Obituary: Brigadier Anne Field CB, CBE, army professional

Played a key role in the fight for women to be given more significant roles in the military

Brigadier Anne Field CB, CBE, army professional.

Born: 4 April, 1926, in Keswick.

Died: 25 June, 2011, in London, aged 85.

Brigadier Anne Field firmly believed that women should serve their country alongside men and be used for the same combat and service duties. She was convinced that under pressure a woman soldier would display similar courage and bravery as her male counterpart.

Indeed, her work within the Women's Royal Army Corps (WRAC) brought fundamental reforms to the army and her career was a shining example of what a woman officer can achieve. She helped to pave the way for women being admitted into the regular army. Her loyalty, sense of duty and resolve won her the respect of her male colleagues and she occupied many senior posts at home and abroad with her dignity and style.

Anne Hodgson was the daughter of Captain Harold Derwent Hodgson of the Royal Engineers. She attended Keswick School before moving to St George's in Harpenden. She also studied at the London School of Economics but left without completing her degree to join the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) in 1947. She gained her commission in the ATS (then the women's branch of the British Army) and saw service as a platoon commander in the UK. During the communist insurrection in Malaya she was Officer Commanding 4 Independent Company WRAC in Singapore.

In the 1950s Field held several staff appointments, including at the War Office. But in 1961 she was promoted to Major and appointed chief instructor at the WRAC Centre at Guildford in Surrey. Two years later she was posted to HQ Middle East Command in Aden just as the Radfan insurgency erupted. Her principal responsibilities were the welfare of the soldiers and writing to distressed relatives in the event of casualties.

But, typically, Field was keen to involve herself in the problems of her colleagues and was often to be seen visiting danger zones and inspecting treacherous terrain. She wanted to experience at first hand the day-to-day difficulties faced by her comrades. That experience not only won her the admiration of the soldiers in the front but gave an air of authenticity to the letters she then had to write.

In 1965 she returned to Britain as deputy assistant director WRAC in London and in 1971 became Commandant of the WRAC College at Camberley. Her principal responsibilities were for the cadet training of both the regular and TA officer cadets.

Field forged close and constructive links with her counterparts at Sandhurst and laid the ground work for the eventual integration of male and female officer training. That was achieved when Camberley became Sandhurst's 4th College and the WRAC was duly disbanded in 1992. It was while Field was at Camberley that she lobbied assiduously that women members of the army should be sent on active service in Northern Ireland. WRAC members wore the insignia of those corps as well as of the WRAC. Field, in her role first as assistant director at HQ UK Land Forces and then as director WRAC, was adamant that women should actually join the specialist corps of their choice.Field retired in 1982, having served as an honorary ADC to the Queen and been awarded the CB (Military). In 1995 she was made a CBE for her services to the WRAC. She maintained close ties with army, especially the WRAC, and served for 23 years on the Army Benevolent Fund. She was also a trustee and a supporter of a number of other ex-service organisations.

A measure of the respect that Field was held throughout the army came yesterday from the Aden Veterans Association of Central Scotland, who said she was "a truly wonderful gentle lady. A light has gone out on our lives."

Although she made her home in London Field often returned to her beloved Cumbria for holidays and Christmas. Throughout her life she had been a keen sportswoman and was a close follower of rugby, cricket, horse racing and tennis.

In 1956 Brigadier Field married Captain Anthony Field but the marriage was dissolved five years later.