Byline: PETER ALLEN
THE Army is braced for a head-on clash with Labour over plans to allow women on the front line.
Senior military commanders are appalled by claims that mixed-sex platoons would be effective in the thick of battle.
The controversy follows reports that field trials carried out by the Army had concluded that women could work effectively alongside men in almost all combat situations.
One officer said yesterday: 'There is absolutely no one in the senior ranks who approves.
'Battlefields are ugly places and the thought of women being in the thick of the battle is absurd.
'Of course women can be physically fit and strong, but they would not stand a chance against their male counterparts in opposing armies.' Another defence chief, who served in the Gulf War, said: 'Labour seems totally uninterested in the proud tradition of the British Army.
'Brute force and sheer bravery have been the key to our most famous victories, not feminism.' The Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Charles Guthrie, made it clear last week that he is totally opposed to the Army being changed according to politically correct principles.
He said military leaders 'are not in the business of designing armed forces for the good times', adding: 'We have to advise what will work when conditions are tough, dangerous and frightening.
'When the time comes, if the advice of the chiefs of staff upsets those who seek equality as an end in itself, then so be it.' Tories and Liberal Democrats have also expressed misgivings over the idea that women could serve in the infantry and tank units of the Royal Armoured Corps.
The field trials, carried out in the Brecon Beacons during the autumn, involved mixed-sex platoons performing a range of tasks, from peacekeeping to intensive combat. The aim was to assess both the aptitude of the women and the effect they had on their male colleagues.
The experiment is said to have concluded that women could work effectively alongside men in almost all combat situations.
The Ministry of Defence, which has yet to receive the formal results, has stressed they are just part of a three-phase programme - the Combat Effectiveness and Gender Study.
But the Government is known to be sympathetic to the idea of equal opportunities in the Army being carried to the logical extreme.
The MoD said yesterday it would not talk about any of the three phases until all the results were known.
The next phase of the study is to be a survey of attitudes within the Army, with thousands of questionnaires being distributed to serving soldiers and their families.
Similar surveys of Navy families have found sailors' wives deeply unhappy about the …