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Women pioneers in French submarines

Four female naval officers have become the first to complete a mission on a French nuclear battle submarine after being barred from such work since the service was founded.

Named only with their forenames under security restrictions, Harmonie, Pauline, Camille and Karen, joined 110 male colleagues for a 70-day mission on Vigilant, based at Ile Longue, Finistère.

The Marine Nationale opened the way for women officers to join submarine crews in 2014 as, unlike the male crew, officers have their own private quarters with shower.

The four were among the first to sign up. Har­monie, Pauline and Camille hold the rank enseigne de vaisseau while Karen is a capitaine de corvette. Each is a specialist with Harmonie in charge of dive safety, Camille officer of the watch,  Pauline medic and Karen nuclear reactor specialist.

On Bastille Day Karen marched on the Champs-Elysées with some of the men of the Vigilant crew to mark the 500th patrol of France’s nuclear strike force since 1972.

France’s armed forces have 15% women, fourth in the world after Israel, Hungary and the US.

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