OLYMPIAN and Royal Artillery Major Heather Stanning OBE is part of a national campaign by armed forces charity SSAFA to celebrate 100 years since women were legally permitted to serve in the British military.

This month marks the centenary of the formation of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, the first time women were formally enrolled in the UK Armed Forces. Back then, women’s roles involved cooking, administration and mechanical work.

Today, one hundred years on they stand shoulder to shoulder with their male counterpart, with close combat roles in the Royal Marines, Royal Armoured Corps, infantry and Royal Air Force Regiment opening up to them last year.

To mark the anniversary and 100 years’ worth of contribution, SSAFA has commissioned renowned war photographer Robert Wilson to create an iconic image of currently serving women, like Heather, and veterans from the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Airforce, including other Olympic gold medallists Dame Kelly Holmes, who served in the British Army for 10 years.

Stanning, who is a major in the Royal Artillery based at Larkhill, said: "The rate of evolution for women in our Armed Forces is phenomenal. It is remarkable to compare the types of jobs women did in 1917 with what they do now."

"I am honoured to join SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity in its celebration of 100 years of women in our Armed Forces. As one of the oldest military charities, SSAFA was there for the first woman who signed-up and will continue to be there for women in the future.”

The twelve women photographed include the first woman to kill in combat, the highest-ranking woman in the British Army, the first transgender woman to serve, who began her career in the Royal Air Force as a man and a 95-year-old veteran who worked as a bomb site inspector in World War Two.

Sir Andrew Gregory, chief executive of SSAFA, added: “We must take a moment to pause, reflect and celebrate their contribution as this milestone approaches.

“It is essential that we continue to promote inclusivity and diversity throughout our Armed Forces in order to benefit from the talent that exists across British society.”