On the morning of the 25 April 1982 the Argentine submarine ARA Sante Fe while on the surface outward bound from Grytviken, South Georgia, was attacked by British Forces and severely damaged. Argentine Captain Horacio Bicain turned Santa Fe about and limped back to Grytviken securing his damaged boat alongside the British Antarctic Survey jetty located at King Edward Point. Following the Argentine surrender British Forces found a considerable quantity of ammunition, grenades and some weapons on board the Argentine submarine. The Boat's torpedoes were assessed by the British as being ready to fire and the submarine was in a dangerous condition, losing buoyancy, leaking oil and chlorine gas: According to the British, this potentially explosive mixture represented a significant threat to both sea and land elements of the British Forces and required neutralisation. British Commanders had also expressed concern that Santa Fe might sink alongside the British Antarctic Jetty, thereby obstructing the Jetty for any future use in supporting their base. Captain Coward of HMS Brilliant proposed that he should employ some members of the Argentine crew to propel the submarine clear of the jetty. On the 26 April 1982, this was reported to Captain Young Commander Task Force Group on board HMS Antrim who agreed that Santa Fe should not be scuttled but moved to a safe berth. Captain Coward who had been initially tasked with scuttling/destroying the Santa Fe, ascertained that despite being in a fairly dangerous state the Sante Fe had enough residual battery power to drive the boat away from the Jetty leaving the Jetty free for use of other ships to re-supply British Forces. Captain Coward consulted with Captain Horacio Bicain, Commander of the Santa Fe, who was now a Prisoner of War, about the minimum personnel that would be required to move the submarine and five members of the captured Santa Fe crew were chosen; two for the conning tower position for helm and telegraph, two in the motor room for the propulsion system and one in the lower control room for the hydraulics and air systems. Two further Argentine Prisoners of War were employed to handle ropes on the casing. Each Argentine Prisoner of War was guarded by a Royal Marine except in the lower control room where two Royal Marine guards armed with 9mm Browning pistols were watching over Suboficial Primero Félix Artuso. As the submarine began to move forward one Royal Marine guard in the Lower Control Room raised his concerns directly with a British naval officer about the possibility of the Argentine Prisoners of War using the torpedoes against British ships or attempting to sink the submarine. The officer checked the torpedo compartment and then showed the guards what he believed were the main vent levers and stated that under no account were they to be touched as opening the vents would sink the submarine. It was also submitted that Suboficial Artuso was shown these levers and ordered in sign language not to touch them and that Artuso appeared to understand. The British naval officer advised the Royal Marine guard that as long as Artuso did not touch the main vents all would be well. The Royal Marine asserted that "he would shoot him (Artuso) in the head if he touched them". The officer repeated again "just stop him (Artuso) touching the levers": and then left the lower control room and proceeded aft. During the move of the disabled Santa Fe to another location the submarine started to lose buoyancy and the Argentine naval officer on the fin ordered Sub Official Artuso to adjust the LP systems to rebalance the boat to prevent Santa Fe heeling over and capsizing. The order was passed down below to Suboficial Artuso who had a handset dangling by his chest. Artuso reached for the correct levers to adjust the air pressure as he was ordered, to address the buoyancy of the crippled submarine, and at this point, the Royal Marine guard who had already openly stated his intention that he would shoot him (Félix Artuso) in the head if he touched the levers, subsequently fired five rounds into Suboficial Primero Félix Artuso, killing him instantly. In evidence to the board of inquiry, the Royal Marine guard alleged that he never heard the order being passed to Sub Official Artuso and thought that Artuso was about to scuttle the submarine when he went to operate the levers and consequently fired his weapon. Ironically, the British naval officer had misidentified the wrong controls and had instructed the Royal Marine guards incorrectly as to their use. Suboficial Artuso was indeed adjusting the trim of the Santa Fe and using the correct levers to do so. According to Captain Bicain although it had crossed his mind that the sinking of the Santa Fe could be induced by the Argentine Prisoners of War, nevertheless he had ordered Artuso and the other Argentine Prisoners of War not to attempt any sabotage of the Santa Fe. Félix was later buried with full Military Honours by British Naval Personnel in Grytviken Cemetery, South Georgia. On the 30 April 1982 an inquiry was convened on board HMS Endurance which concluded that no blame or negligence was attributable to any member of British Forces for the death of Suboficial Primero Félix Artuso on the 26 April 1986 while he was held as a Prisoner of War on board the damaged Argentine submarine ARA Sante Fe.
The Geneva Convention - Protocols - Law on Armed Conflict - Extract:
The Geneva Convention and the Laws of Armed conflict are absolute on contracting high parties of which the United Kingdom is a signatory. The principle specifying that prisoners of war are in the hands of the enemy power, but not of the individuals or military units who have captured them, should also be borne in mind. Prisoners of War are entitled in all the circumstances to respect for their persons and honour. The general principles protecting Prisoners of War are enunciated thus; they shall not be unnecessarily exposed to danger while awaiting evacuation from a danger zone. The detaining power assumes general responsibility for the life and welfare of Prisoners of War. Prisoners of War must be placed as far as possible out of reach of any pressures to make them renounce their rights These persons may in no circumstances renounce, in part or totally, the rights ensured to them by the Geneva Convention: The Geneva Convention and the Laws of Armed Conflict determine the status of capitulated forces and the duties owed to them. If troops are surrendered under the agreement, then they become prisoners of war and are entitled to receive all due protections and duties of care. Once POW status begins, the law of war mandates that the captor's forces owe the prisoners several duties of care. The captor's forces are prohibited from making special agreements with prisoners to reduce these rights and protections. The rights granted to prisoners of war pursuant to the Geneva Convention are absolute. They extend between states and cannot be renounced by either the defeated enemy's individual soldiers or the captor's tactical commanders. It is forbidden to kill or injure an enemy who surrenders or who is hors de combat. Captured combatants under the authority of an adverse party are entitled to respect for their lives, dignity and personal rights. They shall be protected against all acts of violence.
Principle of Non-Renunciation:
The Principle of Non-Renunciation as proscribed by the Geneva Convention is absolute and British Forces operating in South Georgia had no authority to set those rights aside by employing Argentine Prisoners of War in dangerous labour on the Santa Fe. The Convention clearly stipulates inter-alia, that Prisoners of War must be placed as far as possible out of reach of any pressures to make them renounce their rights, and that Prisoners of War may in no circumstances renounce, in part or totally, the rights ensured to them by the Geneva Convention. Belligerents are strictly prohibited from making special agreements with prisoners to reduce these rights and protections pursuant to the Geneva Convention and extant protocols: Irrespective of British military objectives, the employment of Argentine Prisoners of War to move the disabled ARA Santa Fe, which had been assessed by British Forces as being in a dangerous condition, exposed these Argentine Prisoners of War to unnecessary danger, which also breached the principle of Non-Renunciation as defined by the Geneva Convention. In this regard the British government is in breach of the Geneva Convention.
Control and Command:
The conclusion reached by the board of inquiry that no blame attaches, no form of negligence and no culpable act or omission contributed to Artuso's death, deserves comment: As Captain Coward of HMS Brilliant was de jure and de facto in command and control of Santa Fe, he had the authority over all subordinates on the disabled submarine which included the Argentine Prisoners of War and their Royal Marine guards. The misidentification of the correct levers which actuated the compressors, which in turn is alleged to have provoked the killing of Suboficial Primero Artuso by an apparently nervous Royal Marine guard, could have been avoided if the British naval officer concerned had used common sense and ascertained from the outset the correct procedures from the Argentine Prisoners of War who were more expert on the operation of their submarine. Indeed if required HMS Endurance had interpreters available on board and Captain Horacio Bicain on the fin of Santa Fe also understood English. The misidentification of the correct levers was an error of judgement by a British naval officer and was an abject failure of command and control which amounts to negligence by Captain Coward and his subordinates. Note: The British Board of Enquiry exonerated Captain Coward of any culpable negligence:
British Forces Task Group - Commanders - South Georgia - April 1982:Captain Brian Young of HMS Antrim - Commander Task Group.
Captain John Coward of HMS Brilliant.
Major Guy Sheridan Royal Marines was in overall command of Operation Paraquet. Major Cedric Delves DSO - Commander D Squadron SAS.
Captain John Hamilton - Commander 19 Troop (Mountain Troop) 22 Special Air Service Regiment (SAS). Naval History - Operation Paraquet.
Death of Suboficial Principal Félix Artuso:
Although it did except there had been an error of judgement in misidentification of the correct levers on board ARA Santa Fe, the board of inquiry also found that a British naval officer made a further error of judgement in not dealing specifically with the statement of the Royal Marine Guard that he would shoot Artuso through the head. In this regard the Board’s finding that the belief of the Royal Marine guard who fired the fatal shots was founded on an honest and justifiable mistake and their conclusion that the Royal Marine guard honestly and reasonably believed 1. that he had to prevent Artuso scuttling the submarine and 2. that shooting him was the only way to safe guard all on board, is questionable. The assertion of the Royal Marine guard that he would shoot Artuso in the head prior to the actual killing of Suboficial Primero Artuso should have put the British naval officer on notice that a potential for mistake existed due to his unfamiliarity with the operation of the Santa Fe's controls, and the obvious nervous state of mind of the Royal Marine guard whose demeanour in the lower control room indicated a high state of anxiety and combat stress. Significantly, the Royal Marine Guard concerned in the killing of Félix Artuso had already expressed his intention to use maximum force against Suboficial Primero Artuso, which suggests that this British soldier had already formed the Mens Rea element of a criminal offence. Arguably, the killing of Suboficial Primero Artuso by this Royal Marine who used overwhelming fire power, in a confined space, at point blank range, directed at an unarmed Argentine Prisoner of War on board ARA Santa Fe, who at the time was acting in compliance with his orders, is tantamount to a judicial execution. While a board of inquiry is normally held into such incidents, it can also act as a preliminary investigation, which should have prompted the British Military authorities to test the issues in a more formal military forum, out of theatre, where the facts could have been rigorously and forensically tested legally rather than coming to hasty conclusions in circumstances where British military minds were focused on progressing a war rather than adjudicating objectively on the circumstances surrounding the death of an unarmed Argentine Prisoner of War who was supposed to be under the protection of British Forces at the time of his death. Regardless of the substantive legal issues the British board of inquiry held on the 30 April 1982 aboard HMS Endurance exonerated all the British service personnel involved.
Commemorations - Argentina - March 2010:
On Tuesday 2 March 2010 at 11.00hrs, a memorial event was held in the British Cemetery at La Chacarita, Buenos Aires, In Memory of those who died in the Battle of the River Plate: Youtube Video http://youtu.be/p_itph-BMRE. Another memorial event was held at the Grave of Kapitan Langsdorf of the Admiral Graf Spee in the adjoining German Cemetery. On Wednesday 3 of March 2010 at 11.00hrs, another commemorative event was held at the Malvinas War Memorial, Plaza San Martin, Buenos Aires, in memory of British and Argentines lost during the Falklands/Islas Malvinas War of 1982. Significantly the Argentine Authorities had no problem facilitating the Irish Seamen's Relatives Association (1939-46) in placing poppy wreaths, one with an Irish tricolour ribbon, along with other poppy wreaths on behalf of the Merchant Navy Association, Wirral Branch, Birkenhead; Royal Naval Association, Birkenhead; and Royal Naval Patrol Service Association; dedicated to the memory of all those British and Argentines who lost their lives during the 1982 war at their Islas Malvinas National Memorial in Buenos Aires.
Commemoration - Greece - February 2014:
A Poppy Wreath and Irish tricolour ribbon, on behalf of the Irish Seamen's Relatives Association (1939-46) dedicated to the memory of all those who lost their lives during the 1939-45 war was placed at the war memorial in Athens, Greece.
It is beyond question that a failure to reach peaceful outcomes to international disputes affects men, women and children, and it is they who pay the ultimate price as a consequence of armed conflict. In this regard veterans and their families carry in perpetuity the burden and consequences of engagement in military actions on behalf of states. It is the veterans and their families, irrespective of nationality, who require the support of their Governments and for whatever reason the inability of the British authorities to facilitate a visit by relatives to the grave of deceased Argentine Prisoner of War Suboficial Primero Félix Artuso in Grytviken, South Georgia, is an unacceptable injustice to the Artuso family and an affront to common decency and respect for the Argentine dead...which needs to be rectified by all concerned in the interest of the family...and sooner rather than later.
Latest News - 24 July 2014: A Wreath For Félix - British Government Has No Objection:
Following a submission on the 30 June 2014 to the British Government questioning their refusal to facillitate access to the grave location of Suboficial Primero Félix Artuso, in Grytviken Cemetery, South Georgia. I am pleased to advise that the South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands, Overseas Territories Directorate, of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office have indicated they have no objection to the placing of a wreath for Suboficial Primero Félix Artuso in Grytviken Cemetery. Consequently as I have received an indication from the British Government of no issues about placing a wreath at the grave of Félix, and the fact that Her Excellency Silvia Merenga Ambassador of Argentina to Ireland has indicated, that she would be very much honoured that a poppy wreath with the Irish Tricolour be placed at the Grave of Félix Artuso in his memory at Grytviken Cemetery. A wreath will be offically handed over to the Shackleton 2014 expedition leader in London Docks on the 29th July 2014 and taken to South Georgia on board the Polish ocean going yacht S/Y Polonus, the expeditions flagship. It is expected following the Shackleton Commemoration on January 5th, 2015, the poppy wreath with Irish tricolour ribbon on behalf of the Irish Seamen's Relatives Association (1939-46) dedicated to the memory of Suboficial Primero Félix Artuso R.I.P. 26th April 1982, will be placed on his grave by a representative of the Shackleton 2014 expedition. [Note: It is appropriate to point out that while the Royal Marines celebrate their 350th Anniversary Year in 2014 with events organised throughout the UK, Gibraltar and the Falklands/Malvinas, we are also remembering Suboficial Primero Félix Artuso who was killed by a Royal Marine in circumstances which are of concern while he was a Prisoner of War on board ARA Santa Fe on the 26th April 1982 in Grytviken, South Georgia]. Thanks to all concerned for their support.
The Shackleton 2014 Expedition:
The Shackleton 2014 Expedition kicks off in the South Dock Marina, Southwark, London, on July 30th, 2014 with a gathering of yachts and crews and the festive hoisting of the expedition’s colours. Over a dozen yachts from Poland and other European countries will take part in the expedition, during which they will visit several ports, all of which stand in direct relation with Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic venture. August 1st marks the start of the first leg to Plymouth with a distance of 330 Nm. Participating yachts should leave Plymouth on August 8th and proceed south. The suggested route is via Lisbon, Las Palmas, Dakar, selected Brazilian ports like Recife or Rio de Janeiro to Punta del Este in Uruguay.The third rally point is Port Stanley, Falkland Islands. Yachts should reach there by December 12th, 2014, after covering about 7770 Nm.The crews can then choose one of three suggested routes from the Falklands to Grytviken: All crews are expected to arrive at Sir Ernest Shackleton’s grave in Grytviken Cemetery, South Georgia by noon on January 5th, 2015.
Commemoration - Sir Ernest
Shackleton - County Kerry - January 4, 2015:
Commemoration - Suboficial Primero Felix Artuso - Dublin - January 5, 2015:
On Monday January 5, 2015, a laurel wreath with Argentine colours attached
on behalf of the Irish Seamen’s Relatives Association(1939-46) in memory of
Suboficial Primero Felix Artuso was placed at the statue of Admiral William
Brown, located at Sir John Rogerson's Quay, Dublin. A prayer for the fallen
was recited in Spanish.
Commemoration - Sir Ernest Shackleton - Suboficial Primero Felix Artuso:
Under the command of Captain Artur Krystosik, the Polish yacht S/Y Isfuglen of the Shackleton 2015 expedition will be commemorating Sir Ernest Shackleton and Suboficial Felix Artuso in Grytviken Cemetery, South Georgia towards the end of February beginning of March 2015. Many thanks to Captain Krystosik and the Shackleton 2015 expedition for their cooperation. Updates to follow.
The objective of Shackleton 2015 (http://www.shackleton2015.pl) is to visit places related to Sir Ernest Shackleton's 1915 expedition. The main goal is to fulfill the dreams of many people engaged in the expedition and commemorate Sir E. Shackleton. The idea was born in 2010, when the steel ketch Isfuglen was bought. During the following four years Isfuglen sailed to Iceland, Greenland, Canada and Spitsbergen to prepare the boat and the crew for the final stage of Shackleton 2015 which begins in Ushuaia 09.02.2015. Sir Ernest Shackleton. died of a heart attack at age 47 during his last polar expedition and is buried on South Georgia. Paying homage to him and his outstanding achievements by lighting a candle on his grave is worth every effort of the journey to the "end of the world". During the Shackleton 2015 expedition visit to Grytviken Cemetery, South Georgia, Captain Artur Krystosik and the crew of S/Y Isfuglen will visit the grave of Suboficial Primero Felix Artuso, ARA Sante Fe, and place a poppy wreath with tricolour attached on behalf of the Irish Seamen's Relatives Association (1939-46) and a commemorative plaque on behalf of the Artuso family on the grave of their father Felix RIP (Requiescat in pace).
Journey of Remembrance - Suboficial Primero Felix Artuso:
From previous posts friends will be aware that S/Y Polonus went aground on King George Island and could not continue her voyage to South Georgia. The Shackleton 2014 Expedition yacht S/Y Polonus was bringing our wreath and commemorative plaque from the family of Suboficial Primero Felix Artuso to Grytviken Cemetery. The stranding of Polonus on King George Island created a problem and when Captain Artur Krystosik of the Shackleton 2015 expedition yacht S/Y Isfuglen was made aware of our difficulty, he immidiately volunteered to assist and changed his sailing schedule to the following. The Polish Yacht S/Y Isfuglen http://www.shackleton2015.pl/sy-isfuglen/ will depart Ushuaia on the 9 February 2015 for the Polish Antartic Base Arctowski, located on King George Island, Antarctica, to pick up the wreath and the commemorative plaque for the grave of Suboficial Primero Felix Artuso, who is buried in Grytviken Cemetery, South Georgia. It is expected Isfuglen under the command of Captain Artur Krystosik will reach South Georgia circa the end of February 2015. Following the commemoration on South Georgia for Sir Ernest Shackleton and Suboficial Primero Artuso, Isfuglen will sail directly to Mar del Plata. Estimated date of arrival, Mar del Plata, circa 16 March 2015. Many thanks to our Polish friends for helping to complete the objective: