MARGARET WELBURN knows only too well the anxiety of service families in wartime. The York mother has not one but two sons who are fighting in the Gulf.

She is so concerned for Russell, 22, and Nicholas, 25, that she sometimes cannot bring herself to watch the TV news.

She was proud when her third son, Jonathan - who also plans to join the army next year - showed support for his two brothers by painting a Union Flag on a sheet and tying it up at the roadside.

So she was shocked to find that within 24 hours of the flag being tied to a signpost in York Road, near the junction with the York Outer Ring Road, it had been torn down and taken away.

"I was really very upset to think some people would take it away, and so was Jonathan," said Mrs Welburn, of Meadow Lane, Haxby.

She did not know who had taken down the flag, but wondered if anti-war protesters were responsible.

"We live in a democratic society, and everybody is entitled to express their opinion. We are in Iraq to try to create a democracy for the Iraqis," she said.

She said the flag was not intended to make a political message about the war, but to show support for the British troops who were out there, including Russell, who is a Corporal with the Paras in the 16 Air Assault Brigade, and Nicholas, who is a Sapper with the Royal Engineers.

Jonathan, who had painted the words "Support Our Troops" across the flag, said he had expected the flag to stay up as long as the war continued and was shocked to hear it had been taken down at teatime on Tuesday. "It must have taken some time to get it down as it was very securely tied up," he said.

"I did it because you feel so useless sitting at home. I wanted to do something to show I was supporting them."

He was now considering making another flag, if he could find a visible but secure location where it could not be taken down.

Meanwhile, Mrs Welburn is continuing to fly another Union Flag from the roof of her home, and is also displaying pictures of her sons out in the desert, taken when they had managed to meet up in Kuwait before the conflict began.

She added that Nicholas had said he and other troops would find it a real morale booster to receive letters from young women back at home. She asked anyone wanting to write to send a "bluey" - a type of air mail letter available at the Post Office - to her at 19 Meadow Lane, Haxby, and she would forward them.