British soldier returns remains of plane shot down in Falklands to Argentina
David Richardson had recovered the remains of the aircraft in 1988, and had preserved them over the decades since locating them. The recovered pieces will be handed to Argentina by diplomatic courier from London, the Argentine ambassador to the UK, Javier Figueroa, confirmed to Argentine news agency Télam.
The remains of the aircraft will end up in the National Museum of the Falklands in Oliva, Cordoba.
Mr Figueroa said: “It is a gesture that brings us closer and does not divide us, unlike other war trophies that are on the market.”
The Argentine ambassador then extended an invitation to David Richardson to thank him, and they agreed to meet in London at some point in the future.
The plane was flown by Lieutenant Héctor Ricardo Volponi, who was killed in action in May 1982.
His aircraft was shot down at Horseshoe Bay by a Harrier Sidewinder AIM-9L, which was commanded by British Lieutenant Martin Hale.
In 1998, David Richardson was a British army corporal in the Light Infantry Battalion and identified the plane wreckage during a mission.
He resolved then to recover and keep the plane’s remains until he could return it to Argentina.
He commented: “For many years I looked after the pieces and often wondered if one day I would be able to bring them back to Argentina.”
He described the path to discovering the plane’s remains on his mission in Argentina: “While I was there, I went on a patrol which started at Fox Bay and stopped at various places, culminating at Pebble Island.
“This place was of particular interest to me because, as a 12-year-old boy, I followed the ‘82 war closely and had read a lot about the battle.”
He continued: “When my troop arrived on Pebble Island, I asked an islander if there was anything I could take my soldiers to see while we were there.”
He remembered that the man “pointed out on the map a couple of places where Argentine planes that had been shot down by Harriers had crashed on the island, as well as a memorial to a British ship lost to enemy forces.”He described the path to discovering the plane’s remains on his mission in Argentina: “While I was there, I went on a patrol which started at Fox Bay and stopped at various places, culminating at Pebble Island.
He recounted that he “took [his] troop and located those sites”, then finding two pieces of wreckage which he put together to discover the aircraft’s serial number on the underside of the cockpit.
“So, over the years, with the development of the internet and the improvement of computers, I started my research”, he explained.
He said that he believed it “would be a good idea to research the aircraft and try to find out about this particular aircraft.
He recalled that he found details about the aircraft and its pilot relatively quickly as well as the British Harrier pilot who shot it down.
“In September 2021 I searched the internet and managed to find and send a message to Gabriel Fioni, who was part of the Malvinas Museum in Oliva.”
Gabriel Fioni had contact with Lieutenant Volponi’s family, according to Richardson, and assured the retired British Army soldier that the remains would be properly displayed in the museum if they received the wreckage.
Mr Fioni, speaking to Télam, described Richardson’s concern with how the plane would be preserved and protected in the museum.
He said: “He told me that he agreed with the procedure we were going to follow and assured me that he respected the Argentine soldiers for their bravery and love for their country.”
Richardson also said in a letter to Argentine Ambassador Figueroa: “I hope that my donation to the Malvinas Museum in Oliva will arrive safely and be properly displayed to show the bravery of your airmen during the ‘82 conflict.
“I have read and watched many documentaries about the conflict and what is very clear from the outset is the bravery of your country’s pilots.”
Additional reporting by Maria Ortega.