Dame Kelly Holmes returns to the army training grounds where she enjoyed a successful career as a physical-training instructor.
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It's 100 years since the first pioneering women
joined the British Armed Forces.
Today, women serve alongside men,
together in combat, on the front line.
If you can do it and you want to do it, you should be able to.
To see how much things have changed...
-How do I look?
..five well-known faces revisit either their own...
Morning, ma'am. I'm the captain of HMS Puncher.
You called me ma'am, how sweet.
..or a family member's military past.
They just got stuck in.
It was exciting.
War was intense.
From defending land...
-I don't want to go that way.
These are the extraordinary stories of a century of women at war.
Today, double Olympic champion Dame Kelly Holmes retraces her own career
in the Army, and fulfils an ambition once closed off
to women in the military.
It's a Challenger 2 tank! I'm so excited about this bit!
She meets a World War II veteran who was a trailblazer for women
serving on the home front...
All the boys were going off.
I was 17-and-a-half. So I joined up.
You wanted to do your bit.
..hears from the first ever woman
to pass the elite All Arms Commando Course...
There were no concessions. They made me feel part of the team,
they made me feel that it was right for me to be there.
..and gets the chance to train the next generation
of young female recruits determined to serve Queen and country.
Lean slightly back. Take the one rope in the middle.
I want to do the assault course.
I want to be up there on the ropes!
Kelly Holmes bringing it home for Britain!
Can she get there? One more yard! Come on, Kelly Holmes!
It's gold! Kelly's won the gold for Great Britain!
The sheer joy and surprise on the face of Kelly Holmes
as she claimed the first of her two gold medals
remains one of the most memorable moments
from the 2004 Athens Olympics.
In my eyes, you ran because you wanted to be good
and you ran because you wanted medals.
But before she became one of Britain's
greatest-ever sporting heroes,
Kelly had followed another dream, to join the British Army.
I needed a career and, you know,
I wasn't a girl that wanted to be a hairdresser or beautician.
I felt that, by going in the military,
it would give me a bit of, again, identity, something different.
I didn't want to stay just at home.
I wanted to feel that I could achieve something, meet new people,
travel and possibly toughen up a little bit.
Kelly's desire to toughen up came from her childhood
in Hildenborough, Kent.
I think back in the '70s, you know, it wasn't really
the thing for a white girl to have a mixed-race child
and growing up, for my mother, my mother was only 17 when she had me,
and so for her,
you know, it was a pretty tough life
and I didn't know my father.
He left before I was one.
Kelly didn't let any of that hold her back, and her natural athletic
ability soon caught the attention of her teachers at school.
I wasn't academic at all.
But I loved running
and I loved running just because I was good at it and I used to win.
And it brought me alive and it gave me a sense of belonging.
And it was because of my PE teacher, who was just, you know,
a fantastic woman, and I think she knew when people needed help
and pushed them in the right direction.
And when an Army recruitment officer came to her school,
Kelly realised she could turn her love of sport into a career.
When I was 14, I watched a - videos back then - of the Army...
Soldiers, the PTIs screaming and shouting at the other soldiers
that were going under the scramble nets
and over the 12-foot walls, and I wanted to be both.
I wanted to be the one getting down and dirty and the one,
you know, shouting and screaming,
so from 14 I pretty much knew what I wanted to do in life.
It was Kelly's PE teacher at school, Debbie Page,
who believed that a life in the Forces
could be a good fit for the lively teenager.
Wow, this takes me back.
Good old sports halls!
You needed a bit of leadership.
I thought the Army would give you a focus.
-Because you didn't want to be tied to an office.
Structure was probably good for you.
For me, who was interested in sport or outside life, or whatever,
-I don't think there's many options.
-If you think about it,
if you were a girl back then who was interested in sport
and you didn't want to necessarily go down the teaching route,
then the life to be outside and to be active
was going to be in the Army.
With her mind made up,
Kelly's next task was to convince her mum
the Army was the right career choice.
After I decided I was going to be in the Army, I was 14,
I made her take me to the careers office and said,
"I want to join the Army."
They said, "Come back when you're 17 and nine months."
When I was 15, I told my mum to take me again, just in case it changed,
and 16 and 17, until I could actually do my entrance test,
so we went every single year until I was old enough to get in,
so she knew I wanted to get in!
Shortly before her 18th birthday,
Kelly signed up to the Women's Royal Army Corps.
It was the end of the 1980s,
a decade featuring a high level of military involvement from
with the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and the Falklands War.
It was a time of huge political and social change.
Women were still struggling for equal pay,
but as a result of changes to employment practice,
the percentage of women entering the Armed Forces doubled.
But before Kelly could find her place in the Army,
she had to undergo her basic training,
adjusting to a new life of discipline, routine and order -
and that also meant getting to grips with her new uniform.
So I've got my first beret
from when I joined the Women's Royal Army Corps.
I actually had a big Afro then,
so you can imagine trying to get an Afro into that little cap.
Yeah, I never looked that cool, really, I have to say.
I'll probably keep hold of that for ever.
It's nearly 30 years since Kelly joined the force and today,
she's come to the Army Training Centre in Pirbright
to meet its newest recruits.
Kelly's curious to see just how different things are
from when she joined up.
Her first stop, the dormitories.
One thing that's reassuringly familiar
is the high standards of laundry expected.
Show us your sleeves.
Do you still use starch or are you not allowed?
We're not allowed to use starch yet.
-But we do the soap method.
Look at that. Razor sharp, that is.
So, have you all had your kit chucked out your cupboards?
Beds turned upside down?
Yeah. I'm glad they keep it up.
How did you find drill? Because I personally...
-..find it quite difficult.
I did get in trouble a lot on drill, to be honest.
Because I used to laugh. I thought it was quite funny.
When you're a new recruit and you're camel marching,
they say "halt", and you all bang into each other...
-It looks really funny.
But, no, it's all part of it, isn't it?
But some things have changed.
When Kelly trained in the late '80s, she slept in a women-only base.
Now the boys are just one floor below
although, as you'd expect, there are strict rules.
You've got about ten on this floor, females.
Any interaction with the guys or it's total separate?
Total. You have to be separate.
I was told you're not allowed to pretty much interact,
-otherwise you could be chucked out, right?
-Exactly, walk the other way.
Does it seem weird that you just can't say hello or...?
-No? It is what it is?
-Yeah, you just get used to it.
Kelly's interested to meet some of the male recruits
to find out what they think of the new closer arrangement.
All bulling their shoes.
Now, they should be perfect, because you're on your last week, right?
-Yeah? Not too bad.
What do you think about why they separate you?
If people were to start having relationships and, you know,
sort of fraternising and stuff like that...
-..obviously then that can lead down the route of arguments
and stuff like that, so I can understand why we're kept separate.
Can't be having any distractions off your training and stuff like that.
-So it helps to keep you focused,
helps you keep in that professional mind-frame.
What's your perception of women in the Army? A good thing?
-Yeah, yeah, really good thing.
-They should, shouldn't?
Something I've noticed is, they're a lot more organised than we are!
-You know, especially when the girls get told to sort of do this,
do this over the weekend, do this, do this, so it gets to Monday,
everything's done and we're a bit like, "Oh, we forgot to do this."
You have to tell them like to do one thing and then straightaway...
And they're straight in there.
-And do you think it's good that women now have a chance to
pretty much do any role in the Army, where before they maybe didn't?
I think it comes down to the individual.
-There are some women that are a lot stronger than some men.
That's a very mature approach.
Good luck for the parade and good luck for your careers.
-All right, take care. Very nice!
Kelly's impressed by the attitude of the new generation of recruits,
because now, unlike in her day, over a 14-week period,
these young women will experience the same gruelling training
as their male counterparts...
Hard, fast and aggressive, let's go!
Next two down.
..learning to fight...
OK, your rifle fire's all right, rifle fire's all right, rifle stops.
..and survive on the battlefield.
What I'd like you to do, in pairs, work out where you are.
The Army was the first of the three British military forces
to open close-combat roles to women.
100 years ago,
the Army was also responsible
for forming the inaugural all-female unit,
the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps.
By the Second World War,
it evolved into the Auxiliary Territorial Service, or ATS.
More than 250,000 women served during World War II
in roles as varied as clerks, drivers and ammunition inspectors,
and as part of the crews that operated anti-aircraft guns.
By the end of the war,
it was acknowledged that women would be a valuable asset
to a peacetime army and so, in 1949,
the Women's Royal Army Corps was formed
and for every woman who's served over the decades,
horizons have been opened.
I joined to travel,
because travel was something which, when I was growing up,
you only did if you were rich
and things like that, so it was more for adventure.
It was in my mind to leave home.
I wanted...just wanted to get away, that's all, and do something.
So I went and signed on
virtually the day I was 17-and-a-half.
You felt a bit like a pioneer, because before that,
they didn't accept women, but there were thousands of us
at that particular time.
Today, women account for 9% of the Army,
and Kelly's joining some of them for lunch.
I'm a big believer in men and women should do the same.
-I think if a guy can do it, then a girl can do it, too.
-What do you think?
-I think at the end of the day,
we're in the same job as them, if we can't keep up with them,
then it's our problem, not theirs.
I'd be with you on that, I have to say.
Do you think there's any particular challenges that women are facing
currently that maybe men don't?
What about having children, then?
I had my son when I was a little bit younger,
which has now encouraged me to join the Army,
-so I can make a decent life for him.
-OK. How old is your son?
-He's eight now.
-Eight? Yeah. Oh, wow. If you don't mind me asking,
who looks after your son while you're here?
-Right now, he's with my parents.
-Yeah, so he's quite far away.
A lot of people think that if you've got a child you can't join the Army,
but that's absolutely not true.
I mean, they help out with childcare, as well.
I'm lucky enough to have my family's support,
so they're looking after my child now for me,
but once I get sent to my section, he can come alongside with me.
-Looking forward to that?
-I've missed him.
-And what about this? I mean, this is humongous.
-Do you all get them tailored?
-Mine is tailored.
Yours is tailored?
Even though I'm in the Army and I love being in the Army,
I am so girly. Like, so, so girly, and at times you just feel like...
Right, what am I wearing? Like, it's ridiculous.
-And you do look like a man in it.
-It's so cool to speak to you all.
I love it, I love being back here. I'm, like, oh, in my element.
What's nice is you're seeing the men and the women side by side.
I just love their attitude
and positive thinking around the fact that we
just want to be the best we can be.
We don't want to be discriminated against,
but more heart-warming was the men saying the women should be given as
much opportunities. I thought that was great.
Kelly's dream when she joined up was to become
an Army physical training instructor,
but first, she had to serve her time in a different Army job.
Determined to keep on the move,
Kelly decided to train as a heavy goods vehicle driver.
I used to drive these.
Double the clutch and all of that!
I was lucky I'd passed my driving test before I joined the military,
though. So I had one step ahead.
Not only did Kelly deliver supplies and soldiers between different
military bases, she also got her hands dirty.
It wasn't just driving,
it was actually doing all the mechanical work on your vehicle,
so obviously I learned a lot then.
Since the First World War,
women were recruited as mechanics and to drive ambulances.
And when the world went to war for a second time,
the British Forces once again
called on female drivers to play their part.
You must admit that the ATS look pretty good!
Veronica Webb was one of the girls who responded to this call-to-arms.
She joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service as a freshfaced 17-year-old
and served for four years as a driver.
We were all terribly keen to do our bit in those days,
and all the boys were going off, I was 17-and-a-half,
so I joined up.
I already drove and I'd been in a garage with a friend, you know,
just learning about cars, actually, for six months.
I eventually became a driver-mechanic.
-And then I went to York and drove an ambulance...
-You went to York? Oh, I was in York.
-Lovely there, isn't it?
-Yes, it was.
-Gosh, so you drove an ambulance in York?
I drove an ambulance in York, at York military hospital.
Sometimes we would take very badly burnt airmen, really...
-..to Lincolnshire, I think it was.
It was a long way, so you had to drive jolly carefully.
That must have been quite difficult then, to see all of that.
Yes. I had to collect a whole lot of soldiers
who'd come back who were mentally sort of...
-Traumatised, I suppose, were they?
And they just sort of came out like zombies,
you know, and I remember them being put into the back of the ambulance,
you know... Very sad.
-They just found it unbearable, I think, you know?
What do you think the men made of women doing their roles?
Never had any nastiness at all.
No, they were always delighted, I think, really.
The only sort of nastiness occasionally from some...
..of the rather aggressive women that...
..quite frankly, who...
Well, no, the men couldn't be more pleased, I think,
-that we were there, you know?
-So you drove cars, ambulances...
Would you have loved to have driven a tank?
-If that was your option back then,
would you have wanted to drive one of those?
I don't know, I don't think I would've been that optimistic
in those days. I'd have been more likely to do it today.
So lovely to meet you and, you know,
from myself and I'm sure all of the women that are now in the military,
we're really proud of the work that you did.
-I'm going to have to hug with that.
Meeting Veronica was amazing. I mean, what a wonderful woman.
92, full of passion and life, you know,
said how much the military meant to her and, actually,
she just wanted to play her part.
We had a lot in common, you know? Both 17-and-a-bit when we joined,
I just hope that I'm going to look as good as her when I'm 92!
Throughout their decades in service,
women have always been pushing back the barriers
and taking on roles traditionally seen as the preserve of men.
Against all expectations, in 2002,
Pippa Tatershall became the first woman to pass
the notorious nine-week All Arms Commando Course,
which is some feat.
Nearly half of all volunteers either drop out or are dismissed before
finishing the course. Run by the Royal Marines,
the course prepares soldiers to fight as part of the elite
3 Commando Brigade, Britain's highly trained rapid-reaction force.
I was actually in Kosovo, and Commando Logistic Regiment
were with me at the time on the same base,
so I went and spoke to a few of the guys that I was training with
and said, "Do you think this is a realistic thing to do?
"What do you reckon?" And I spoke to my boss back in the UK, as well,
and asked her what her thoughts were and she said, "Yeah, go for it.
-"What's the worst that can happen?"
-Yeah, exactly. You fail.
No-one's passed it, so, you know, that's it.
-How many were on the course in total?
-There were three females.
-So I think there was about 90 guys.
What about accommodation-wise?
The guys had the main part of the accommodation,
which they were used to using,
and there was a sort of side corridor that was a storage corridor
Yeah. But I didn't bother unpacking
because I just didn't think I was going to stay.
-You didn't even think...?
Literally, every day I'd sort of, you know, wake up and go, "OK,
it's another day, see how I get on and see how I do,"
and then I'd go to bed that night, think, "OK, managed today,
"let's see how tomorrow goes."
Every volunteer gets three opportunities at passing the course.
But Pippa failed on her first two attempts.
Feeling pressured from above to drop out,
she was unsure whether to carry on.
I really didn't know if I was going to go back.
I think the main driving factor behind it
-was support from the guys on the course.
And the fact that they made me feel part of the team,
they made me feel that it was right for me to be there...
You didn't feel no discrimination whatsoever,
they didn't make you feel inferior?
No, not from the other people on the course, they were 100% behind me.
So, what was the feeling when you actually did it, then?
It didn't sink in, it really didn't sink in for a while.
Slightly disappointing afterwards was, obviously, the sort of...
Lots of different people saying, "Ah, but she didn't do this or that,
"or she must not have had anything in her backpack,
"or she must have had something like this..."
They're just jealous.
The only people that know that are the people that run the course
and the other guys that were on the course.
-There were no concessions and that's the great thing
about the All Arms Commando Course,
is their standards have been their standards for years.
-They don't change them and they haven't changed them.
Despite proving that a woman could pass the commando course,
Pippa's achievement still wasn't enough to break down every barrier
for women serving in the Army.
At that time, the law still prevented women from taking up
so, instead, Pippa found herself serving with the Commando Brigade
support arm when she was deployed to Iraq in 2003.
Do you think having women in close-combat roles
upsets the balance?
Serving with 3 Commando Brigade afterwards and deploying to Iraq,
there were situations where it was evident that having
a female walk into the room, you know, created an atmosphere.
-A change of dynamics.
-It changed it
but I think that when push comes to shove on the ground,
you're there to do a job, and the guys are focused on it,
and that female's there to do a job as well.
If the guys can't handle that and get on with it,
then they're the ones that are not professional.
So, Pippa, I have to say I'm actually in awe of you,
listening to your story
and obviously being a fond ex-military person myself,
I think your story's incredible.
Now women as tough and determined as Pippa
can serve in close-combat roles,
but for those who came before, it simply wasn't an option.
Women have always proved in hard times
we are equally as tough as the men, if not tougher.
I would have liked to have been a pilot on the front line, yeah.
I was always told that you have to be twice as good
to even be considered as an equal.
I think there are more differences between men and men
than between men and women,
and certainly that comes out in initial naval training.
It's all about what's inside you, as an individual,
and the heart and soul you put into training, and determination.
But even before women were able to serve on the front line in battle,
they were often in situations that put their lives at risk
during times of war.
Over one million civilian women were recruited to work
in munitions factories.
One of the largest was Rotherwas, Hereford.
To work in a place like this was very dangerous.
Women who hadn't handled machinery before
were now being put in charge
of kind of big, dangerous bits of kit.
The explosive powder itself is very toxic.
There were the risks of explosions.
There was also the risk from enemy attack.
And, of course, we know that this factory came under fire
with kind of a devastating effect.
It was 27th July 1942, a night that factory workers Nancy Billings,
Amy Hicks and Nancy Evans remember vividly.
We just all stood and looked at each other.
But we never knew if it was genuine or not.
And then someone ran in and he said, "Get out, get out, it's for real!"
And we just raced down the corridor.
-And we'd just got outside and they said,
"The air-raid shelters are locked."
And the next minute this plane came down
and he came down so low you could see the swastika.
I could hear these girls screaming and I thought, "Oh, my God.
"Whatever has happened?"
I don't know really how I wasn't killed, actually.
But there was all fire and smoke and everything.
I never want to see anything like that ever again.
-Oh, it was terrible.
-I know, it was terrible.
Over 20 people lost their lives that day and many were injured,
a sacrifice that civilians made for the war.
It was the munition women who kind of really helped to win the war.
They couldn't have won the war without the women munition workers.
Throughout history, civilians, alongside servicemen and women,
have put their lives on the line for their country.
Even in times of peace, the military continually train for conflict.
For Kelly, this meant putting all her effort into becoming
a PT instructor.
I actually failed my first selection, which I was very,
very disappointed and gutted.
But I went back onto my selection and passed...
I say with flying colours but, you know,
I worked hard for it because I really wanted to be a PTI,
that was just my dream.
As Kelly transferred into the PT corps,
fundamental changes were taking place in the British Army
that would have a profound effect
on thousands of serving women, like Kelly.
Over 40 years since the formation of the Women's Royal Army Corps,
in 1991, it finally merged with the Army to create one force.
Back and pick the cone up.
Do not knock the cones.
But this meant there were fewer jobs in the new combined Army,
and female physical instructors like Kelly
now had to endure selection all over again,
in order to prove they could meet the same fitness standards as
their male counterparts.
When we amalgamated, a lot of the women had to then change trades,
completely change trades,
and you can imagine that that was quite heartbreaking for quite a few,
that their dream was to be a PTI, and a lot actually got out,
had to leave the military.
Despite her disappointment, Kelly soon proved her mettle once again.
When I did mine, there was around 30 of us.
There was about 25 guys and five women.
I was the only woman that passed and there were only two,
three guys that passed, very, very hard,
and there was no concession for women, which I think's right,
but that meant it was pretty tough to reach the standards and I
just made sure I trained really hard to pass it because it was something
that I wanted to do and, also,
I wanted to prove I was as good as the guys.
As well as making her mark as a top PT instructor,
she was one of the first to train men and women together.
Any questions? First three, stand by. Go!
One of the occasions was that I have these potential
officers all come into the gym.
Now, I'm only, what, 5ft 3in? And they're sort of nearly 6ft.
They came into the gym and were all just chatting, chatting, chatting,
and being really disrespectful and I was just like, "Right, OK,
I've got to sort this one out." So I said,
"You're going to go out for this run, a three-to-four-mile run,
"I'm going to start at the back.
"Whoever's behind me by the time I get back
"comes into PT every morning at five o'clock
"and every night after your duties, at seven o'clock."
It was the year that Linford Christie won the 100 metres gold
at the Olympic Games and in my head I thought,
"Right, I'm Linford Christie," and I, literally, high knees,
arms back and I beat this guy in on a sprint, so I beat all 30 of them,
back in, they came in on their hands and knees, never said a word.
I wanted to be a good PTI. Didn't matter that I was a woman.
And there, to them, it didn't matter that I was a woman.
And if anyone turned round to me and said, "You do it,"
I wanted to be able to do it. And that was key.
And I think that was key to my success as a PTI.
It's time to find out how much of her training Kelly still remembers,
and she's back in the trademark blue jacket of an Army PT instructor.
Right, OK, good.
Listening for your names. When your name's called out,
come to attention and shout "staff".
Corporal Hilson has arranged for Kelly to help out on a
Recruit Percival, Staff.
-Recruit Slate, Staff.
-How are you?
-Very well, thank you.
Yeah? Good, thanks.
Turn and face your left.
Right, OK, make sure you swing your arms across the body, body front,
Unlike in Kelly's time,
today, the men and women undergo identical training,
with the aim that they'll then go on to serve side by side.
You see the tree line over there?
-Go get me a leaf and bring it back.
Let's go. Off you go.
Don't be last!
Keep moving, good. Get rid of your leaf. Get rid of your leaf.
Good effort. Show me your leaf.
Keep your feet moving. Keep your feet moving.
Going to start off by jogging.
Yourself off first. Peel off.
Everybody else follow on. Let's go.
-I love this.
I love being back.
-No, it's really cool.
I think you've got to have a lot of guts as a young girl
coming in the military now.
You know, perception of military, perception of females,
would they come out butch? What do they look like?
You know, these girls are breaking that mould,
and I think that's brilliant.
That's good, well done. Keep your bums down.
Having been a physical training instructor for six years,
Kelly can't help getting stuck in.
On your feet, up. All right, let's go.
-Back into normal jogging, off we go.
-I can't get involved.
I'll take over.
I literally would take over.
I get itchy feet. I want to start, like that.
-Do we understand?
Push out, girls, you're coming in too quick.
Push it out to the edges.
Get down, hurry up.
Fitness targets aren't set by gender.
Instead, it depends on which job recruits go into
after their basic training.
Straight into the normal jogging.
OK, run to the fence, get me a leaf and come back.
Hurry up, ladies.
Don't be last.
Today, there are over 200 roles open to everyone, from plumbers
to combat medics to military police and HR officers.
In your own time...go!
Over the years, the Army's physical training for female recruits has
changed beyond recognition.
That's it. Clear.
During World War I,
with the prevailing attitudes of the time and the role servicewomen
performed, fitness wasn't considered a priority.
By World War II,
physical training was starting to become more important,
but the demands of war meant most women were hurried to their units as
quickly as possible.
During her own training,
Kelly would have to tackle an assault course like the one here,
so after watching from the sidelines,
she's volunteered to do a demo for the new recruits
on how to scale a 10-foot wall.
It will be embarrassing if I don't get over this.
Watching now for a perfect demonstration.
Hand round the knee.
-Are there any questions?
As well as showing the women how to do it,
Kelly's keen to find out more about the challenges they're facing
in basic training.
How do you think you've improved?
Fitness has improved massively.
-We did a run Saturday,
and I knocked 20 seconds off my time already.
-What did you do before you joined the Army?
-I was a stock controller.
-What are you going into?
Up to the top, lean back on the rope.
Be either side.
Kelly loved life as a PTI.
But juggling her commitment to the Army
with competing as an international runner
would ultimately prove too much.
I want to get to the top of the world and definitely to the Olympics
and I can't see me being able to maintain the job that I've had
and do my athletics to a great standard.
So, in 1997,
Kelly had to make the difficult choice to quit the Army
and focus on her Olympic dream.
When I finally decided I was going to leave the military,
I was quite upset.
I thought I was going to be in for my full service, 22 years,
I thought maybe then I'd get a commission, who knows?
And, you know,
it was quite emotional, but I knew that I played my part and I knew
I'd achieved a dream of being in the Army
as a physical training instructor.
While Kelly's never regretted the decision she made,
she's delighted to be getting
another taste of military life today,
especially when, over on the parade square,
she's invited by the commanding officer
to congratulate the latest batch of recruits
who are about to pass out.
ORDER IS SHOUTED
-Thank you very much.
Well done. Does it feel good?
-Yes, it does. Thank you.
-You must have done well to be standing here,
-Thank you very much, ma'am.
And Private Bradshaw has won an impressive three awards.
Best Recruit, Soldiers' Soldier, as voted by her peers,
and Fittest Recruit.
I'm quite overwhelmed at the moment so it might take me a little while
-to get used to it.
-I kind of noticed that. It's brilliant.
The Soldiers' Soldier one, that's quite important, isn't it?
-Because your peers...
-Yeah, it's really nice to get that award,
because your training's nothing without the people
you go through training with, so, for me,
-that was a really, really nice surprise...
..to know that the girls feel that way
-is really, really a great feeling.
-And where are you going off to?
I'm joining the Adjutant-General Corps
-as a Royal Military Policewoman.
-Really well done.
-It was so impressive.
-Really appreciate that. Thank you.
ORDER IS SHOUTED
I've loved today. I so wanted to get involved.
You never know, I might join the reservists or the TA, you know.
I want to come back.
If Kelly did decide to rejoin,
a whole new world of opportunities would be open to her,
and the one close-combat role that she'd relish is driving a tank.
Today, Kelly's meeting Corporals Townsend and Neil,
who've both transferred into this training centre in Dorset
to help bed in the first generation of female tankies.
It's no different to any of the male training, and that's vehicle-based,
fitness-wise it's the same throughout.
I think it's great.
It's not a challenge, it's an opportunity for us, you know.
As a young lady, young girl, before I even joined,
I was always looking at the infantry
and when I was told at the careers office I couldn't join the infantry,
I said, "What job can I do
"that's going to bring me closest to the front line?"
And they said medic.
-And so you did that.
-So I said, "Sign me up."
Although Kelly's eager to take command of a real tank,
she must first undertake a crash course
in a Challenger 2 simulator,
all under the watchful eye of Sergeant Toby Popell.
-Hi. You all right?
-Hi. How are you doing? Nice to meet you.
-Are you up for having a go?
-Cool, let's get you on, then.
While Kelly's getting just a brief taste of the simulator,
prospective tankies would spend up to two weeks in this
before being let out into the real thing.
Oh, my God, I so love this!
Yeah, love it!
So much fun.
As part of their training,
soldiers also learn what to do
in the event of their vehicle flipping over.
Before we start, can I just ask, do you suffer from motion sickness?
I have been known to on fairground rides, yes.
OK, that's not a problem. There are sick bags available for you,
-should you feel the effects.
Let's do it.
This exercise couldn't be further from a fairground ride
and has a sobering purpose,
given the number of deadly attacks on vehicles
in places like Afghanistan.
Brace, brace, brace.
That was good.
It's finally time for Kelly to realise her ambition
of commanding a Challenger 2 tank.
I'm so excited about this bit.
Now we've got sort of the first generation of women coming through
-and what do you think about that?
-I think it's a good thing.
We need to move with the times and everything else
and as long as they can do the job,
-they're more than welcome to have a go.
-Do you want to show me round?
So you could be in these for a long time, right?
Yeah. Yeah, you can be in these for up to about 10 to 12 hours.
So what happens in terms of, I mean, practical stuff?
-Like going to the toilet, eating...
-I will show you the toilet in a minute.
-..and sleeping, possibly.
We do have a toilet on board.
And we also have a kettle as well, which we can put our rations into.
This is a tank. This is a Challenger 2 tank.
We're standing on top of it.
I mean, really? And just hats off to all the guys and then, eventually,
girls that are going to be using these in those situations.
So, explain this. So, the gunman's down there, he wants the toilet.
-He'll have to stop.
-Do what he needs to do.
-Even while you are sitting there.
-And he'll hold the bag for you as well.
You're... No! Come on.
-That's how close you have to be.
Gun front, mate.
Every tank requires a four-person crew.
A driver, a weapons-loader, a gunner and, today, Kelly as commander.
Having seen action most recently in Iraq,
tank units also make up part of Britain's contribution
to the Nato force,
currently keeping tabs on Russian activity on the Estonian border.
The tank can reach a top speed of up to 31mph
and with a combat weight of a hefty 70 tonnes,
it's not wise for any enemy infantry to get too close.
The main armament on the tank
can hit a target from up to 5km away.
Kelly, lean forward. Yeah, if you lean forward, Kelly,
-we'll get it to flop over.
At a cost of over £4 million per tank,
any mistake from the crew could prove very expensive indeed.
Of course, depending on the weather and terrain,
conditions can get a little wet.
Today is a training exercise,
but it's given Kelly a valuable insight into how different
her Army career might have been
if the opportunity to command a tank had been open to
women like her back then.
The tank also has the ability to generate its own smoke screen...
Come on! Go on, do it. Do it.
..an invaluable asset that allows a vehicle to obscure its own movements
from the enemy when crossing the battlefield.
It was really good. It was just... It's just fascinating.
There's four people in there. If you've got one woman, three guys,
in a confined area for a long time, I mean,
you're always going to have a banter but, at the end of the day, I think,
as we've discovered
through doing this programme, if you want to do the job,
you go there to do the job well and that's what you think of
first and foremost, and your crew are your crew,
it doesn't really matter if they're male or female.
I can see a lot of women wanting to do that.
It was a lot of fun, I have to say.
Having fulfilled her ambition to command a Challenger 2 tank,
it's time for Kelly to reflect on her own time in the Army
and on what she's learned about the role of women in the military
over the past 100 years.
It brought back a lot of great memories.
What's come across out of everything that I've learnt
from talking to both male and female
is that they don't see the men and women.
As long as the person does their job and does their job well,
that's all that really matters.
To think back to when I was 14
and had this dream of wanting to be in the military,
that I could join something that gave me a sense of purpose,
gave me these skills and qualifications,
allowed me to meet people from all different walks of life and then to
bond really great friendships from that experience,
it's something that's never left me.
I've found the whole experience just amazing.
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.