FORTY soldiers left York today for the Gulf as conflict with Iraq looms ever closer.

The party is among about 500 members of 2 Signal Regiment, based at Imphal Barracks in Fulford Road, who are being deployed to the Middle East.

More than 400 soldiers have departed over the past couple of weeks, with the remainder set to leave in coming days. About a fifth are Gurkhas.

A fleet of 80 communications vehicles was shipped out from York earlier this month and has now reached the Gulf, and the soldiers flying out today on a military plane will be re-united with their equipment in an undisclosed country.

Their role in any war would be to provide crucial communications and operating systems for the UK's 30,000-strong land force, as well as for other allied forces.

The troops went through final checks at Imphal yesterday, as staff ensured they had the necessary identity discs, identity cards, passports, immunisation certificates and other documentation.

The cards contained basic details, such as name, serial number, religion and date of birth.

They were also issued with American dollars, which they will use to buy goods while out in the Gulf.

One of the soldiers who went through the checks and will be flying out today is Craftsman Bruce Commons, 21, who is based at the Signal Regiment's REME (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) workshops at Imphal, and will be providing support to Signallers out in the Gulf.

He lives in married quarters at Strensall with his 20-year-old wife Donna and their baby Jordan, who is two in April.

"I have said "Goodbye," he said. "It wasn't too bad, as we have known it has been coming. We are not the only ones in these circumstances. The whole street is in the same boat."

He said he did not yet know what his role would be in the Gulf. But after receiving training in various fields, he could provide support to mechanics, work in environmental health or possibly in radio operating.

Signaller Robert Brown, 24, who has previously seen service in Kosovo, said he did not really have any feelings about the mission he was about to undertake. "We are going out there to do a job we have been trained to do. We are ready and prepared."

Not all the regiment members heading for the Gulf are men - some 70 or 80 are women.

Updated: 11:10 Friday, February 28, 2003