Last Voyage

Atlantic Conveyor's Last Voyage

2. Plymouth to the British Exclusion Zone

25th April - 1st May, 1982

En route to Freetown, most of the embarked helicopters on fore and aft decks were mothballed in protective coatings and stored near the superstructure to make room for taking on Harriers. Trial refuelling at sea was carried out with the Royal Fleet Auxilliary Grey Rover.

2nd May

Conveyor arrived in Freetown, Sierra Lione to refuel, where the crew learn of the sinking of the Argentine cruiser Belgrano by the nuclear submarine HMS Conqueror. British mariners used to peace began to realise lives were now at stake. No shore leave was granted.

3nd May

The ship departed south for a fast passage to Ascension Island.

4th May

News reached Conveyor that HMS Sheffield had been sunk by a dreaded French-made Exocet missile launched from an Argentine jet, retaliation for Belgarano.

5th May

Conveyor anchored off Ascension Island and some of the crew went ashore. One Chinook was flown off. 8 Sea Harriers and 6 GR3 RAF Harriers were flown on.

7th - 19th May

Whilst Conveyor headed south in company with the amphibious landing group, the ship was overflown by Russian Bear aircraft which took photographs of the aircraft on deck. The convoy was also under satellite surveillance. All but one of the Harriers were mothballed against the weather, the remaining aircraft kept ready on the forward flight deck in case it was needed for defence.

The medical team and their first aiders rehearsed casualty clearing scenarios from all around the ship .

News reached Conveyor of reconnaissance patrols being undertaken by an Argentine passenger jet that had been converted into a spy plane. MoD approval was given to try and shoot the spy plane down. On 2 occasions, the countdown to launch was started and then abandoned with a minute to go. If the mission had gone ahead, it would have required the attacking Harrier to immediately refuel from tanker aircraft positioned overhead before making the strike. If successful, it would have been the first use of jump jet strike aircraft from a civilian ship.