Captain Ian Harry North SS Atlantic Conveyor Merchant Navy 5 March 1925 ~ 25 May 1982 Age 57
Ian Harry North’s family had a long history in the Doncaster area and he was one of just three Doncaster casualties of the Falklands War.
Harry’s maternal grandfather William was a plumber as was his great uncle Arthur. In 1901 they had lived at their plumbers shop in Cleveland St, Doncaster but by 1911 William and his wife Elizabeth were living in Bridlington. Harry’s mother Dorothy Mary was still living with her brother in Doncaster in 1911. She married Henry North on the 4 April 1923 and Ian Harry was the couple’s first child. His younger brother Joseph was born in July 1926.
Harry’s father was a Headmaster at an Elementary school and the family lived in St Anne’s Road in Doncaster. In 1939 Harry’s uncle Arthur and his wife also lived in St Anne’s Rd but though only 14 years old it appears that Harry may have already left home!
For sure it is said that Ian had over 40 years of service when he died. Nicknamed ‘Captain Birdseye’ for his resemblance to a certain advert Captain, Harry certainly was very experienced on the seas.
The Atlantic Conveyor was built on the Tyne by Swan Hunter and delivered to Cunard in 1970 as part of their contribution to the Atlantic Container Line consortium. When the Falkland Islands was invaded in April 1982 the SS Atlantic Conveyor left Liverpool on 15 April 1982 to play her part as a cargo ship. Captain Ian Harry North was her skipper. Her first port of call was Devonport.
SS Atlantic Conveyor was only meant originally to be an aircraft carrier but over the following week it was decided to make use of the cargo spaces for valuable task force stores. As well as other equipment, 600 cluster bombs, rocket motors, anti-tank missiles, grenades and small arms ammunition were stored in normal containers. The ship set sail for Ascension Island on 25 April 1982 after an incredible conversion taking just 10 days.
The MV Europic Ferry and the MV Norland joined her for the trip ‘Down South’. By 21 May 1982 SS Atlantic Conveyor had achieved her main mission and the Harriers she was carrying had been de-bagged. She continued to provide Battle Cargo support.
It is said that on 25 May 1982 Captain North said ‘Well boys, it’s May 25th something spectacular should happen today.’
At 1940 hrs, ‘Emergency Stations’ was sounded by the Atlantic Conveyor’s ships alarm. Despite countermeasures the ship was hit by two missiles at C deck. It proved to be devastating to the ship and the decision to abandon ship was made 25 minutes after the attack.
Captain Ian Harry North is said to have been a tower of strength to his men as the ship was abandoned in very difficult circumstances. 137 men survived and Captain North was the last to leave the ship, it is said with huge dignity and calm. Twelve men died that day, three on board and the rest in the water. Sadly, Captain North was one of the men who lost his life after leaving the ship.
Captain Ian Harry North was a bachelor who lived when on shore at Rose Hill Rise, Bessacar, Doncaster. He was 57 years old when he died and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, posthumously. The ship was the first Merchant Navy ship lost since WW2.
Captain North is remembered in many places, there is a memorial to him in Doncaster Minster. The plain state plaque carries both the Merchant Navy and Cunard company badges. It reads ‘THIS PLAQUE COMMEMORATES CAPTAIN IAN HARRY NORTH DSC WHO RECEIVED THE FOLLOWING CITATION ON 14 APRIL1982, SS ATLANTIC CONVEYOR WAS LAID UP I LIVERPOOL. ON 25 APRIL SHE DEPLOYED TO THE SOUTH ATLANTIC, CONVERTED TO OPERATE FIXED AND ROTARY WING AIRCRAFT AND LOADED WITH STORES AND EQUIPMENT FOR THE FALKLANDS TASK FORCE. THIS ASTONIHING FEAT WAS LARGELY DUE TO CAPTAIN NORTH’S INNOVATION, LEADERSHIP AND INEXHAUSTABLE ENERGY. SSATLANTIC CONVEYOR JOINED THE CARRIER BATTLE GROUP ON 19TH MAY 1982 AND WAS IMMEDIATELY TREATED AS A WARSHIP IN MOST RESPECTS. ALMOST COMPARABLE IN MANOEUVERABILITY, FLEXIBIITY AND RESPONSE, CAPTAIN NORTH AND THE SHIP CAME THROUGH WITH FLYING COLOURS. WHEN THE SHIP WAS HIT ON 25TH MAY, CAPATIN ORTH WAS A TOWER OF STRENGTH DURING THE DIFFICULT PERIOD OF DAMAGE ASSESSMENT LEADING UP TO THE DECISION T ABANDON SHIP. HE LEFT THE SHIP LAST WITH ENORMOUS DIGNITY AND CALM AND HIS SUBSEQUENT DEATH WAS A BLOW TO ALL. A BRILLIANT SEAMAN, BRAVE IN WAR, IMMENSELY REVERED AND LOVED, HIS CONTRIBUTION TO THE CAMPAIGN WAS ENORMOUS AND EPITOMISED THE GREAT SPIRIT OF THE MERCHANT SERVICE.’
Captain North has another plaque at HMS Wellington in London. It reads ‘THE SOUTH ATLANTIC TASK FORCE 1982 Liveryman Ian Harry North DSC 25th May 1982.’
Henry died in November 1970 aged 78, but Dorothy outlived her son by two years and died on 7 August 1984 Aged 92. Though Ian Harry North never married there will still be cousins and relatives in Yorkshire to remember him.
Captain Ian Harry North we thank you for your service!
© Jay Morgan Hyrons
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