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Relatives authorized to visit the grave of Argentine veteran buried in South Georgia

Saturday, July 28th 2018 - 14:53 UTC
Full article 3 comments
The strapped ARA Santa Fe pictured at Grytviken The strapped ARA Santa Fe pictured at Grytviken
Felix Artuso, the chief engineer of the submarine Felix Artuso, the chief engineer of the submarine
The grave of Artuso in South Georgia The grave of Artuso in South Georgia

Family of the only Argentine naval officer killed and buried in South Georgia during the 1982 South Atlantic conflict will soon be able to visit their father's grave in Grytviken, according to reports in the Buenos Aires media.

 Felix Artuso was chief engineer of the ARA Santa Fe submarine, a second world war former US Navy Guppy submersible, which in early April 1982 was instructed to head from its base in Mar del Plata to South Georgia, where they had to help with the landing of a group of Argentine marines expected to secure the islands.

The Falkland Islands had already been invaded and occupied by Argentine forces on April 2nd.

Under captain Horacio Bicain, with four torpedoes and sufficient supplies for the route but with obsolete batteries that limited submerging time, ARA Santa Fe finally arrived in South Georgia. Surprised by the unexpected British deployment, she was rapidly detected and a Wessex helicopter forced her to surface after dropping two depth charges. This was followed by two Sea Lynx that strapped the submarine as she limped towards the only jetty in Grytviken. As a result of the brief action an Argentine sailor had to have a leg amputated and chief engineer Artuso's Seiko watch was hit by shrapnel, stopping at 05:43 of 25 April.

The Argentines surrendered and the British wanted the submarine out of the only jetty, plus fearing what could happen with a combination of fully charged torpedoes, gases and recharged batteries. Two Royal Navy vessels were also in the combat theatre, HMS Antrim under captain Brian Young and captain John Coward, commander of HMS Brilliant, with experience in submarines.

Six Argentine crew members, under custody of Royal marines, were ordered to move out the submarine, and Coward warned Artuso not to attempt scuttling the vessel. Somehow ARA Santa Fe moved away but then began listing, and while Artuso tried with the pumps to bring her back to level, the Royal marine panicked with the sways and started to shout “we're sinking! we're sinking!” and emptied his gun on the chief engineer.

Minutes later the submarine stabilized, it did not sink, Artuso had managed to control her but he had been shot dead. Artuso was buried with full military honors by the Royal Navy in the same ground where the remains of Ernest Shackleton rest, but his family have never been able to visit the grave. In the thirty six years since, his wife, sister and mother passed away and despite all their efforts pleading to Argentine authorities in Mar del Plata and Buenos Aires, nothing happened.

Besides the watch given to the family by the returning crew of the ARA Santa Fe and a picture of the grave, there was no other memory.

However the only link or contact was when Canadian scientists involved in South Georgia and surprisingly aware of the Artuso family situation, offered to take a wreath to the grave at Gryviken. On their return trip the Canadians handed each of the children, Christian, Karina and Carolina a pebble from their father's grave which they last saw when they were 8, 6 and 2 years old.

In a last effort, and following on the recent humanitarian process to identify remains in the Argentine military cemetery in the Falklands, and the resulting visit of next of kin to the Islands, the Artuso family addressed a letter to the British embassy which received an immediate reply. Ambassador Mark Kent contacted the family and said he would personally address the issue, and anticipated there would be no impediments for such a humanitarian visit. However the big challenge are logistics and funding, since South Georgia is some 1.400 miles east of Argentina, has no airport, and the three siblings, all of them, as their father, working for the navy in Mar del Plata, are not in a condition to address such a trip.

Apparently sometime this week the ambassador would be meeting Maria Teresa Kralikas, Under Secretary for Malvinas, Antarctica and South Atlantic Islands affairs in the Argentine foreign ministry, to consider the situation. It should not come as a surprise if Eduardo Eurnerkian, the great supporter and benefactor of the Malvinas families is involved in the matter.

Top Comments

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  • falklandlad

    A decent, humanitarian, if not honourable, gesture by Amb Kent, extending to the family long overdue closure. It is to be hoped that a funding mechanism will spring from a generous source.

    Jul 28th, 2018 - 05:38 pm +1
  • Islander1

    Agree - since its Navy maybe in summer it will be arranged for them to fly over here and board HMS Clyde for one of her patrol visits down there and back.Only other option would be expensive berths on a cruise ship going there.

    Jul 28th, 2018 - 09:35 pm 0
  • gordo01

    What happened to the Royal Marine who “allegedly” panicked?

    Jul 29th, 2018 - 07:02 am 0
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