“I loved the challenges” – From Private to Officer

Laura joined the Army as a Private in 2004 and rose to the rank of Captain. She speaks about the challenge of joining the Army as a woman and her decision to leave after becoming a mother.

Laura joined the Army in 2004 as a Signaller in the Royal Signals.

“My parents were shocked that I wanted to join the forces. They have no real connection to the military – Dad worked for BT and Mum was a florist.”

Laura had wanted to join the RAF after spending time in the Air Training Corps whilst at school. She had an interest in flying and had been working towards her private pilots license so wanted to be a pilot, but at the recruiting office she was told that they were not recruiting for Pilots at that time but to come back.

“I didn’t have the confidence at that age to think I could be an Army Officer and I wanted to experience life in the ranks so that’s exactly what I did.”

As she was still keen to join the military, the Army caught her attention and she changed direction to join as a Signaller.

“I was impatient and impressionable and the Army recruiters sold it to me with the line be the best!”

“I was young and impressionable. They gave me the DVD to the Sandhurst Sovereigns Parade. I loved it, but didn’t have the confidence to think I could ever be an Army Officer.”

“I thought that practically I should start as a soldier, but in the back of my head I knew I wanted to be an officer and would eventually use my experience to make me a better one when the time came.”

Basic training

Talking about joining the Army as a woman, Laura says: “I was really proud to wear a uniform and feeling like I was part of something important. I wasn’t really thinking about being a woman, it didn’t seem to matter.”

Reflecting on the early days of joining up she adds: “I was very unfit before I went to ATR Lichfield for my basic training and had to work really hard, especially as I always wanted to meet the same physical standards as my male counterparts.  I would phone my parents and tell them everything. They would tell me that I would be stuck there once I passed, but for me quitting was not an option.”

“You look back on the tough challenges with such pride.”

“There were three women in our Troop when we started and two of us got through. After that we knew we were seen as physically weaker so we knew we had to be strong to keep up and not let anyone down.

“When we were together we helped each other out, but when were in our sections we almost had to compete with each other as the lads always looked at their only woman as the weakest link until we got fitter.”

The proudest day was when I passed out of basic training. I had such fond memories.

“I loved the camaraderie of being in the army, but also the challenges that army life had to offer.  Events such as the Lanyard trophy where we would march for 40 miles with 40lb of kit and preparing for operations.  You look back on the tough challenges with such pride.”

Becoming an officer

“One of the best courses for me after basic training was the potential officers course.”

“When I got to Sandhurst I found the first five weeks quite easy as I’d already had my time as a signaller. “

After spending a year at Sandhurst Laura graduated as a Lieutenant in the Royal Signals.

Laura with her regimental mess dress she wore as an officer.

Becoming a mother

During her time as a Signaller Laura met her now husband John, who also went through the ranks to become an officer in the signals.

On being a mother she adds “I really thought I would have Alexander and get straight back to into my career. I never went back. Being a parent has really changed me.”

Laura in her Army uniform and on her wedding day.

“Going from being 100% career focused, where I was volunteering for everything from extra physical training and after hours activities and then knowing I would have to compromise this as a parent - it just didn’t work for me. I’ve such admiration for those women who work round it.”

“It was hard going from a career to those early stages of motherhood.”

“It was hard to make a choice. I knew if I went back I just couldn’t go back into my career in the way I would have liked to. But I wouldn’t change anything.”

“I remember when Alexander was a baby I got a job in a bakery from 3 - 7am so I could get home in time to feed him, I just couldn’t bear to be apart from him in waking hours so I took a job that worked around it.

"I just needed to do some sort of work. It was hard going from a career to those early stages of motherhood.”

Laura has now returned to full-time work as the welfare officer team manager at the RBL office in Swindon and manages to run a busy family and a full-time career. 

“Things have changed a lot over the years and I get to meet a lot of beneficiaries who have recently left the military. I’ve got very good at working anywhere with my laptop. I can cook dinner and answer emails at the same time!”

“Being out of the army now makes me realise just how different it is being on the other side.”

Women at War Timeline

A timeline of the roles that women have played in conflict and the progress they have made.

Discover how the role of women in the Armed Forces has developed since the British Army's first all female unit was established 100 years ago.

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