Liverpool to commemorate 40-year anniversary of Falklands loss

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Liverpool is to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the loss of the Cunard and ACL owned and Liverpool-registered Atlantic Conveyor in the Falklands conflict, in which 12 people died.

In 1982, a South Atlantic Task Force of merchant ships – including Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth 2 and Atlantic Conveyor – joined the UK Government mission to regain control of the British Overseas Territory of Falkland Islands after an invasion by Argentine forces.

At the time, Cunard formed part of a consortium owning and operating the Atlantic Conveyor and her sister Atlantic Causeway, which was also deployed in the Task Force, with Cunard crew volunteering to sail and serve on each ship.

Atlantic Conveyor served as a logistics support vessel transporting aircraft, aircrew and supplies to the war zone and sailed from its homeport of Liverpool.

It was struck by two Exocet missiles on 25 May 1982, as final preparations were being made on board QE2 for the transfer of more than 3,000 British troops and their kit at Cumberland Bay, South Georgia, in readiness for landings on the Falklands.

The dead included her Master Captain Ian North DSC and five other Cunard personnel. It was the first British Merchant Navy loss in conflict since WW2.

The commemoration in Liverpool takes place on Wednesday 25 May and will also recognise the wider role of the Merchant Navy in the South Atlantic Task Force.

At 9:15am, a service will take place at the Merchant Navy Memorial at the Pier Head, led by the Rector of Liverpool, the Reverend Canon Dr Crispin Pailing, attended by the Lord Mayor, civic dignitaries and representatives from Atlantic Container Line, Cunard, the South Atlantic Medal Association and the Falklands Islands government.

Later, at 10:30am, a Service of Remembrance will take place at Liverpool Parish Church, and at the Atlantic Conveyor Memorial outside the church. It is being live streamed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Yvf3ZZnXMU

Members of the public are welcome to attend both services.

Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Cllr Mary Rasmussen, said: “Liverpool has a proud history of playing a key role in supporting all of our Armed Forces during conflicts, and the Falklands was no exception.

“The 40th anniversary of the attack on the Atlantic Conveyor is an opportunity for us to reflect on the selfless sacrifice made by the Cunard crew who volunteered to be part of the mission, as well as the Merchant Navy personnel who lost their lives.

“Even though this tragedy took place four decades ago, conflicts and wars remain an ever-present danger.”

Andrew J. Abbott, President & CEO of ACL, said: “I boarded the Atlantic Conveyor many times during the late ‘70’s while she was berthed in New York for cargo operations. I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Captain North on multiple occasions for ship parties and staff training sessions. He was the quintessential British sea captain: an expert on every aspect of his ship, close to all of his officers and crew, always helpful, always witty, always professional. I remember the shock I felt the day we learned we had lost him and so many of his crew. I remember the shock I felt to learn that the Conveyor had gone down.

“It is one thing to read about events in history books, but the impact is different when you knew the people and walked the ship. Let us always remember and honour these brave men who lost their lives forty years ago. Their country called and they answered. May they rest in peace.”

Angus Struthers, Senior Vice President, Cunard, said: “Service to the nation is embedded in Cunard’s 182-year timeline.

“Our ships – and their crews who volunteered to sail on them – as part of the South Atlantic Task Force 40 years ago, played a significant part in the Falklands Campaign.

“The attack on the Liverpool ship Atlantic Conveyor on 25 May 1982, and its loss with six Cunard crew and six service personnel was the first sinking of a British Merchant ship in action since World War 2.

“It is entirely fitting that we return to the Conveyor’s homeport, and Cunard’s spiritual home at Liverpool, to mark this important anniversary of lives lost in service.”

Dr Gordon Brooks Ex Medical Officer, Atlantic Conveyor, who was on board the vessel at the time, said: “Although the Atlantic Conveyor was requisitioned to transport Harriers to the front line, planners soon saw the potential for trying something new. By the time her brave volunteer merchant crew took her out of Plymouth with a tri-service military party on board, she’d been transformed into a makeshift merchant aircraft carrier, stuffed with stores and munitions, that could refuel, arm, launch, recover and repair rotary and fixed-wing aircraft.

“Despite the myriad problems resulting from her breakneck conversion, her two crews worked together with humour, initiative, and resilience to solve them right through to the final conflagration and misery of her abandonment. It was my privilege and honour to serve alongside such men. On this anniversary, I remember those I tried to save, the heroes who didn’t return, and my thoughts go out to those who still carry the burden of what befell them all those years ago.”

Rector of Liverpool, the Reverend Canon Dr Crispin Pailing, said: “The Falklands Conflict is a moment in our lifetime, but it had a profound effect on so many people and we mourn many lives lost, including from this city.

“It is a privilege to host this commemoration, but we also celebrate the commitment which led to the forming of a taskforce to liberate islanders from the oppression of an invading force.”

Liverpool Waterfront