HeadLine: PIP , PIP, BERET
The Mirror, 01/06/2002, p8&9
by GEOFFREY LAKEMAN & SHAUN MILNE
SHE yomped 30 miles, ran nine more, and suffered the physical and
mental ordeal of the tough Royal Marines Commando course. But she never
And yesterday, faced with her last chance, Captain Pip Tattersall
managed to conquer the test which had defeated her twice this week.
She hauled her slender frame and 50lbs of equipment over a 6ft wall and
finished the “Tarzan” assault course to become the first woman to earn
the right to wear the elite unit’s Green Beret.
Pip had to complete the course in 13 minutes. If she had failed she
would not have been allowed back on the nine-week All Arms Commando
Prince Edward couldn’t stick it when he spent several months at the
base as an officer cadet in 1986.
Just two days earlier Pip had done a 30-mile speed march across
Dartmoor’s swampy and hilly terrain in less than eight hours.
Shortly after 8am yesterday she beat the dreaded wall with a 31 lb
battle pack on her back and carrying a standard issue SA80 rifle.
And she earned the respect of every “bootneck” at the Commando Training
Camp at Lympstone, Devon, where they pride themselves on being the
toughest fighting force in the world.
A dozen corporals cheered as she scrambled up the steep side of the
final obstacle, a 30ft wall scaled with a rope.
And as she touched down on the other side in 11 minutes 55 seconds she
was given her Green Beret by camp commandant Brigadier Nick Pounds.
Pip said: “I was absolutely awe struck. When I realised I had passed my
co-ordination went out the window and I felt the exhaustion and my body
said ‘That’s it, stop there’.
“What I have done is still sinking in. It has been a long hard struggle
but it is certainly a good feeling now.
“I doubt if there will be a flood of women following me. Any female who
plans to undertake such a gruelling course will think long and hard.
The preparation and training take a long time.
“This is certainly the toughest thing I have done so far in my life.
The lowest points were the Dartmoor weather, not just for myself but
for the rest of us.
“When you are on orders at 2am and you know you are going out at 4 am
and the rain is going sideways and you have another five days to go,
all you can do is smile and nudge the body next to you and say ‘We will
get through it’.
“You think of everyone else sitting at home in the warm with a cup of
tea. I kept going because I am not one to give up. I don’t like to
fail. “When you think you cannot go on, you can. It is all in the mind.
The body will follow if you definitely know you can do it, you just
“The hardest part was filling in the application form.
“When I was taking the last test it was a matter of sheer strength and
determination. It needed all my physical and mental strength while the
30-mile yomp just needs you to put one foot in front of the other. My
body is covered in bruises and cuts and I have tendonitis in both
But, having proved herself the toughest woman in the British army, the
exhaustion and emotions spilled out as she called home in Tarland,
Mum Jenny said: “She was crying and I was crying. At first she just
couldn’t speak. Then she said ‘I’ve done it, I’ve done it mum’.
“We are so proud. When the phone rang I knew it was her but all sorts
of thoughts go through your mind. She just said ‘I have passed – they
cannot take my Green Beret away from me now’.”
She is due home tomorrow for a family celebration with dad Clive, 63, a
retired oil engineer, and brothers, John-Clive, 30, and Richard, 25, at
their six-bedroom Edwardian mansion.
Richard said: “She was brought up in a male dominated world and now she
has excelled in it.”
Despite her triumph Pip still cannot join the main part of the Royal
Marines as women are not allowed in frontline fighting units. She could
join one of the support units such as their own logistics corps.
At present she is a platoon commander at the Adjutant General’s office
in Harrogate which handles administration.
Pip was educated at Roedean private school, near Brighton, where she
played lacrosse and hockey for Sussex.
She took a temporary Army commission in 1993 and studied sports science
and human biology at Liverpool University before entering Sandhurst.
In 1998, she was commissioned into the Adjutant General’s Corps and
served an operational tour in Kosovo in 2000.
She had failed commando training twice on a tactical exercise test.
But she came back and reached the final weeks of the notoriously
difficult course which ends in a series of stamina-sapping tests taken
in quick succession, including a nine-mile run and the fearsome 30-mile
Colonel Alan Thomson, director of training at Lympstone, said: “She is
super-fit and one very determined lady. The whole camp was rooting for
“She is short and slight of build and just could not get enough grip to
get over the wall.
“Very short male marines sometimes have the same problem. It is a
matter of physiology and upper body strength.” Pip, who is 5ft 6ins and
nine and half stone, had trained with her boyfriend, who is also in the
And she was keen to regain some of her femininity. “I am looking
forward to my fingernails growing back and having toe nails that are
not black. While the men shaved in the morning I used to brush and pin
my hair into a bun.”
She added: “I did not encounter any sexism. The guys on the course were
“The roles which can be undertaken by females will take us very close
to the front line and will give us the experiences and challenges that
we look for.”
The Royal Marines insisted they had not compromised standards for Pip.
Col Thomson said: “Commando standards remain unaltered and they are
“There will be other women who aspire to achieve the Green Beret and we
will continue to do as we have done.”
He added: “Any one who even tries to win a Green Beret deserves
respect. Anyone who actually wins it deserves even more respect – and
the fact that she is a woman adds to that.”
Categories: Daily Mirror articles