On February 16, an army husband and wife made British military history when the wife passed on her responsibility as the commanding officer to her husband. The wife and husband we are talking about here are Lt. Col. Gill Wilkinson and Lt. Col. Alan Wilkinson. The two of them have become the highest ranking married couple to follow each other in command.
They met each other when they were studying at Dundee University in Scotland. Gill, who is originally from Northern Ireland, was studying English, whereas Alan, who is from Stow, was studying Economic Finance there. The two got married to each other in the year 1998, and are now parents of two teenage children.
Gill joined the Army in 1994, a year after her husband, but quit when her two kids were born. She joined the Army Reserve again in 2003, and became the commanding officer in 2014. She was in charge of her unit for the next two and a half years, which is also the longest time that someone has served in that position.
While speaking with The Southern Reporter, she said,
I’ve had a fantastic time commanding 154 (Scottish) Regiment RLC. We have lots of family connections – fathers and sons serving, and husbands and wives. This is unusual though, a couple handing over command of a regiment, but the advantage for me is that I will be able to keep an eye on the regiment in the future.
Alan was also in the Army before he joined the Army Reserve. When Gill was given the responsibility of commanding officer, he immediately took over the responsibility of being the main carer for their children. While talking to BBC, Alan said,
We have worked closely together throughout our careers in the Army. I was in the fortunate position of being able to speak to Gill in the months before about it, so it only took about four days to handover.
Speaking about the opportunities for women in the Army, Gill told BBC,
When I joined the Royal Logistic Corps, it was because it offered, as far as I was concerned, the greatest opportunity to do the same job as men were doing. I think that, ever since I joined the Army, it has been increasing, with more and more opportunities opening up.
Switching over their roles again, Gill, who considers it a privilege to have worked as a commanding officer, is really looking forward to stepping back. She is now going to be working part-time in the Army Reserve. Meanwhile, Alan is elated about taking up this new responsibility.