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The loss of Atlantic Conveyor

The burnt out hull of Atlantic Conveyor
The burnt out hull of Atlantic Conveyor

The Cunard Roll-on/Roll-off container ship Atlantic Conveyor was taken up from trade and converted to serve as an aircraft transport.  To do so containers were used to provide the necessary services for embarked aircraft and their attached personnel.  A particular feature was the use of containers to create a sheltered area to protect the aircraft from the worst of the weather.  The ship embarked 8 Sea Harriers, 6 Harriers GR3s, 8 Wessex 5 helicopters and 5 Chinook helicopters.

On 25 May Atlantic Conveyor was with the task group east of the Falklands.  A pair of Argentine Super Etendard aircraft carrying Exocet missiles attacked the British ships.  One missile was directed at one of the frigates which deployed distracting metal strips (Chaff).  The Chaff did its job and the missile flew on having lost its original target.  It then acquired Atlantic Conveyor which was hit on the port quarter, starting huge fires.  This led to the eventual abandonment of the ship and 12 men were lost.  The loss of 3 Wessex and 3 Chinooks was very significant as they reduced greatly the intended mobility of British land forces in the planned campaign to move from San Carlos to Stanley.