YELLOW ribbons have begun appearing in North Yorkshire - and they will not be removed until our troops have returned from Iraq.

But "blueys" - special air mail letters used by relatives to write to British servicemen in the Gulf - have run out at York's main post office.

The tradition of wearing yellow ribbons and tying them round trees, to remember loved ones far away, comes from America.

It may go back as far as the American Civil War, but it became very popular during the Iran hostage crisis of 1979 and again during the Gulf War of 1991.

Now relatives of British servicemen serving in Iraq have begun marking their absence by tying ribbons to trees, and also to their lapels.

Frances Ellerker, of Shipton-by-Beningbrough, near York, whose son Daniel is in Iraq, said strangers had knocked at her door and asked if they could tie white and yellow ribbons to a tree which stands in her front garden.

"The white is for hope and the yellow is to say we are waiting for our boy to come home," said Mrs Ellerker.

She said she had also bought yards of yellow ribbon in York to make little ribbon symbols to attach to her clothing, and to give to other members of the family, including her daughter, Anna.

Haberdashers Duttons for Buttons, in Coppergate, York, said they had sold yellow ribbon to a number of customers for this purpose.

The "blueys" are supplied free of charge by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to servicemen's families, who can post them without stamps to their relatives in the Gulf.

York's main post office in Lendal said it had originally had 1,000 "blueys" available, but they had all gone now.

An assistant said she hoped they would get more in next week.

The MoD said people could obtain "blueys" from a relative's unit, or from the army welfare services, as well as the Post Office.

A spokeswoman said that anybody with access to the internet could use the "e-bluey", an electronic "bluey", by logging on to

Updated: 11:38 Wednesday, April 02, 2003