INTERVIEW: Why the British Army joined forces with Stonewall

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The British Army’s decision to join a programme designed to promote equality in the workplace has been widely welcomed.

The Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force were already members of the Stonewall Diversity Champions programme.

Major General Andrew Gregory, the Army’s head of personnel, explained to why the Army had decided to work with the country’s leading gay rights organisation. We’re very pleased to see the Army join the Diversity Champions programme, but you are the last of the services to do so – why is that?

Major General Anthony: Well, the Army is as you know a large organisation.

Is it larger than the Air Force and the Navy?

Oh yes. The Navy is about 35,000, the Air Force is about 40,000, we are 100,000.

Over the years our views have changed enormously, as I’m sure you will recognise.

But it has taken time and I think what we should celebrate is the fact that we recognise the importance of where we are today, and where we seek to get to.

Where was the resistance? I mean you said it took a long time to get here but was it top brass, was it among the ranks?

I don’t think there was specific resistance. I think what we’ve got to is a good position where we can go forward from.

Do you think there was any sense of inter service rivalry ? The Navy and Air Force having joined already.

No, I don’t think there was inter service rivalry. I mean what we’re doing, genuinely, is seeking to maximise our operational capacity, that’s what we’re about.

If we are excluding or discriminating against sections of society, and the LGBT community is one section of society, we are missing the opportunity to harness the skills, talents and abilities of that part of society.

So just like we also seek to recruit more from ethnic minorities. That is another area of society where we would wish to do better.

Is it going to need a great change within the Army culture?

Oh hugely. Genuinely hugely.

Would you say you are making progress?

Enormously, let me give you a personal example.

I was a commanding officer in 1999 when the legislation, changed and I remember briefing my sergeants and you could see looks of concern.

There is no issue and we have, as you will be fully aware, out in Iraq, in Afghanistan, LGBT soldiers and officers who are doing a great job.

Fully integrated, it is not an issue. Now that’s progress in the nine years since I was a commanding officer and there’s more progress to make. But we’re on the path.

What we are keen to do is to make sure that where there are opportunities for people to feel inclusive and to share experiences we will wish to support them.

Click here for more information about the Stonewall Diversity Champions programme. The Army joins more than 400 companies that employ more than four million people between them.