YORK-based soldiers have already flown out to the Gulf to make preparations for a possible war with Iraq, the Evening Press can reveal today.

A handful of signallers from 2 Signal Regiment, based at Imphal Barracks, in Fulford Road, have been among the first British troops to arrive in Kuwait as part of the military build-up for possible operations.

The team is an advanced party which is mainly involved in setting up communications links from the Gulf state back to the UK, and will also be paving the way for the arrival of hundreds of soldiers from 2 Signal Regiment, should they be deployed.

As yet no official announcement has been made about the deployment of about 480 of the regiment's personnel, who are currently on standby.

But on Friday, 80 of their vehicles, many of which are mobile digital exchanges, which form part of the Army's state-of-the-art communications system, were driven to Marchwood Military Port, in Hampshire, to be shipped to the Gulf.

The regiment will provide crucial trunk communications and operating systems for the UK's 30,000-strong land force, which is being deployed to the Gulf under Operation Telic, as well as for other allied forces.

One part of this is the military equivalent of a secure mobile phone network.

The signallers will provide not only communications, information systems and satellite communications for the various units in the field, but also communications for other national headquarters outside the Gulf.

The regiment, whose members sport their trademark crossed keys badge on their uniforms, have served in Bosnia, Kosovo, the Falkland Islands, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan in the last few years.

During York's disaster floods of November, 2000, members of the regiment worked around the clock to bolster flood defences with sandbags, and won the Freedom Of The City for the efforts after they were nominated by the Evening Press.

Updated: 12:10 Monday, February 03, 2003