THE father of a North soldier serving in Iraq welcomed yesterday's Government announcement that families will now be able to send packages free of charge to their loved ones.

Syd Worgan heard from his son, Peter, for the first time since the conflict started in a 4am phone call yesterday to say he was safe.

Peter, 21, from Tow Law, County Durham, is serving with the First Battalion Light Infantry, and has been on the front line at Basra.

Mr Worgan, 58, said: "It was such a relief to hear from him. We knew that the battalion was taking a cell phone into the battlezone so that the lads and lasses could call home, and someone has been staying in the house all the time.

"Colour Sergeant Paul Grant, who is at the family liaison office, in Germany, has been a fantastic support and has kept us in touch with what is going on."

Mr Worgan and his partner, Marion, have been sending parcels to their son throughout the conflict.

Residents at Baring Court, which is sheltered accommodation for the elderly, have also put parcels together to send to Peter.

Mr Worgan said: "Peter used to go and visit his grandmother there after school, and they wanted to do something for him. He was so grateful when we spoke to him.

"The free postal service means so much. Both Marion and I work full-time, so we are able to pay the postage, but not everybody can afford it."

Yesterday, Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram said the service will start on Thursday and is aimed at family and friends of troops.

He said: "While we are sure that the troops will appreciate this support, we would ask families not to overload the system."