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Mark Ellse: The lesson of Deepcut. Women don’t have the strength to serve on the front line


‘Deepcut barracks had failed in its duty of care to young trainees,’ said Judge Brian Barker QC, coroner at the inquest into the death of Cheryl James. ‘There was a lack of structure and a wholesale lack of awareness of a directive that forbade young female students being placed on guard duty alone.’

The coroner said that there was a sexualised atmosphere at Deepcut, which he described as inappropriate, but he said that ‘there was no evidence that the army, or Deepcut, had sexualised private James. He criticised the support for young trainees at Deepcut and said that there were not enough female officers.

All pretty straightforward then. A bit of tidying up of paperwork, making everyone at Deepcut sign a piece of paper to confirm that they are aware of the directive that female students should not be placed on guard duty alone and another few dozen female officers to keep the young girls safe. It’s a paper exercise and soon everything will be hunky dory. If only.

None of us can have any doubt that things at Deepcut can be improved. One could walk into any training establishment and make things better. There have been suicides of young men as well. But the improvement in the treatment of young women at Deepcut can only be achieved by moves that are so politically unfashionable that one could never imagine our society taking the necessary action.

One could argue for hours about the possibility of homosexuality amongst a group of male soldiers. As with any single sex environment with the young, such events happen. But they are not nearly so highly charged as the overt sexuality of female presence. What does one expect when one has a few girls among a mass of eighteen-year-old boys? The men are at the peak of their sexual appetite and have spent the day in physical activity which heightens their sexual drive. It may not have been the army that sexualised Cheryl James but undoubtedly government policy did, putting her in such an environment.

And what price equality when there is a ‘directive that forbade female students being placed on guard duty alone.’ One is surprised that that phrase got through the censor. How dare we admit there is something that women are not just as capable of doing as men? One glance at a video of Cheryl marching along with her contemporaries shows the nub of the problem. She’s a tiny tot, as are the other girls with her. I, in my sixties and not particularly strong, could cope with any physical attack she chose to make. Not so her male contemporaries. One needs to remember that the strongest 25 per cent of women are as strong as the weakest 25 per cent of males. What sort of army are we thinking of if we staff it (it would be inappropriate to say ‘man’ it) with such little girls. Such an army is a joke.

Women are weaker than men. Their role is not to be soldiers to defend us and their presence in the front line is totally inappropriate. Our role as a society is to protect women. It’s as simple as that.

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Mark Ellse
Mark Ellse
Mark Ellse is a physicist and author. He is a former headmaster, independent school inspector and A level chief examiner.

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