THREE women have made history by becoming the first female submariners to serve in the Royal Navy.

Lieutenants Maxine Stiles, Alexandra Olsson and Penny Thackray have completed months of training to earn their "Dolphins" - the clasp worn by submariners - becoming the first women in the 110-year history of the Navy's Submarine Service.

For years, women were unable to serve on submarines because of possible health risks but, after an independent review found that only pregnant women should not serve, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond lifted the ban in 2011.

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Mr Hammond said: "This is not only a huge personal achievement for these three outstanding officers, as they take up their new roles supporting the ultimate safeguard of our national security, but also an historic moment for the Royal Navy and our armed forces."

Following the arrival of woman officers, female ratings (non-commissioned personnel) will start training later this year with a view to serving on Vanguard submarines in 2015.

Female personnel will also be able to serve on Astute-class submarines from around 2016.

During their training, the three women officers con-ducted operations on nuclear-powered Vanguard-class submarine HMS Vigilant, passing their final exams with flying colours.

Lt Stiles, from Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Man-chester, said: "I wanted to be able to say that I had made the most of every opportunity that I had been given in the Navy.

"It's very intense and very challenging, but that's what makes it so rewarding. At the end of it, when you get your Dolphins and are accepted into the submarine community, it's great."

Describing the reception from the 165 male members of the 168-member crew, the 29-year-old, who has been in the Navy for four years, said: "As long as you can do your job and you're good at what you do, I don't think they cared whether you were male or female."