Watching British Army Girls last night I expected swearing and high-tempo action. What I didn’t expect were tears.
This Channel 4 series follows female recruits as they start their basic training at Army Training Centre (ATC) Pirbright. With women making up less than 10% of the British Army, it seems amazing that a new batch of faces arrives every two weeks.
The women undergo a rigorous training regime and are obliged to stay on site for the first 28 days. You can see how this intensive period forms strong bonds between them. Room inspections, weapons handling, drill and lots of press ups seem the order of the day. As they march in the wrong direction or collapse under a heavy bag, elements of the Carry On… films come to mind. Then suddenly you are reminded of the seriousness of it all. Bayonet practice for instance. Live firing while running around in the woods is one thing, but attacking a ‘body’ right in front of you with a bayonet on a rifle seems quite another.
Back to the tears. Perhaps it was the way it was edited. As one of the Corporals who lead them mentioned, that, under stress the male pride kicks in and prevents men from crying but women were “freer at sharing there emotion’s”. I don’t think this was said in a derogatory way but then what message does it send out about women in the army? This also comes at a time when the government is reviewing whether women should be on the front line.
That said, the importance of remaining cool under pressure is evident. One cadet who embodies this is Costerello, a calm, 22 year old who is passionate about the army and evidently popular in her group. Another recruit Strain, the oldest there at 32, cannot seem to hold back her sarcasm when shouted at. Perhaps that’s to do with age, in the way it can make you less pliable? Her trajectory over the episode is interesting to follow.
The group’s leader, Captain Rose Hamilton, is reserved. A quieter voice compared to the mouthy Corporals. There is a notable distance between her and the women. She is encouraging, but also maintains a strict formality. At only 28 she had the steely togetherness of someone much older. I would be interested to learn more about her. The mouthy Corporals added to the humour with their swearing and jokes.
This was not an explosive start to the series, there was a lot of activity but it was not immediately gripping. It may lack enough stand-out characters to carry it through. However, it was interesting to observe a world far away from civilian life. Perhaps that’s where the success will be. At the end of the episode, which is their week four, 38 of the 47 recruits remain. Will we?
British Army Girls goes out on Thursday nights at 21.00 on Channel 4.