TWENTY five years ago, the families of Craven servicemen were heaving a huge sigh of relief with the end of the Gulf War. Here we look back on the conflict and some of those involved

IT was on February 28, 1991, that American President George Bush declared a ceasefire, marking the end of the Gulf War.

The conflict had started the previous August when Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein ordered the invasion and occupation of neighbouring Kuwait.

Alarmed by these actions, fellow Arab powers called on the United States and other Western nations to intervene.

Hussein retaliated, detaining hundreds of Westerners for use as human shields in an attempt to deter nations from participating in military operations against the country.

Among them was Bob Robinson, of Eastburn, who was seized by soldiers from his flat in Kuwait City. "I thought they were going to kill us," said Mr Robinson, who was taken to Baghdad and held in a military camp for nearly two months.

He was eventually released just before Christmas, 1990 - and was flown home to a rapturous welcome from his three daughters, Nataash, Kumari and Kirrin.

Two other Craveners also found themselves trapped in Kuwait.

Air stewardess Samantha Whitham, 24, from Draughton, spent an agonising two weeks holed up in friend's flat, before escaping across the border to Saudi Arabia, and former Barnoldswick man John Sellars, who had lived in Kuwait for 28 years, was forced to go into hiding for five months, before returning to Britain.

"I just hope he will be able to pick up the threads of his life. He has lost everything in Kuwait," said his mother, Doreen Kowalczyk. "It has been very worrying."

It had also been an anxious time for Craven families with loved ones in the Forces.

Flight Lieutenant Edward Stringer, 26, from Addingham, had a narrow escape when his Jaguar fighter plane was hit by enemy fire during a bombing raid and Skipton staff sergeant David Bates was hurt after being hit by a truck in Kuwait.

Sgt Bates, 37, who was with the Royal Artillery, suffered leg and back injuries and needed hospital treatment.

His mum, Sheila, told the Herald that she had heard the news just hours before the ceasefire was declared.

"I just feel sorry for those who have been killed and am glad all the fighting is over," she added.

The ceasefire also brought relief for Settle vicar Trevor Vaughan and his wife, Ann, whose 18-year-old son, Bart, was a gunner in the Royal Artillery, and had been in the Gulf since New Year's Eve.

"Fighting has come to a halt and I hope things will progress from there. We will be celebrating when Bart comes home."

In an earlier interview, Father Vaughan had told the Craven Herald that while his son was good spirits, he was not his usual effervescent self.

Peggy Mulligan, of Embsay, said she would not believe the war was over until her son, Chris, a tank commander attached to the First Armoured Division, walked through the door.

Over the past few weeks, she had tried to boost the morale of the troops by sending out home-baked date and walnut cakes.

She said: "The worst thing about him being there is not knowing what is happening. I keep writing, hoping he is getting my letters and parcels, but it would be lovely to hear from him and know he is all right."

Skipton woman Norma Jessop, 48, was waiting to hear from her son, Adrian, who had been seconded to the 1st Staffordshire Regiment from the Prince of Wales' Own Regiment.

"We used to get letters about once a week, but they haven't been coming in the last few weeks. If I could just hear from him I would be happy, even if it's a only a few lines."

Addingham mum Joyce Henderson was shocked to see her fighter-pilot son being interviewed by an ITN television crew out in the Gulf.

Her son, Martin Stephens, 28, flew Tornados with RAF's 43 Squadron and was being quizzed about the capture of some Allied forces pilots, which he described as unfortunate. Joyce said she was trying to be optimistic.

The end of the war could not come soon enough for Sutton Royal Marine Commando Andrew Clayton. He wanted to return home to see his newborn son, Jason, a brother for 13-month-old Sam.

News of the arrival of the 8lb 10oz baby boy was faxed over to Andrew, who rang back two days later to say he was well and was looking forward to seeing the latest member of the family.

Commenting on the ceasefire, his wife, Fiona, said: "I am just relieved and glad the war is over. I have tried to keep it out of my mind, but it has been awful."

Dorothy Jobling, of Horton-in-Ribblesdale, said she felt numb by the news that the war was over. Her son, Carl Brandwood, was with the 14/20 Hussars and was posted to the Gulf just days after marrying German sweetheart Doris Hübbe.

"There's still a long way to go. There will be mopping up to do and things to sort out. It is early days, but I am relieved at the news."

Among the first to arrive back home was Skipton solider Brian Underwood, who served with the Prince of Wales' Own Regiment and had taken part in the ground fighting with the 7th Armoured Brigade - the Desert Rats.

"It was always in my mind that I might get shot and that was frightening, but, on the whole, everyone's spirits were kept high although we had some ups and downs," he said. "The waiting about and not knowing when the war was going to start was the worst."

Also fighting with the Desert Rats was Edward Styles, of Skipton, a colour sergeant in the Staffordshire Regiment.

He paid tribute to the people of Craven for their support during the crisis and said his life had been made much easier by the cards, letters and parcels he had received from back home. Among them was a message from class eight at Skipton's Parish Church School.