Argentine Military Cemetery

Last updated
The Argentine Military Cemetery on East Falkland
Falkland Islands (Spanish: Islas Malvinas) [1]
Cementerio Argentino de Puerto Darwin.jpg
The Argentine Military Cemetery, on East Falkland
Spanish: Cementerio de Darwin
For Argentine forces
Established1983 (1983)
Location 51°47′49″S58°56′26″W / 51.79694°S 58.94056°W / -51.79694; -58.94056
East Falkland

near 
Total burials237
Unknowns
10
Commemorated649
Burials by nation
* Argentina – 237
Burials by war
* Falklands War – 237

The Argentine Military Cemetery, Spanish : Cementerio de Darwin [2] (Darwin Cemetery), is a military cemetery on East Falkland that holds the remains of 237 Argentine combatants killed during the 1982 Falklands War (Spanish : Guerra de las Malvinas). It is located west of the Darwin Settlement close to the location of the Battle of Goose Green and there is a replica of the cemetery at Berazategui in Buenos Aires Province Argentina. [3]

Contents

History

The Cemetery in 2008 Cementerio de Puerto Darwin, Islas Malvinas.jpg
The Cemetery in 2008

When the war ended on June 14, 1982, most Argentine bodies were left in temporary graves close to where they fell. Britain offered to send them to Buenos Aires, but the ruling military junta said they were already in their homeland. [4] [5]

In December 1982 the British government commissioned a firm of civilian undertakers under the command of British Army Colonel Geoffrey Cardozo, to consolidate all the temporary Argentine graves on the Islands to a single location. Assisted by the armed forces, they identified and documented each Argentine grave site and brought the bodies to Port Darwin. As at the time this was the largest single Argentine grave site, with the bodies of the 47 Argentine soldiers, killed at the Battle of Goose Green and buried there soon after the battle. [6]

Many of the bodies collected were without dog-tags, so best efforts were made to identify each soldier from personal effects found on the body. Single items were not considered conclusive, but collections were. All were given a Christian burial with full military honours. Each grave is marked by a white wooden cross with the name of the soldier on it, if known, or Soldado Argentino Solo Conocido Por Dios ("Argentine Soldier Known Only By God") if not.

The cemetery is protected by a walled enclosure with a cenotaph including an image of Argentina's patron saint, the Virgen del Lujan. Surrounding the graves, the names of the 649 Argentine soldiers, sailors and airmen who lost their lives in the conflict are inscribed on glass plaques, with no indication of military rank or service, as requested by their families.

Since the end of the conflict the bodies of three more Argentine pilots have been interred:

On 9 November 2002 Prince Andrew, himself a Falklands War Veteran, visited the Argentine cemetery and laid a wreath. [9] During the visit the Prince said, "I lost friends and colleagues and I know what it must be like for the great many Argentines who have shared the same experience." [9]

Since the UK-Argentine joint statement on 14 July 1999 [10] Argentine families are responsible for the cemetery's upkeep and in 2007, Sebastián Socodo, an Argentine married to a Falkland Islander, was employed to do the job of cemetery maintenance. [11] [12]

Location

Although the cemetery is referred to as the Cementerio de Darwin (which translates as the Darwin Cemetery) in Argentina, the location is several miles from the Darwin settlement. The area was known locally as Teal Creek after a house originally constructed nearby. There are no Argentines interred in the Darwin cemetery which is located in the settlement.

Acts of vandalism

2012 vandalism

In July 2012 the glass casing protecting a figure of Argentina's patron saint, the Virgin of Luján, at the head of the cemetery was smashed with what appeared to be an axe. [13] Argentina presented a formal protest to the British government and informed the United Nations and the International Red Cross. Sebastián Socodo, an Argentinian-Falklander [14] responsible for the cemetery's upkeep, said families were notified and that it was not clear when it occurred or who the perpetrators were. Police in the Falklands held an investigation and the glass casing was repaired.

2017 vandalism

A further act of vandalism was found in January 2017, when the glass was broken and the head of the Virgin of Luján statue damaged. The Argentinian Foreign Ministry made a formal complaint to the British Government condemning the vandalism and calling for an enquiry. A Falkland Islands Government statement described the act as "distressing for the families (of the soldiers) and regretted by the people of the Falkland Islands" and an enquiry was begun by the Royal Falkland Islands Police. Former British Foreign Minister Sir Alan Duncan offered his apologies to the Argentine Government, welcoming the enquiry. [15]

Identification using DNA

As part of a joint project between the UK, Falkland Islands, Argentine Government and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), a forensic team exhumed, analyzed and documented the remains in each of the unidentified graves in the Argentine cemetery with this DNA compared to that of surviving family members. The DNA identification project was co-funded by the UK and Argentine Governments as a humanitarian initiative in line with international law. [16] On 13 September 2016 a UK-Argentina Joint Communication both countries expressed their full support for a DNA identification process in respect of all unknown Argentine soldiers buried in the Falkland Islands. The ICRC's multinational 14-member forensic anthropology team began its efforts in June 2017 with samples analyzed in the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team's laboratory, and scientists in the United Kingdom and Spain confirmed the results of the DNA testing.

By March 2018 the identities of 90 bodies had been confirmed and more than 200 relatives of these soldiers were able to visit the actual grave for the first time. [17] . On March 26 2018 Argentina's Secretary for Human Rights, Claudio Avruj, accompanied the Argentine families, along with retired British Army colonel Geoffrey Cardozo, who was originally responsible for burying the Argentine dead immediately after the conflict. The visit included a religious ceremony jointly conducted by Auxiliary Bishop of Buenos Aires, Bishop Eguia Segui, and the Right Reverend Abbott Hugh Allan from the United Kingdom. Since then, after obtaining more DNA samples from relatives some 115 bodies are now identified and a programme agreed with the UK and Falkland Islands Government aims to identify the remaining 10. [18]

See also

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References

  1. "WordReference, English-Spanish Dictionary. Falklands: the Falklands, las (islas) Malvinas". Wordreference.com. Retrieved 2010-03-15.
  2. gov.ar cementerio de darwin
  3. La réplica del cementerio de Darwin, ubicado en el cementerio de Berazategui, un muro en el que están plasmados los nombres de los siete soldados berazateguenses que fallecieron [ permanent dead link ]
  4. Peter Snow, Dan Snow (16 July 2008). "1982 Falklands". 20th Century Battlefields. BBC. Retrieved 20 October 2011. After the war the British government offered to return the bodies of the Argentinian dead to Argentina for burial, but their government refused. They said that these islands were part of Argentina, and the bodies would remain here. For the Falkland islanders, these graves are a reminder that Argentina refuses to drop its claim their homeland.
  5. Gregory Fremont-Barnes. The Falklands 1982: Ground Operations in the South Atlantic. p. 93.
  6. Suplemento de Historia Argentina (in Spanish)
  7. "One of their aircraft is missing". Archived from the original on 7 November 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-09.
  8. "UK military honours for Argentine Pilot" . Retrieved 2009-11-09.
  9. 1 2 Savill, Richard (2002-11-09). "Prince's Falklands tribute to Argentine dead". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 2009-11-09.
  10. "UK-Argentina exchange of letters" . Retrieved 2009-11-09.[ dead link ]
  11. "Simple service pays respect to the Argentine dead" . Retrieved 2009-11-09.
  12. "Love bridges Falklands divide". BBC News. 4 April 2007. Retrieved 12 February 2012.
  13. Argentina will formally protest vandalism at the Darwin cemetery in Falklands
  14. "Love bridges Falklands divide". BBC News . 4 April 2007. Retrieved 2016-01-18.
  15. Ross, Alice (25 January 2017). "Falkland Islands police investigate vandalism at war cemetery". The Guardian.
  16. The 2 countries agree to try to identify the soldiers and divide the $1.5 million in related costs
  17. Relatives of Argentine soldiers killed during the Falklands War visit the Argentine cemetery at Darwin
  18. "Falklands: Argentina and UK agree to extend Humanitarian Plan to identify remains in multiple grave". 28 November 2019. 28 November 2019. Retrieved 2 December 2019.