Jorge Altieri runs his hands
over old blood stains on a
helmet that saved his life in
1982 when Argentina and
Britain went to war over the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands.
Looking at the treasured object is still a novelty: the helmet
was only recently returned to
Altieri, decades after he lost it on
the battlefield where he was almost killed by shrapnel.
“I have it next to me now and
I use it like a teddy bear,” Altieri
said. “I look at it and I get tearyeyed from all the memories.”
Argentina lost the war for the
South Atlantic archipelago after its troops embarked on an
ill-fated invasion nearly 37
years ago, an international humiliation that claimed the lives
of 649 Argentines and 255 British soldiers.
After decades of tense relations, though, both countries have experienced a thaw, including a deal that allowed a multinational team of experts to
exhume and identify the remains of dozens of Argentine
Today, veterans and relatives
of those who died also say the
recovery of objects taken as war
trophies has helped heal their
“I can’t stop looking at it, thinking of what it did to stop the
bomb shrapnel blowing my
head off,” Altieri said about his
helmet, although he still lost an
eye and part of his brain in a
blast during the battle for Mount
Longdon on June 12, 1982, two
days before fighting stopped.
In a parallel tale of reconciliation, Argentine veteran Diego
Carlos Arreseigor announced
March 7 that he is planning to
return the blood-stained helmet
of fallen British soldier Alexander Shaw, who was killed at
Mount Longdon at age 25. The
helmet is expected to be delivered to Shaw’s sister, Susan, in
April or May.
“Susan touched me with her
spirituality. She was 15 when
her brother left for the war,”
Arreseigor said he had picked
up the helmet in a pile of discarded equipment and hid it from a
British soldier by keeping it under his jacket.
“I kept it these 37 years, always
considering it a trophy of war, a
sort of consolation for the loss
and the pain of so many fallen
friends,” he said.
Some years ago he became
curious about who had worn it
and noticed it had a last name
written on one of its interior
Arreseigor eventually found
out Shaw’s identity and learned
he had been a victim of Argentine artillery.
“The stor y moved me.
Knowing that he died just hours
before the ceasefire. ... it’s sad
like all war stories,” he said. “I
just turned 60 and I demand our
sovereignty over Las Malvinas,
but I also pay tribute to all of
those who died — Argentine and
British — because I think that’s
the way to rebuild.”
For Altieri, having his helmet
has helped him find similar
After the war’s ceasefire,
Altieri’s helmet was taken to
London by a British paratrooper
who had pulled it from a heap of
military equipment. After the
man passed away, it was kept by
his family until it was put up for
auction four years ago.
At the time, Altieri offered
about US$520 (£400), but a British man who collects war objects paid twice that amount and
Altieri failed to persuade him to
“He’d say: ‘Even if the Queen
comes asking for it, I won’t give
it away,’” Altieri recalled.
Some days ago, however, the
helmet briefly went up for auction again on eBay for about
US$13,000 (£10,500). When it
was taken off the site, Altieri
feared he had lost it for good
until he heard the news: an
anonymous Argentine entrepreneur had bought it for Altieri.
“All the memories of what I
lived in the Malvinas came back
to me,” Altieri said.
He now hopes to display it at
home before donating it to a museum about the war. “I want people to see it and see what happened to us there.”