ON THIS DAY: 1982: First Doncaster victim of Falklands War dies in missile attack

Doncaster was in mourning 34 years ago today as the Falklands War claimed the town's first victim.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 24th May 2016, 12:45 pm
Updated Tuesday, 24th May 2016, 12:53 pm
Capt Ian North, who died on May 25, 1982.
Capt Ian North, who died on May 25, 1982.

On May 25, 1982, Hatfield-born Captain Ian North, 57, died when his Merchant Navy cargo ship was hit by two Exocet missiles during the brief but bloody battle with Argentina for the South Atlantic islands.

He was one of three men from Doncaster who died during the two month conflict fought out more than 8,000 miles away from the UK.

The Atlantic Conveyor approaches the Faklands in 1982. (Photo: DM Gerard/Wikipedia).

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Capt North, 57, was the skipper of the cargo ship Atlantic Conveyor which was blasted on the same day as the loss of the HMS Coventry.

Capt North, a bachelor, Second World War veteran and respected seaman of more than 40 years, was one of 12 men who died when the Cunard owned ship was struck, causing a major blaze which led to its eventual abandonment and sinking while under tow on May 28.

The missiles struck the port quarter of the ship, causing an uncontrollable fire which destroyed scores of helicopters on board. The loss of the aircraft meant that British troops had to march across the Falklands to recapture Port Stanley.

Affectionately dubbed Captain Birdseye by his crew for his resemblance to the TV advert character, Capt North, of Rose Hill Rise, Bessacarr, was later posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

The memorial to Captain North in Doncaster Minster.

As the last resting place of those who died, the wreck of the Atlantic Conveyor is a designated protected war grave.

The ship was the first British merchant vessel lost at sea to enemy fire since World War II. Piloting a Sea King helicopter of 820 Naval Air Squadron, Prince Andrew (then second in line to the throne) was first to lift off survivors.

Along with her sister ship Atlantic Causeway, the Atlantic Conveyor was requisitoned by the Ministry of Defence at the beginning of the war.

The ships were used to carry supplies for the Royal Navy Task Force sent by the British government to retake the Falklands from Argentine occupation.

The Atlantic Conveyor approaches the Faklands in 1982. (Photo: DM Gerard/Wikipedia).

Sailing for Ascension Island on 25 April 1982, Atlantic Conveyor carried a cargo of six Wessex helicopters and five RAF Chinook HC.1s. At Ascension, she picked up eight Fleet Air Arm Sea Harriers and six RAF Harrier jump jets.

A memorial to him was later erected in Doncaster Minster while another memorial, in the shape of a ship’s propeller, was unveiled in the Falklands by Prince Edward.

The officers' bar on M/V Atlantic Conveyor, built in 1984 in Swansea, is named "The North Bar" after Captain North.


The memorial to Captain North in Doncaster Minster.

* The war began on April 2, 1982 when Argentina invaded the Falklands and South Georgia in a long standing dispute with Britain about the islands’ sovereignty.

* Britain responded immediately with then PM Margaret Thatcher sending a Task Force to retake the Islands. The conflict lasted 74 days and was fought on land, sea and in the air with Argentina eventually surrendering on June 14, 1982.

* Britain suffered 258 casulaties with 649 Argentines killed in the fighting.

* Key events in the conflict included the sinking of Argentine cruiser the General Belgrano with the loss of 323 lives and the sinking of British vessels including HMS Sheffield, HMS Coventry and HMS Antelope among others.

* The legacy of the war lives on to this day with dozens of live minefields, war graves and battle debris a permanent reminder of the events of more than 30 years ago.