Task Force

From Merchant Ship to Aircraft Carrier

Three weeks after sailing, Conveyor rendezvoused with the British Task Force operating off the Falkland Islands and flew off all her Harriers to the real aircraft carriers HMS Hermes and HMS Invincible. This gave the fleet sufficient air power to support troop landings which commenced immediately afterwards.

Atlantic Conveyor had completed her mission as a jet ferry, but her flight decks had proved their worth and, rather than being sent off into a safe holding zone, Conveyor was adopted into the heart of the fleet where her heavy duty helicopters were used to move stores, spare parts and munitions between the ships. For a few days, the illusion became reality when even senior naval officers started referring to Conveyor as Britain's third aircraft carrier.

But Atlantic Conveyor was not a warship. Her decks were designed for easy access rather than the limitation of damage she was not able to detect, let alone engage, attacking aircraft or to attempt deflection of missiles all of which contributed to her destruction.

Towards dusk on 25th May 1982, Conveyor was operating in close line abreast with HMS Hermes and the RFA Regent using her helicopters to carry out final transfers before she headed in to San Carlos overnight to offload her aircraft and stores, including a tended city and runway equipment for use ashore. It was then that a pair of Argentinian Etendard aircraft were detected approaching the Task Force from the north-east.The pilots spotted aircraft carrier sized targets on their radars and launched two of their country's last remaining Exocet missiles at the largest one, the British Flagship HMS Hermes. British escort vessels launched chaff and fired munitions in an attempt to deflect or destroy the missiles, but they kept coming. Following the latest MoD guidance, the Captain of Hermes turned his ship's bows to the missiles to reduce the size of her radar profile whilst Conveyor's Captain, oblivious to the direction of the attack, but in receipt of urgent orders from the Flagship turned towards a course that would leave her side on to the approaching missiles. A few miles out, the missiles were observed to change direction and lock on to Conveyor sealing her fate. Despite the heroic efforts of her crew, fires quickly spread through Conveyor's open decks aided by burning missile propellant and her flammable cargo.