Falklands veterans who identified remains of unknown soldiers nominated for Nobel Peace prize

Falklands veterans who identified remains of unknown soldiers nominated for Nobel Peace prize

British Army veteran and former Argentinian soldier, who met by chance, worked together to identify more than 100 unknown soldiers

A Falklands veteran and a former Argentinian soldier, who joined forces to identify the remains of unknown soldiers who died in the war, have been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

British Colonel Geoffrey Cardozo CBE and former Argentine conscript Julio Aro have worked together to uncover the identities of more than 100 soldiers who were buried under headstones that read “Known Only By God”.

The pair have spent more than a decade on the project, which has received £1 million of joint Argentinian and British Government funding, identifying the deceased and contacting their families.

A Falklands veteran and a former Argentinian soldier, who joined forces to identify the remains of unknown soldiers who died in the war, have been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

British Colonel Geoffrey Cardozo CBE and former Argentine conscript Julio Aro have worked together to uncover the identities of more than 100 soldiers who were buried under headstones that read “Known Only By God”.

The pair have spent more than a decade on the project, which has received £1 million of joint Argentinian and British Government funding, identifying the deceased and contacting their families.

There are now only seven unknown soldiers remaining in Darwin Cemetery.

Col Cardozo, who served in the medical corps, was enlisted to help build the cemetery after the war finished, in 1982, and buried the bodies of Argentine servicemen found on the battlefield, keeping a detailed description of the men and where they were laid to rest.

In 2008, he met Mr Aro at a talk in London about posttraumatic stress. Mr Aro mentioned how he had been very moved to find 121 graves of unidentified Argentine soldiers and he wanted to identify them “out of respect for the pain of their families”.

When Col Cardozo told him that he had a record of precise information on the characteristics of each body, the belongings found with it and the place where they had been found, Mr Aro said: “I couldn't believe it.

“The person who had been by my side as a translator for days was the one who could facilitate our task."

Upon his return from London, Mr Aro set up the ‘No Me Olvides’ foundation, which translates as ‘Do not forget me’ and worked with the International Red Cross and the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team to conduct DNA tests on the soldiers.

A total of 649 Argentines and 255 Brits died during the Falklands War in 1982.

"My mother, María Julia, once told me that if one of those bodies in Darwin had been mine, she would never have rested until she recognised it. Those words set a goal for me," said Mr Aro.

Four years ago the UK and Argentina Governments agreed to share the £1 million cost of the project.

Responding to the news that the two men have been nominated for the award in 2021, Mr Aro told Argentininian Newspaper La Nacion: “For us it was a surprise, we never looked for any of this. In any case, the most beautiful and pleasant prize is the hug of the mothers, those tears that say thank you, that strong handshake.

"Despite the pandemic, we continue working to identify the seven bodies that are missing and that are still in the Darwin cemetery. We have already found two other families, so we are seeing how we can travel to make the identification.

Outlining his commitment to the project, he said: "This does not end until we identify the last body. We are grateful and we are happy for the nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize, but we are not finished yet, we are not going to leave anyone behind.”

Col Cardozo, contacted by the same paper, said: “This is not about the possibility of obtaining a personal award. It is a recognition of the cause for which we fight for so much.

“I am happy, but no award equals the emotional embrace of a mother who waited 36 or 37 years to be able to stand in front of the grave where her son rests.”

Their nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize will be determined in March when the shortlist of candidates is confirmed.