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War decorated soldier woman in beauty battle


London : Tunbridge Wells regularly keeps a date with history-makers. It was Kapil the Devil in 1983. It is Barbie the Soldier this year.

The British town where Kapil Dev made history with the bat in the Prudential World Cup match against Zimbabwe by scoring 175 not out is now in the news for a local student-turned soldier, who may earn a distinction Friday night.

The soldier, decorated for her bravery in Iraq, is among the favourites tipped to win Friday’s Miss England pageant. L/Cpl Katrina Hodge, 21, is competing against 50 other regional winners at the final in London, reports The Independent and BBC.

L/Cpl Hodge, nicknamed “Combat Barbie” by her comrades in the Royal Anglian Regiment, served in Basra for seven months in 2005. She was entered into the competition by a friend.

The 5 feet 8 inches soldier, who joined up after leaving school in Kent’s Tunbridge Wells at 16, said: “Being a part-time model and a serving soldier is certainly a world apart. I want to use this competition to highlight the work that the army are doing and what they have done for this country.”

She won a bravery commendation for saving the lives of members of her regiment in Iraq in 2005. They were held at gunpoint when their vehicle overturned but L/Cpl Hodge punched the gunman and took his rifles.

She said: “I was in complete shock at first. The force of the accident caused our vehicle to roll over three times and threw us off guard. As I came round, the Iraqi suspect was standing over us with the rifles. I knew if I didn’t act fast then our lives would be in danger.

“I punched him and the force startled him enough for me to retrieve the rifles from him,” she added.

She is now a military clerk with The Adjutant General’s Corps and wants to encourage more women to join the armed forces.

“I’m doing this (the contest) because I want to promote the image of women in the army. If you say you’re a woman and you’re in the army, people look at you as if you’re deranged. People think you must be mad to take pride in your work, but I’m unashamed about being patriotic.”

If she wins the English title, she will go on to represent the country at Miss World 2008.