Graphitic materials and graphite composites experience dimensional change when exposed to radiation-induced atomic displacements. This has major implications for current and future technological ranging from nuclear fission reactors to the processing of graphene-silicon hybrid devices. Dimensional change in nuclear graphites is a complex problem involving the filler, binder, porosity, cracks and atomic-level effects all interacting within the polygranular structure. An improved understanding of the atomistic mechanisms which drive dimensional change within individual graphitic crystals is required to feed into the multiscale modelling of this system. In this study, micromechanically exfoliated samples of highly oriented pyrolytic graphite have been ion irradiated and studied in situ using transmission electron microscopy (TEM) in order to gain insights into the response of single graphitic crystals to displacing radiation. Under continuous ion bombardment, a complex dynamic sequence of deformation evolves featuring several distinct stages from the inducement of strain, the creation of dislocations leading to dislocation arrays, the formation of kink band networks and localised doming of the sample. Observing these ion irradiation-induced processes using in situ TEM reveals previously unknown details of the sequence of microstructural developments and physics driving these phenomena. A mechanistic model consistent with the microstructural changes observed is presented.