A ship that was built on the Tyne for the Cunard Steam-Ship Co, of Liverpool, to replace one that was lost in the Falklands War of 1982 has arrived at Alang, in India, to be broken up over 30 years after entering service.
On Apr 2, 1982, Argentina had invaded the British Falkland Islands and a number of merchant ships were requisitioned by the Ministry of Defence to carry men, equipment, and supplies to the South Atlantic as part of the large Task Force sent to recapture the Islands.
The roll-on,roll-off container ship Atlantic Conveyor, 14,950grt, was one of four Cunard Line ships that were requisitioned. She was operated in the Atlantic Container Line (ACL) consortium between northern Europe and Canada and the United States.
In just four days at Devonport Dockyard, the Atlantic Conveyor was adapted to carry 15 RAF Harrier GR3 aircraft and she sailed from Plymouth on Apr 25 for the South Atlantic. The ship, under the command of Captain Ian North, carried Chinook and Wessex helicopters.
On May 25, Argentine National Day, the Task Force planned to send the Atlantic Conveyor with two other ships into San Carlos Water to unload. The ship had spent the day with the Battle Group.
Late that afternoon, two Argentine Navy Super Etendard aircraft fired two Exocet missiles towards the Battle Group. One missile hit the Atlantic Conveyor on the port quarter, and penetrated to the vehicle deck. It failed to explode, but started fierce fires.
With the fires spreading out of control towards a store containing bombs, the ship was abandoned less than 40 minutes after she was hit. Three of the crew died in the initial attack, and a further nine, including Captain North, died in the water.
The next day, the flames reached the ammunition store and a huge explosion blew off the ship’s bows. She was taken in tow, but three days after being hit, the ship sank.