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Monday, 26 March, 2001, 12:07 GMT 13:07 UK
Row over frontline women troops
Female army trainees
Tests were not designed to replicate the frontline
A row has broken out over whether tests of women soldiers' ability to serve in the Army's frontline were made too easy.

The Ministry of Defence has refuted suggestions that that the field trials were watered down to ensure that women would pass.

A leaked report suggests that the tests will conclude that women should be able to serve in the army's infantry.

You never know when someone joins if they will cut it

MoD spokeswoman

But it is being reported that the Army's director of infantry, Brigadier Seymour Monro has said that the field trials were little more than "aggressive camping."

An MoD spokeswoman said the tests were not intended to recreate actual battle conditions as this would have put the women, who are not trained for infantry warfare, at a unfair disadvantage.

She added that the tests were part of a wider study to determine if women should be allowed to serve in frontline infantry regiments.

The spokeswoman dismissed suggestions of the tests as being too easy as rubbish.

"These were scientific tests to assess the suitability of women to join regiments they are currently excluded from," she told BBC News Online.

"You never know when someone joins if they will cut it. The tests were about determining the overall suitability for a role."

However, in his evaluation of the trials, Brigadier Monro was said to have complained that the women had only been able to pass because key tasks had been made easier or dropped, according to a leak of the report in the Daily Telegraph.

The MoD spokeswoman refused to comment specifically on the Brigadier's views.

Final recommendations

Dozens of women took part in a series of tests over nine months last year and the results are due to go before ministers in the mid summer.

Chiefs of Staffs are expected to make their final recommendations in the autumn.

Physical tests encompassed women-only tests, men-only tests and tests involving both.

The new Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Michael Boyce has already expressed his concerns about women serving in the frontline, warning that the aggression needed for hand-to-hand combat was not a "natural female trait".

He said that infantry was very different to serving on a ship or in an aircraft and he questioned how well women would cope under fire.

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