One Hundred Years
One hundred years is a long time – long enough that we have no survivors of the First World War to pass on their hard-earnt wisdom in person, no Battle of Britain pilots and the oldest Chelsea pensioner is a sprightly 103, having served in both the army and the air force.
Of course, the Royal Air Force itself is one hundred years old this year too. Junior left home to become it’s own person just eight months prior to the Armistice. The Women’s Royal Air Force, originally an auxiliary unit was also formed in 1918. One hundred years also marks, as the media coverage tells, 100 years since the Suffragette movement secured the vote for women over 30 years old.
Modern commentators have been quick to point out, in the on-going fallout from the Harvey Weinstein, #MeToo and other controversies, that equality actually hasn’t delivered what Emmeline Pankhurst and the other Suffragettes had hoped when they secured the historic Representation of the People Act. Some fashionable historians put the case that it was the efforts of the unsung heroes of the home front during the Great War – women in manufacturing and production roles – that did as much as the Suffragette movement to secure the vote.
What is a certainty is that the forces, those dinosaurs of old-fashioned practices, of sexism, of all the things that the rest of society – without foundation or actual experience – accuse us of, have had absolute pay parity between the genders for the same role for decades. It is a thing that is seldom mentioned, but one that we should all be rightly proud of.
Of course there are some roles, still, that remain male only.
Women may not serve as paratroopers, for example. But being honest, many of us wouldn’t make the grade at P Company, or the All Arms, or a host of other things. We have seen women make the ultimate sacrifice as aircrew, as EOD officers and as Intelligence operatives. There’s no gender divide where someone gives all that they have to give.
Yet again, this comes back to society having little understanding of the forces, and little experience of dealing with serving personnel or veterans. Equality comes in many forms, and when veterans have equal status with reality TV ‘stars’, we will have achieved something historic.