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Captain Christopher 'Beagle’ Burne CBE

Captain Christopher 'Beagle’ Burne, who has died aged 80, is remembered for his unusual role in the Falklands conflict when he had both civilians and naval personnel under his command of the Canberra, a luxury liner:

On May 21 1982, during the landings in San Carlos Water, Canberra’s size and white hull made her an obvious target, but disembarkation of troops continued throughout the day until they had been landed without loss or injury. As bombs plunged into the water nearby, it seemed impossible that the vast ship could escape. On deck, Burne met the attacks with unshakeable humour and courage, keeping up a running commentary to the frightened men and women below decks and encouraging gunners to “Engage! Engage!” as enemy aircraft swept overhead.

It was a performance in the great tradition of eccentric naval officers at moments of crisis and inspired others on board to emulate his apparent nonchalance in the face of danger. Canberra emerged unscathed from some 60 air attacks. Later she returned to a heroes’ welcome at Southampton, and Burne was appointed CBE.

After his retirement, Beagle was a bell ringer and cyclist. He died while cycling to his village’s Diamond Jubilee party. He is survived by his wife and two children.

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