THE prospect of women serving on the combat frontline has moved a step closer after Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, announced he was bringing forward a review about whether or not they could join the infantry and armoured corps.

The Secretary of State stressed yesterday he wanted to "send a message" that the Armed Forces were fully open to women.

"At a time when the Americans, the Australians, the Canadians, even the French - the Israelis, of course, for years - have women in their combat arms, this is something we have to look at again," declared Mr Hammond.

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He said the armed forces still had a macho image as the "last bastion of male chauvinism" but noted: "The reality is very different."