EIGHTY Army vehicles set off on the first leg of their journey to the Gulf yesterday in preparation for any war against Iraq.

Land Rovers and four-tonne trucks carrying specialist communications equipment left from Worsley Barracks, in York, and headed to Marchwood Port, Southampton Water.

The vehicles from 2 Signal Regiment are part of the UK military contingency preparations.

This deployment of a substantial land force was announced by the Secretary of State for Defence, Geoff Hoon MP earlier this week. He emphasised that no decision to commit troops to military action had been made.

An Army spokesman said: "A total of 150 vehicles from York have been earmarked for deployment, although we don't know yet when the second lot will go."

He added: "These vehicles will set sail to the Gulf on Sunday and be set up over there in case the soldiers themselves are deployed at a later date."