Midland soldiers who are about to leave for Iraq gave mixed reactions to being sent on the tour yesterday.

About 500 members of the infantry unit of the 1st Battalion, the Staffordshire Regiment, are being deployed to join thousands of British soldiers in the troubled country.

The commanding officer and some of his fellow soldiers said they were anxious to help bring order to Iraq.

Lt Col Tim Sandiford also dismissed reports that soldiers were leaving the Army to avoid being sent there.

He said that 34 of his soldiers had applied to leave the Army since the latest Iraq tour – the battalion’s second in two years – was announced, but that 38 others had withdrawn their applications to leave, or postponed them until after the tour.

He said: "The confirmation of a short tour interval did not see us put the bunting out, but neither was it greeted with a collapse of morale or mass resignations."

Lt Col Sandiford said the army should only pull out of Iraq when British forces had completed their job of making a positive difference to the country.

He said: "We have to continue to re-evaluate what we are doing and what we are achieving throughout, and we do that as a matter of course."

Private Dan Roberts, aged 18, from Shelfield in Walsall, joined the army two years ago but was too young to join the battalion on the last tour.

He said: "There are some people who do not want to go out, but morale is pretty high."

But there was concern about the mission among some of the soldiers. Corporal John Grazier, aged 35, said he felt it was time to pull out of Iraq.

Cpl Grazier, from Rugeley, said: "Someone had to say what (head of the army General Sir Richard) Dannatt said. It’s been a long time coming.

"We shouldn’t be there, we’ve had long enough to get things back to normal. It’s about time we came home."

The battalion will begin deployment this week.