story's incredible.

0:22:270:22:30

Now women as tough and determined as Pippa

0:22:300:22:32

can serve in close-combat roles,

0:22:320:22:34

but for those who came before, it simply wasn't an option.

0:22:340:22:39

Women have always proved in hard times

0:22:430:22:46

we are equally as tough as the men, if not tougher.

0:22:460:22:50

I would have liked to have been a pilot on the front line, yeah.

0:22:500:22:54

I was always told that you have to be twice as good

0:22:540:22:56

to even be considered as an equal.

0:22:560:22:58

I think there are more differences between men and men

0:22:580:23:00

than between men and women,

0:23:000:23:02

and certainly that comes out in initial naval training.

0:23:020:23:04

It's all about what's inside you, as an individual,

0:23:040:23:07

and the heart and soul you put into training, and determination.

0:23:070:23:12

But even before women were able to serve on the front line in battle,

0:23:140:23:18

they were often in situations that put their lives at risk

0:23:180:23:21

during times of war.

0:23:210:23:23

Over one million civilian women were recruited to work

0:23:230:23:26

in munitions factories.

0:23:260:23:29

One of the largest was Rotherwas, Hereford.

0:23:290:23:32

To work in a place like this was very dangerous.

0:23:330:23:36

Women who hadn't handled machinery before

0:23:360:23:39

were now being put in charge

0:23:390:23:41

of kind of big, dangerous bits of kit.

0:23:410:23:44

The explosive powder itself is very toxic.

0:23:440:23:47

There were the risks of explosions.

0:23:470:23:49

There was also the risk from enemy attack.

0:23:490:23:53

And, of course, we know that this factory came under fire

0:23:530:23:57

with kind of a devastating effect.

0:23:570:23:59

It was 27th July 1942, a night that factory workers Nancy Billings,

0:24:000:24:07

Amy Hicks and Nancy Evans remember vividly.

0:24:070:24:10

We just all stood and looked at each other.

0:24:100:24:13

But we never knew if it was genuine or not.

0:24:130:24:17

And then someone ran in and he said, "Get out, get out, it's for real!"

0:24:170:24:20

And we just raced down the corridor.

0:24:200:24:22

-Yeah.

-And we'd just got outside and they said,

0:24:220:24:25

"The air-raid shelters are locked."

0:24:250:24:28

And the next minute this plane came down

0:24:280:24:31

and he came down so low you could see the swastika.

0:24:310:24:34

I could hear these girls screaming and I thought, "Oh, my God.

0:24:370:24:42

"Whatever has happened?"

0:24:420:24:44

I don't know really how I wasn't killed, actually.

0:24:440:24:49

But there was all fire and smoke and everything.

0:24:490:24:53

I never want to see anything like that ever again.

0:24:550:24:58

-No.

-Oh, it was terrible.

-I know, it was terrible.

0:24:580:25:02

Over 20 people lost their lives that day and many were injured,

0:25:050:25:09

a sacrifice that civilians made for the war.

0:25:090:25:13

It was the munition women who kind of really helped to win the war.

0:25:140:25:19

They couldn't have won the war without the women munition workers.

0:25:190:25:24

Throughout history, civilians, alongside servicemen and women,

0:25:240:25:28

have put their lives on the line for their country.

0:25:280:25:31

Even in times of peace, the military continually train for conflict.

0:25:350:25:40

For Kelly, this meant putting all her effort into becoming

0:25:400:25:43

a PT instructor.

0:25:430:25:45

I actually failed my first selection, which I was very,

0:25:470:25:49

very disappointed and gutted.

0:25:490:25:51

But I went back onto my selection and passed...

0:25:510:25:54

I say with flying colours but, you know,

0:25:540:25:57

I worked hard for it because I really wanted to be a PTI,

0:25:570:26:00

that was just my dream.

0:26:000:26:02

Go.

0:26:020:26:04

As Kelly transferred into the PT corps,

0:26:040:26:07

fundamental changes were taking place in the British Army

0:26:070:26:10

that would have a profound effect

0:26:100:26:12

on thousands of serving women, like Kelly.

0:26:120:26:15

Over 40 years since the formation of the Women's Royal Army Corps,

0:26:160:26:19

in 1991, it finally merged with the Army to create one force.

0:26:190:26:26

Back and pick the cone up.

0:26:260:26:28

Do not knock the cones.

0:26:280:26:29

But this meant there were fewer jobs in the new combined Army,

0:26:290:26:34

and female physical instructors like Kelly

0:26:340:26:37

now had to endure selection all over again,

0:26:370:26:39

in order to prove they could meet the same fitness standards as

0:26:390:26:42

their male counterparts.

0:26:420:26:44

When we amalgamated, a lot of the women had to then change trades,

0:26:440:26:49

completely change trades,

0:26:490:26:50

and you can imagine that that was quite heartbreaking for quite a few,

0:26:500:26:53

that their dream was to be a PTI, and a lot actually got out,

0:26:530:26:56

had to leave the military.

0:26:560:26:59

Despite her disappointment, Kelly soon proved her mettle once again.

0:26:590:27:03

When I did mine, there was around 30 of us.

0:27:030:27:06

There was about 25 guys and five women.

0:27:060:27:08

I was the only woman that passed and there were only two,

0:27:080:27:10

three guys that passed, very, very hard,

0:27:100:27:13

and there was no concession for women, which I think's right,

0:27:130:27:17

but that meant it was pretty tough to reach the standards and I

0:27:170:27:20

just made sure I trained really hard to pass it because it was something

0:27:200:27:24

that I wanted to do and, also,

0:27:240:27:26

I wanted to prove I was as good as the guys.

0:27:260:27:29

As well as making her mark as a top PT instructor,

0:27:310:27:34

she was one of the first to train men and women together.

0:27:340:27:38

Any questions? First three, stand by. Go!

0:27:380:27:41

One of the occasions was that I have these potential

0:27:420:27:46

officers all come into the gym.

0:27:460:27:48

Now, I'm only, what, 5ft 3in? And they're sort of nearly 6ft.

0:27:480:27:52

They came into the gym and were all just chatting, chatting, chatting,

0:27:520:27:55

and being really disrespectful and I was just like, "Right, OK,

0:27:550:27:59

I've got to sort this one out." So I said,

0:27:590:28:01

"You're going to go out for this run, a three-to-four-mile run,

0:28:010:28:04

"I'm going to start at the back.

0:28:040:28:06

"Whoever's behind me by the time I get back

0:28:060:28:09

"comes into PT every morning at five o'clock

0:28:090:28:12

"and every night after your duties, at seven o'clock."

0:28:120:28:16

It was the year that Linford Christie won the 100 metres gold

0:28:160:28:19

at the Olympic Games and in my head I thought,

0:28:190:28:21

"Right, I'm Linford Christie," and I, literally, high knees,

0:28:210:28:24

arms back and I beat this guy in on a sprint, so I beat all 30 of them,

0:28:240:28:28

back in, they came in on their hands and knees, never said a word.

0:28:280:28:32

I wanted to be a good PTI. Didn't matter that I was a woman.

0:28:320:28:36

And there, to them, it didn't matter that I was a woman.

0:28:360:28:38

And if anyone turned round to me and said, "You do it,"

0:28:380:28:41

I wanted to be able to do it. And that was key.

0:28:410:28:43

And I think that was key to my success as a PTI.

0:28:430:28:47

It's time to find out how much of her training Kelly still remembers,

0:28:470:28:51

and she's back in the trademark blue jacket of an Army PT instructor.

0:28:510:28:56

-Morning, ladies.

-ALL:

-Morning, Staff.

0:28:570:28:59

Right, OK, good.

0:28:590:29:01

Listening for your names. When your name's called out,

0:29:010:29:04

come to attention and shout "staff".

0:29:040:29:06

-Patak!

-Staff!

0:29:060:29:08

-Gumpan!

-Staff!

0:29:080:29:09

Corporal Hilson has arranged for Kelly to help out on a

0:29:090:29:12

training session.

0:29:120:29:13

Recruit Percival, Staff.

0:29:150:29:16

-Nice...

-Recruit Slate, Staff.

0:29:160:29:19

-How are you?

-Very well, thank you.

0:29:190:29:20

Yeah? Good, thanks.

0:29:200:29:22

Turn and face your left.

0:29:220:29:25

Right, OK, make sure you swing your arms across the body, body front,

0:29:260:29:29

-quick march.

-RECRUITS:

-Quick march!

0:29:290:29:32

Unlike in Kelly's time,

0:29:320:29:34

today, the men and women undergo identical training,

0:29:340:29:37

with the aim that they'll then go on to serve side by side.

0:29:370:29:41

You see the tree line over there?

0:29:430:29:45

-RECRUITS:

-Yes, Staff.

-Go get me a leaf and bring it back.

0:29:450:29:48

Let's go. Off you go.

0:29:480:29:50

Don't be last!

0:29:500:29:52

Keep moving, good. Get rid of your leaf. Get rid of your leaf.

0:29:550:29:58

Good effort. Show me your leaf.

0:29:580:30:00

Keep your feet moving. Keep your feet moving.

0:30:000:30:03

Going to start off by jogging.

0:30:030:30:04

Yourself off first. Peel off.

0:30:040:30:06

Everybody else follow on. Let's go.

0:30:060:30:08

-Two!

-I love this.

0:30:080:30:10

I love being back.

0:30:100:30:12

-No, it's really cool.

-OK, stop.

0:30:120:30:15

I think you've got to have a lot of guts as a young girl

0:30:150:30:18

coming in the military now.

0:30:180:30:20

You know, perception of military, perception of females,

0:30:200:30:25

would they come out butch? What do they look like?

0:30:250:30:28

You know, these girls are breaking that mould,

0:30:280:30:31

and I think that's brilliant.

0:30:310:30:33

That's good, well done. Keep your bums down.

0:30:330:30:36

Having been a physical training instructor for six years,

0:30:360:30:40

Kelly can't help getting stuck in.

0:30:400:30:43

On your feet, up. All right, let's go.

0:30:430:30:46

-Back into normal jogging, off we go.

-I can't get involved.

0:30:460:30:49

I'll take over.

0:30:490:30:51

I literally would take over.

0:30:510:30:54

I get itchy feet. I want to start, like that.

0:30:540:30:57

-Do we understand?

-RECRUITS:

-Yes, Staff!

0:30:570:31:00

One. Two.

0:31:000:31:02

Three.

0:31:020:31:04

Push out, girls, you're coming in too quick.

0:31:040:31:07

Push it out to the edges.

0:31:070:31:08

Get down, hurry up.

0:31:080:31:09

Fitness targets aren't set by gender.

0:31:090:31:12

Instead, it depends on which job recruits go into

0:31:120:31:14

after their basic training.

0:31:140:31:16

Straight into the normal jogging.

0:31:160:31:18

OK, run to the fence, get me a leaf and come back.

0:31:180:31:21

Hurry up.

0:31:210:31:22

Hurry up, ladies.

0:31:220:31:24

Don't be last.

0:31:240:31:26

Today, there are over 200 roles open to everyone, from plumbers

0:31:260:31:30

to combat medics to military police and HR officers.

0:31:300:31:34

In your own time...go!

0:31:360:31:38

Over the years, the Army's physical training for female recruits has

0:31:400:31:43

changed beyond recognition.

0:31:430:31:46

Left.

0:31:460:31:48

That's it. Clear.

0:31:480:31:50

During World War I,

0:31:500:31:52

with the prevailing attitudes of the time and the role servicewomen

0:31:520:31:55

performed, fitness wasn't considered a priority.

0:31:550:31:59

By World War II,

0:32:010:32:02

physical training was starting to become more important,

0:32:020:32:05

but the demands of war meant most women were hurried to their units as

0:32:050:32:08

quickly as possible.

0:32:080:32:10

During her own training,

0:32:130:32:15

Kelly would have to tackle an assault course like the one here,

0:32:150:32:18

so after watching from the sidelines,

0:32:180:32:20

she's volunteered to do a demo for the new recruits

0:32:200:32:24

on how to scale a 10-foot wall.

0:32:240:32:25

It will be embarrassing if I don't get over this.

0:32:250:32:29

Watching now for a perfect demonstration.

0:32:300:32:33

Hand round the knee.

0:32:330:32:34

Go.

0:32:340:32:36

-Come on.

-Are there any questions?

0:32:410:32:43

-RECRUITS:

-No, Staff.

-Let's go.

0:32:430:32:45

As well as showing the women how to do it,

0:32:450:32:48

Kelly's keen to find out more about the challenges they're facing

0:32:480:32:51

in basic training.

0:32:510:32:53

How do you think you've improved?

0:32:530:32:55

Fitness has improved massively.

0:32:550:32:57

-Yeah?

-We did a run Saturday,

0:32:570:32:58

and I knocked 20 seconds off my time already.

0:32:580:33:01

-Brilliant.

-What did you do before you joined the Army?

0:33:010:33:03

-I was a stock controller.

-What are you going into?

0:33:030:33:06

-Royal Engineers.

-Royal Engineers?

-Yeah.

-OK.

0:33:060:33:08

Go.

0:33:080:33:10

Up to the top, lean back on the rope.

0:33:110:33:14

Be either side.

0:33:140:33:16

Kelly loved life as a PTI.

0:33:160:33:18

But juggling her commitment to the Army

0:33:180:33:21

with competing as an international runner

0:33:210:33:23

would ultimately prove too much.

0:33:230:33:25

I want to get to the top of the world and definitely to the Olympics

0:33:270:33:30

and I can't see me being able to maintain the job that I've had

0:33:300:33:34

and do my athletics to a great standard.

0:33:340:33:36

So, in 1997,

0:33:380:33:39

Kelly had to make the difficult choice to quit the Army

0:33:390:33:42

and focus on her Olympic dream.

0:33:420:33:45

When I finally decided I was going to leave the military,

0:33:450:33:49

I was quite upset.

0:33:490:33:51

I thought I was going to be in for my full service, 22 years,

0:33:510:33:55

I thought maybe then I'd get a commission, who knows?

0:33:550:33:58

And, you know,

0:33:580:34:00

it was quite emotional, but I knew that I played my part and I knew

0:34:000:34:04

I'd achieved a dream of being in the Army

0:34:040:34:06

as a physical training instructor.

0:34:060:34:08

While Kelly's never regretted the decision she made,

0:34:080:34:11

she's delighted to be getting

0:34:110:34:12

another taste of military life today,

0:34:120:34:15

especially when, over on the parade square,

0:34:150:34:18

she's invited by the commanding officer

0:34:180:34:19

to congratulate the latest batch of recruits

0:34:190:34:22

who are about to pass out.

0:34:220:34:25

ORDER IS SHOUTED

0:34:250:34:27

-Congratulations.

-Thank you very much.

0:34:290:34:31

Well done. Does it feel good?

0:34:310:34:32

-Yes, it does. Thank you.

-You must have done well to be standing here,

0:34:320:34:35

-so congratulations.

-Thank you very much, ma'am.

0:34:350:34:37

And Private Bradshaw has won an impressive three awards.

0:34:370:34:41

Best Recruit, Soldiers' Soldier, as voted by her peers,

0:34:410:34:45

and Fittest Recruit.

0:34:450:34:47

I'm quite overwhelmed at the moment so it might take me a little while

0:34:480:34:51

-to get used to it.

-I kind of noticed that. It's brilliant.

0:34:510:34:54

The Soldiers' Soldier one, that's quite important, isn't it?

0:34:540:34:56

-Because your peers...

-Yeah, it's really nice to get that award,

0:34:560:34:59

because your training's nothing without the people

0:34:590:35:01

you go through training with, so, for me,

0:35:010:35:04

-that was a really, really nice surprise...

-Yeah.

0:35:040:35:06

..to know that the girls feel that way

0:35:060:35:08

-is really, really a great feeling.

-And where are you going off to?

0:35:080:35:11

I'm joining the Adjutant-General Corps

0:35:110:35:13

-as a Royal Military Policewoman.

-Really well done.

-Thank you.

0:35:130:35:16

-It was so impressive.

-Really appreciate that. Thank you.

0:35:160:35:19

ORDER IS SHOUTED

0:35:190:35:21

I've loved today. I so wanted to get involved.

0:35:220:35:26

You never know, I might join the reservists or the TA, you know.

0:35:260:35:29

I want to come back.

0:35:290:35:31

If Kelly did decide to rejoin,

0:35:320:35:35

a whole new world of opportunities would be open to her,

0:35:350:35:38

and the one close-combat role that she'd relish is driving a tank.

0:35:380:35:42

Today, Kelly's meeting Corporals Townsend and Neil,

0:35:460:35:49

who've both transferred into this training centre in Dorset

0:35:490:35:52

to help bed in the first generation of female tankies.

0:35:520:35:57

It's no different to any of the male training, and that's vehicle-based,

0:35:570:36:01

fitness-wise it's the same throughout.

0:36:010:36:04

I think it's great.

0:36:040:36:05

It's not a challenge, it's an opportunity for us, you know.

0:36:050:36:08

As a young lady, young girl, before I even joined,

0:36:080:36:10

I was always looking at the infantry

0:36:100:36:12

and when I was told at the careers office I couldn't join the infantry,

0:36:120:36:15

I said, "What job can I do

0:36:150:36:18

"that's going to bring me closest to the front line?"

0:36:180:36:20

And they said medic.

0:36:200:36:22

-And so you did that.

-So I said, "Sign me up."

0:36:220:36:24

-Brilliant.

-Yeah.

0:36:240:36:25

Although Kelly's eager to take command of a real tank,

0:36:250:36:28

she must first undertake a crash course

0:36:280:36:30

in a Challenger 2 simulator,

0:36:300:36:32

all under the watchful eye of Sergeant Toby Popell.

0:36:320:36:36

-Hi. You all right?

-Hi. How are you doing? Nice to meet you.

0:36:360:36:38

-Good.

-Are you up for having a go?

0:36:380:36:40

-Yeah, absolutely.

-Cool, let's get you on, then.

0:36:400:36:42

While Kelly's getting just a brief taste of the simulator,

0:36:420:36:46

prospective tankies would spend up to two weeks in this

0:36:460:36:49

before being let out into the real thing.

0:36:490:36:52

Oh, my God, I so love this!

0:36:520:36:54

Yeah, love it!

0:36:560:36:57

So much fun.

0:36:590:37:01

As part of their training,

0:37:030:37:05

soldiers also learn what to do

0:37:050:37:07

in the event of their vehicle flipping over.

0:37:070:37:10

Before we start, can I just ask, do you suffer from motion sickness?

0:37:100:37:14

I have been known to on fairground rides, yes.

0:37:140:37:17

OK, that's not a problem. There are sick bags available for you,

0:37:170:37:20

-should you feel the effects.

-Oh, no.

0:37:200:37:24

Let's do it.

0:37:240:37:25

This exercise couldn't be further from a fairground ride

0:37:280:37:31

and has a sobering purpose,

0:37:310:37:33

given the number of deadly attacks on vehicles

0:37:330:37:35

in places like Afghanistan.

0:37:350:37:38

Brace, brace, brace.

0:37:380:37:40

That was good.

0:37:440:37:46

It's finally time for Kelly to realise her ambition

0:37:460:37:50

of commanding a Challenger 2 tank.

0:37:500:37:52

I'm so excited about this bit.

0:37:520:37:55

Now we've got sort of the first generation of women coming through

0:37:550:37:58

-and what do you think about that?

-I think it's a good thing.

0:37:580:38:01

We need to move with the times and everything else

0:38:010:38:04

and as long as they can do the job,

0:38:040:38:05

-they're more than welcome to have a go.

-OK.

0:38:050:38:07

-Do you want to show me round?

-Yeah, certainly.

0:38:070:38:09

So you could be in these for a long time, right?

0:38:090:38:13

Yeah. Yeah, you can be in these for up to about 10 to 12 hours.

0:38:130:38:17

So what happens in terms of, I mean, practical stuff?

0:38:170:38:20

-As in...?

-Like going to the toilet, eating...

0:38:200:38:23

-I will show you the toilet in a minute.

-..and sleeping, possibly.

0:38:230:38:26

We do have a toilet on board.

0:38:260:38:28

And we also have a kettle as well, which we can put our rations into.

0:38:280:38:31

So exciting.

0:38:310:38:33

This is a tank. This is a Challenger 2 tank.

0:38:330:38:36

We're standing on top of it.

0:38:360:38:37

I mean, really? And just hats off to all the guys and then, eventually,

0:38:370:38:42

girls that are going to be using these in those situations.

0:38:420:38:46

So, explain this. So, the gunman's down there, he wants the toilet.

0:38:490:38:53

-He'll have to stop.

-Right.

-Come over.

-Yeah.

0:38:530:38:55

-Do what he needs to do.

-Even while you are sitting there.

0:38:550:38:59

-And he'll hold the bag for you as well.

-Seriously?

0:38:590:39:02

You're... No! Come on.

0:39:020:39:04

HE LAUGHS

0:39:040:39:07

-That's how close you have to be.

-Yeah.

0:39:070:39:10

ENGINE RUMBLES

0:39:100:39:12

Guns live.

0:39:120:39:13

Gun front, mate.

0:39:130:39:15

Every tank requires a four-person crew.

0:39:150:39:19

Everyone good?

0:39:190:39:22

A driver, a weapons-loader, a gunner and, today, Kelly as commander.

0:39:220:39:26

Having seen action most recently in Iraq,

0:39:380:39:40

tank units also make up part of Britain's contribution

0:39:400:39:43

to the Nato force,

0:39:430:39:45

currently keeping tabs on Russian activity on the Estonian border.

0:39:450:39:50

KELLY SHRIEKS

0:39:500:39:53

The tank can reach a top speed of up to 31mph

0:39:590:40:03

and with a combat weight of a hefty 70 tonnes,

0:40:030:40:06

it's not wise for any enemy infantry to get too close.

0:40:060:40:10

The main armament on the tank

0:40:170:40:19

can hit a target from up to 5km away.

0:40:190:40:22

Kelly, lean forward. Yeah, if you lean forward, Kelly,

0:40:240:40:27

-we'll get it to flop over.

-Do you?

0:40:270:40:29

SHE LAUGHS

0:40:290:40:31

Agh!

0:40:310:40:33

At a cost of over £4 million per tank,

0:40:390:40:43

any mistake from the crew could prove very expensive indeed.

0:40:430:40:47

Of course, depending on the weather and terrain,

0:40:510:40:54

conditions can get a little wet.

0:40:540:40:57

Today is a training exercise,

0:40:590:41:01

but it's given Kelly a valuable insight into how different

0:41:010:41:04

her Army career might have been

0:41:040:41:06

if the opportunity to command a tank had been open to

0:41:060:41:09

women like her back then.

0:41:090:41:11

The tank also has the ability to generate its own smoke screen...

0:41:130:41:17

Come on! Go on, do it. Do it.

0:41:170:41:21

..an invaluable asset that allows a vehicle to obscure its own movements

0:41:240:41:28

from the enemy when crossing the battlefield.

0:41:280:41:31

It was really good. It was just... It's just fascinating.

0:41:470:41:50

There's four people in there. If you've got one woman, three guys,

0:41:500:41:53

in a confined area for a long time, I mean,

0:41:530:41:55

you're always going to have a banter but, at the end of the day, I think,

0:41:550:41:58

as we've discovered

0:41:580:41:59

through doing this programme, if you want to do the job,

0:41:590:42:02

you go there to do the job well and that's what you think of

0:42:020:42:05

first and foremost, and your crew are your crew,

0:42:050:42:07

it doesn't really matter if they're male or female.

0:42:070:42:10

I can see a lot of women wanting to do that.

0:42:100:42:14

It was a lot of fun, I have to say.

0:42:140:42:17

Having fulfilled her ambition to command a Challenger 2 tank,

0:42:170:42:20

it's time for Kelly to reflect on her own time in the Army

0:42:200:42:23

and on what she's learned about the role of women in the military

0:42:230:42:26

over the past 100 years.

0:42:260:42:29

It brought back a lot of great memories.

0:42:290:42:31

What's come across out of everything that I've learnt

0:42:310:42:35

from talking to both male and female

0:42:350:42:37

is that they don't see the men and women.

0:42:370:42:39

As long as the person does their job and does their job well,

0:42:390:42:42

that's all that really matters.

0:42:420:42:44

To think back to when I was 14

0:42:440:42:47

and had this dream of wanting to be in the military,

0:42:470:42:50

that I could join something that gave me a sense of purpose,

0:42:500:42:55

gave me these skills and qualifications,

0:42:550:42:57

allowed me to meet people from all different walks of life and then to

0:42:570:43:01

bond really great friendships from that experience,

0:43:010:43:04

it's something that's never left me.

0:43:040:43:07

I've found the whole experience just amazing.

0:43:070:43:10

Dame Kelly Holmes returns to the army training grounds where she enjoyed a successful career as a physical-training instructor during one of the most tumultuous periods in the history of the British Army. As she meets the first woman to become an army commando and a female WWII veteran who drove injured soldiers returning from the battlefield, she also joins the basic training of a batch of male and female recruits starting out on their army careers together.

Kelly also has the opportunity to fulfil a long-held ambition when she takes command of a Challenger 2 tank.