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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 March, 2003, 15:43 GMT
'Fear and pride' of anxious relatives
US and British troops preparing to take shelter during Iraqi missile threat in Kuwaiti
Many relatives are anxious of the threat of chemical attacks

While British troops await the start of their involvement in the attacks on Iraq, their relatives keep an anxious vigil at home.

So-called "limited" strikes began against the Iraqi capital early on Thursday morning, with action so far being carried out by US forces.

With British troops massed at the border with Iraq awaiting orders, their relatives back home are dealing with the mixture of feelings - pride and worry for the safety of their loved ones.

Just before the war began, British troops were warned by Lieutenant Colonel Tim Collins, commander of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish, that some may not make it back home.

'Job to be done'

"There may be people among us who will not see the end of this campaign," he said.

Pensioner William Ralph, from Shorne, near Higham, Kent, has three members of his family involved in the action.

The 74-year-old has high regard for his sons Kevin, 42, and Andrew, 38, who are in Kuwait alongside his grandson William Ford, 29.

He said: "I am very proud of them. I have got posters in the window and we are all behind what they are doing. It is something that has got to be done."

But he is also conscious of the dangers each of them face, he said.

Kevin - a reservist, from Kent - had been called up to serve with the 7th Armoured Brigade (the Desert Rats) while Andrew was a logistics soldier based in Germany, who was with the 7th Transport Regiment in the Gulf.

His grandson William, based at Maidstone, who worked with a bomb disposal team while on duty in Bosnia, was serving with the Royal Engineers.

It has been very emotional - it has started and there is no going back
Dorothy Garnett, sergeant's mother

"All I could tell them was to look after themselves and say that I would see them soon," he said.

"That is all you can do really, you are just sat here and can't do anything about it. You just have to hope it is all over and done with quite soon."

He has his own memories of World War II, but he adds.

"Saddam is far more ruthless, especially with these chemical weapons he has."

Mr Ralph, who also has great grandchildren, said war was placing stress on other members of his family, including Andrew's wife in Germany and on William's mother and called on the public to back the troops.

American woman comforts her daughter
The mixed emotions of our children has caught us on the hop
Deborah Cubbin

For Deborah Cubbin, the war is closer to home than for most Britons.

She lives on a base in Brawdy, Wales, with her two anxious children, Harry, eight and Eloise who is three, while husband Peter serves in the Gulf.

"Nightmares have become much more common now Daddy's away," she told BBC News Online.

She is trying to set up a support group at her base for mothers in a similar position.

At RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland Wing Commander David Bye said the RAF has been ensuring that families of personnel in service in the Gulf were being updated on developments.

'Emotional'

He said: "What we've arranged to do is to give a lot more briefings now to keep the families updated on exactly what's happening. So we've gone to two briefings a day from our normal one a week.

"All the wives are aware that when they come in we'll give them the normal welfare support but I will obviously add on the latest intelligence as well."

In Llay near Wrexham, the parents of Michael Garnett, a staff sergeant in the Second Battalion Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers based at Camp Coyote in Kuwait, spoke of their reactions to the first strikes.

"It has been very emotional, it has started and there is no going back," said mother Dorothy.

"I just pray Michael and his other soldiers are going to be alright."

She said she worries about germ warfare and even the heat her son will face in the desert.

Sergeant Garnett's father John - who fought in the deserts of Egypt in 1942 - said he knew how his son would be feeling, but remained sure of success.

"I feel confident they will be successful in this campaign," he said.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Rob Parsons
"Huge numbers of US and British troops have moved into the demilitarised zone"


Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon
"This attack wasn't a surprise to us at all"



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