Lt Col Lucy Giles is the first woman to command New College at Sandhurst. I spent a day with her at the Royal Military Academy, to find out what she thinks about women in the army.
With 24 years of experience in the Royal Logistic Corps, Lt Colonel Giles is enjoying being back where she first trained as a young officer.
“I have very fond memories of the 12 foot wall and trying to struggle up that with the rest of the girls I was with” she told me “the bonds you make in your platoon, through these kind of activities stay with you”
Two and a half decades later she’s back, and she’s in charge of New College, where all officer cadets spend their intermediate term as they prepare to join their regiments.
Lt Colonel Giles has commanded soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Sierra Leone, East Timor and Northern Ireland but she says being a working parent has also been good preparation for the job:
“I’ve had certainly many challenging experiences being in the army over the 24 years but the most challenging one has probably been having the family not in a negative way but just in a different way, just have to think a bit more thoroughly about the domestic considerations and not just about yourself and your soldiers. I think the juggling you have to do as a mother and your day job and running a house it all adds up to the right mix to deal with the demanding and challenging role here at Sandhurst.”
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Historically the army hasn’t always been good to women but top brass are trying to change this. Last month the Prime Minister commissioned a review to decide whether to allow women to serve in a combat role on the frontline for the first time. Col Giles says she wouldn’t be tempted.
“If you’re asking me would I join the infantry knowing what I know now I probably wouldn’t because the best fit for me is the Corps I’ve chosen: the Royal Logistic Corps… as to the infantry being an option for some of the girls coming through, possibly, but it’s an individual choice and it’s dependent on any policy review that’s out there”
Whether it’s walking through the green-tiled corridors of New College or out on the training area, Lt Col Lucy Giles cuts a warm and welcoming figure, and her experience and quiet authority mean she is held in high esteem by her instructors and the cadets.
“I hope that I can act as some kind of a role model for some of the soldiers and officers out there that are females, showing that you can be a mum, you can run a household, you can marry a person that has a busy job and you can try and hold that down yourself as well so I hope I can demonstrate that there is plenty of choice out there and if that’s role modelling I embrace it and I hope I can add a bit of value.”
Sandhurst has just started inviting female cadets to join mixed platoons of men and women, and with a female Commander at the helm, the next generation of women soldiers have something to aspire to.
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