WHEN Jade Whitby and Laura Buckle took to the streets to demonstrate their support for British forces in the Gulf, they were marching for love.

Jade's boyfriend of six months, Matt Goodman, has been with the Marines in the region since January, and Laura's boyfriend of five months, James Whitby, who is also Jade's brother, is to fly out to join his RAF squadron there on Monday.

College of York St John students Jade, 21, and Laura, 20, were among 20 students who marched through York city centre yesterday in a demonstration of support for servicemen and women involved in the war against Iraq.

Feeling frustrated with the anti-war protests and negative publicity, the girls rallied their friends and took to the streets in a bid to raise the troops' morale.

Laura, from Scarborough, who helped organise the event, said: "All they ever hear about out there is the anti-war protests.

"We want them to hear something positive, to hear how much we support them and that the country they're fighting for is behind them."

Jade said James, 25, an RAF corporal who provides ground security and is normally based at RAF Lossiemouth, had been to Kuwait before, but added: "It's hard now it's different circumstances. I write as often as I can, they seem to appreciate that a lot. They need to know we support them."

Matt, 21, has been given a mobile phone, but since war broke out has not been able to use it often. Jade, from Kettering, has not received all of his letters, but her letters have reached him regularly.

The girls, who have other friends in the Gulf, have used college computers to check internet news updates and search for photos.

Laura said: "I'm very worried. I'm going to be constantly scouring the TV in case I catch a glimpse of James. He's not worried at all, but he's trained not to be.

"I understand why he's got to go but now I just want us all to be able to support them."

The protest left the Students' Union at 1pm and marched through York with banners reading "remember your roots, support the troops", and chanted "Saddam is a tyrant, support our troops".

The protest finished at York Minster.

Updated: 10:56 Saturday, April 05, 2003