ALDERSHOT families felt a mixture of emotions this week as they learnt the identities of the two British soldiers killed in combat.

Relief that it was not their own son, husband or father to have perished. Sadness at the knowledge that elsewhere families are grieving for their loss.

But, despite this news, it remains an anxious time for those waiting for news on the two soldiers who went missing in southern Iraq three days ago.

The convoy in which the men were travelling dispersed when they came under attack. They have not been seen since Sunday.

An MoD spokeswoman said it was hoped the men had taken cover and were now making their way to rejoin their unit.

Members of the formerly Aldershot-based Parachute Regiment have also been in the thick of the action.

Troops from 3 Para had to battle against a sandstorm and later torrential rain when a fighting patrol was sent into Iraqi-held territory.

In total darkness, troops on foot supported by light vehicles attacked an Iraqi forward observation post.

One Iraqi was killed and five were taken as prisoners. There were no British casualties.

Reports of a civilian uprising against Iraqi troops in Basra could signal the end of heavy fighting in the region.

If so, the next key stage of the operation will be to get humanitarian aid to the people there.

Many British units will be involved in taking over the railway lines to ensure the swift delivery of aid parcels, which include food, water and basic medical supplies.

As the battle for Baghdad continues, Aldershot MP Gerald Howarth expressed sorrow for the families of those who died in the Gulf, but added the campaign had so far been a success.

He said: "The loss of life of any of our servicemen and women is a tragedy for all those concerned, not just their families but also the units concerned.

"But, bringing in the Falklands campaign, we lost 255 men, and people will remember the loss of whole ships then.

"Given the number of sorties that there have been in terms of air strikes, given the extent of the penetration of the country by ground forces it's been an significant achievement so far.

"But people have to be prepared as this is a conflict with some difficult times ahead."

With that in mind 38 army chaplains are lending their spiritual and moral support to troops in the Gulf.

Senior Roman Catholic Chaplain of 4 Div, Fr Steve Alker, emphasised the important role of religion at times of conflict.

"When you are in the army you often wish that you were out there among the troops. But our role in the church is very important, both as moral and spiritual support.

"I have been in contact with some of the chaplains out there and they have been telling me that danger focuses mind. It makes young people aware of their vulnerability.

"The troops are far more likely and willing to speak of their fears to a chaplain, rather than their fellow soldiers."

In Aldershot too, garrison staff are working to support families left behind.

Coffee mornings have been set up at the garrison, allowing wives and loved ones to meet and lend each other support.

Fr Alker added: "It is a time of great anxiety among the families and the troops who have remained in the UK, and they all have the right to have our support.

"The wives and loved ones must not feel isolated. It is important that they feel able to ring us for support at any time."