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Army Veteran To Lead First All-Female Expedition In World's Largest Desert

Covering approximately 1,000km, Jane McGill and her team will cross Oman’s formidable Rub’ Al Khali...

WATCH: Jane McGill talks to BFBS's Hatch and Geere

Warning: this article contains images that some readers might find distressing.

A former soldier is preparing to lead an Anglo-Omani team to walk the length of Oman’s desert.

Jane McGill, who served as a signaller with the Honourable Artillery Company, will be joined by construction consultant Baida Al Zadjali and dentist Atheer Al Sabri.

Covering approximately 1,000 km, they will be the first all-female expedition to cross this part of the formidable Empty Quarter, or 'Rub Al Khali' in Arabic.

Jane McGill Oman
Training in the desert (from left: Baida Al Zadjali, Jane McGill and Atheer Al Sabri).

Ms McGill had hoped to commission into the Army Legal Service as a solicitor but her military career was cut short when she broke her back.

She explained she was training to ride in the Royal Artillery Gold Cup at Sandown Park:

"We were working the horses and the horse tripped up, it went down and rolled on me and stood on me.

"When I did regain consciousness, I thought it was race day and had to get my horse, which obviously worried everyone a little bit.

"Luckily, my dad was there and he pinned me down until the air ambulance arrived... Otherwise, I don't think I'd be standing here today."

Jane McGilll Horse Training
Jane (right) riding out on the gallops at Epsom Downs

Once at the hospital, Ms McGill discovered she had fractured five vertebrae and suffered a collapsed one.

Due to the severity of her back injury, she left the Army in 2012 and began the long journey of recovery.

"It was the loss of purpose after losing my sort-of military career and passion for riding, two things in one. 

"I was searching for a purpose for quite some time."

Jane McGill Broke Back Accident
On the left, a picture taken post-accident in hospital; on the right, the metal work that Ms McGill had in her back for 18 months.

Part of that rehabilitation process took her to walk 630 miles along the South West Coastal Path, laying 616 sunflowers seeds to mark every soldier wounded in Afghanistan.

While hunting for challenges, Oman's Empty Quarter began to beckon.

It is the world's largest sand desert and it stretches across vast swathes of Arabia, including Oman, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates.

At a talk by Mark Evans, director of Outward Bound Oman who had recently crossed the Empty Quarter in Oman and Saudi Arabia, Ms McGill realised that there were no women in any of his pictures from the expedition.

"I wondered why it was all men... He said it's because we were all men but if you were to go with Omani women, you would see a whole new world."

Jane McGill Oman Outward Bound
Mark Evans with Ms McGill.

Ms McGill and her team are beginning their expedition in Hasman, in the south of the Empty Quarter.

They will then walk 800km as the crow flies north to Ibri Fort. In reality, the distance covered will be far greater as they navigate shifting sands.

Two 4x4 vehicles are supporting the expedition, with the first 300km deep in the dunes where they will need to be entirely self-sufficient. 

Undaunted by the task ahead, Ms McGill said she feels 'ready as she's ever felt for anything'.