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Atlantic Conveyor - May 25th 1982

MV Atlantic Conveyor en route southThe Atlantic Conveyor was a British merchant navy ship that was requisitioned during the Falklands War and sunk by an Exocet missile. Owned by Cunard, the 14,950 tonne roll-on, roll-off container ship was built along with six other container ships each named Atlantic and flown under different national flags for different companies.

Along with her sister ship, Atlantic Causeway, the Atlantic Conveyor was requisitioned by the Ministry of Defence at the beginning of the Falklands War through the STUFT system (Ships Taken Up From Trade). The ships were to be used to carry supplies for the British Task Force sent by the British government to retake the Falkland Islands from Argentine occupation. Sailing for Ascension Island on 25 April 1982, the ship carried a cargo of six Wessex helicopters from 848 Naval Air Squadron and five RAF HC.1 Chinooks from No. 18 Squadron RAF. At Ascension, she picked up eight Fleet Air Arm Sea Harriers (809 Squadron) and six RAF Harrier GR.3 jump jets, while one Chinook was removed for maintenance, and then set sail for the South Atlantic. On arrival off the Falklands in mid-May, the Harriers were off-loaded to the carriers; the GR.3s going to HMS Hermes while the Sea Harriers were divided amongst the existing squadrons on Hermes and HMS Invincible.

Atlantic Conveyor as seen from Tug IrishmanOn May 25, 1982 the Atlantic Conveyor was hit by an Exocet missile fired by an Argentine Super Étendard jet fighter. The ship caught fire, the fire then became uncontrollable. When the fire had burnt out, the ship was boarded but nothing was recoverable and so the decision was made to sink her. It is unclear whether the missile's warhead detonated — some speculate that the Exocet that struck HMS Sheffield did not explode — but the ship was set alight by the impact of the missile and the unburnt rocket fuel. All the helicopters but one Chinook, callsign Bravo November airborne at the time, were destroyed in the fire. The loss of these helicopters meant that British troops had to march across the Falklands to capture Stanley.

Twelve men died upon the Atlantic Conveyor, including the vessel's commander, Captain Ian North, who was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. The ship was the first British merchant vessel lost at sea to enemy fire since World War II.

It is often suggested that cost savings prevented the fitting of chaff rockets to Atlantic Conveyor and that this would have saved the ship. However, the size of the ship's radar cross section (RCS) was too great to allow decoys to be effective and their employment would have been unlikely to have affected the outcome. It has also been claimed - incorrectly - that the ship acted as a decoy against a subsequent Exocet attack.

Roll of Honour

Merchant Navy
* Bosun John B. Dobson
* Mechanic Frank Foulkes
* Steward David R. S. Hawkins
* Mechanic James Hughes
* Captain Ian H. North, D.S.C.
* Seaman Chan Chi Shing
* Mechanic Ernest M. Vickers

Royal Fleet Auxiliary
* 1st Radio Officer Ronald Hoole
* Seaman Ng Por

Royal Navy
* Chief Petty Officer Edmund Flanagan
* Air Engineering Mechanic (R) Adrian J. Anslow
* Leading Air Engineering Mechanic (L) Don L. Price