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#1 Broznitsky

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Posted 21 April 2003 - 04:46 AM

Came across an interesting photo circa 1914-16 that shows a group of 14 men from Fiji with a uniformed Caucasian officer or NCO in the middle. The caption reads:

"Fiji Islanders on their way to the front pay a visit to the big tree Stanley Park"

Stanley Park (named after Lord Stanley) is situated in Vancouver, British Columbia and certainly the tree appears to be old growth rainforest type. The men are barefoot and wearing a type of kilt and carrying greatcoats. Everybody in the photo (including the Caucasian) look very grumpy and out of sorts! I probably would too, leaving a tropical paradise to visit Flanders in winter!

Can anybody shed some light on the role of Fijians on the Western Front in WWI?? Perhaps Labour Corps? Attached to the Anzacs? Or did they serve in a military role at the front?

#2 Ian Bowbrick

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Posted 21 April 2003 - 08:33 AM

There was indeed a Fijian Labour Corps. The best person to ask is Ivor Lee or visit his website, the address you will get by accessing the members section on this forum.
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#3 charlesmessenger

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Posted 21 April 2003 - 08:33 AM

They were probably members of the Fijian Labour Corps and were en route for the Western Front via Canada. They sailed 100 strong from Fiji in May 1917, their services having been volunteered by the Governor. They appear to have worked in the docks and prove excellent stevedores. Their contribution was officially recognised by the formation of the Fiji Labour Corps by Royal Warrant on 1 July 1918.

Ivor Lee, the Forum's labour expert, may well be able to tell you more.

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#4 charlesmessenger

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Posted 21 April 2003 - 08:34 AM

I see Ian beat me to the draw by 29 secs!

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#5 Paul Reed

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Posted 21 April 2003 - 12:59 PM

A number of Fijian medical students, studying in the UK in 1914, ended up with the Fiji Labour Corps having failed to get commissions (or even into the ranks) of the RAMC when war broke out, because they were "men of colour".

One of them was Ratu Lala Sukuna, who was at Oxford in 1914. Unable to join the British Army, he went across to France and joined the 3rd Regiment Etranger (French Foreign Legion) being wounded and discharged. He joined the Fiji Labour Corps as a Sgt in 1917, and was later commissioned into the Fiji Defence Corps. He was awarded medals for his service in WW1 by both the French and British.

#6 Ian Bowbrick

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Posted 21 April 2003 - 01:57 PM

Charles,
Great minds think alike laugh.gif
Ian

#7 mordac

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Posted 22 April 2003 - 10:57 AM

As a fellow Vancouverite, I'd be interested in seeing the photo. Any chance you could scan it and e-mail it to me? Can you recognize the location in the park where the photo was taken?

Thanks.

#8 Broznitsky

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Posted 22 April 2003 - 02:18 PM

Mordac from Port Moody, check out: http://web.mala.bc.c...an.photo.10.jpg

It's from your favourite new site, in the George Dorman Collection!! The tree could be one of many in the park.

Peter from South Champlain Heights. biggrin.gif

#9 Ivor Lee

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Posted 22 April 2003 - 06:17 PM

I wish I could tell you more about the Fijian Labour Corps but information on them appears to be a bit scant.

There is a memorial to them in the Fijian capital and several attempts to get a photograph of it (and any other information on the Corps) from both the Fijian Government and their local newspaper have all met with no sucess.

Anyway for what it is worth:

The 100 strong Fijian Labour Corps together with 2 Officers arrived in Calais on 6 July 1917. Initially they were a section of the Labour Corps.

As "Black men" they were considered inferior by both the British and the French. The French went as far as banning them from cafes etc and were concerned that natives working for the British did not come into contact with natives working for them!

Apparently their contract was to serve for "Transport work" and they were used for loading and unloading ships.

In January 1918 they were moved to Marseilles to work in the docks.

In August 1918 (as a result of Army Order 228 of 1 July 1918) the Fiji Labour Corps was formed.

These men were considered good workers who gave no trouble. A party of 15 labourers accompanied by the CSM were sent to London in August 1918 to be inspected by the King.


However they do appear to have been susceptible to illnesses like bronchitis and pneumonia. So in August 1918 it was decided that they should not remain in France during the winter. So the following month they were moved to the docks at Taranto.

I must admit to a bit of cinfusion here as I have seen one reference to them moving to Taranto on 15 September 1918 and another reference dated 17 September 1918 that says they were repatriated via Italy. I suspect the latter is incorrect but have yet to find when they returned to Fiji.

Hope this helps.

By the way if any one happens to be going to Fiji on holiday/business I would appreciate a picture of their memorial. I keep telling my wife I ought to pop over and take a photograph personally but think it will have to wait for the lottery to come up!

#10 Neil Mackenzie

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Posted 22 April 2003 - 06:37 PM

A search on Google brought up the attached link to a Christine Liava'a in New Zealand researching the role of Fijians in WW1. She mentions that some 700 were involved.

http://archiver.root...Pacific_Islands

This is from last year so she may now be able to advise further.

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#11 Ivor Lee

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Posted 22 April 2003 - 07:04 PM

Neil

A useful link - thanks.

I have emailed her and will let the group know if there is anything to add to information of the Fiji Labour Corps.

#12 stevebecker

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Posted 22 April 2003 - 11:08 PM

As an ex Australian soldier and haveing been attached to the Fijians both at home and in Leberon I can tell you they are anything but infirior soldiers both in the feild and on the booze in camp.

Their soldiers are on the whole very big blokes and are terrors on the Rugby field also.

These men served in all wars last centary going long distances to fight for King and Empire.

S.B

#13 Ivor Lee

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Posted 23 April 2003 - 05:36 PM

I am pleased to say that I have heard from Christine Liava and that we are exchanging information.

She is happy for me to make use of the information she has subject to my acknowledging the source.

So once I have received the information from her I will keep you informed.

#14 Broznitsky

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 04:59 AM

Ivor, just wondering if you've found out anything interesting from Christine in New Zealand?

#15 Ivor Lee

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Posted 09 May 2003 - 04:36 PM

The answer is yes. My apologies, having just returned to work after 8 weeks absence through injury am still trying to get up to date.

I promise I'll do it over the weekend.

I don't want to end up on a charge!

#16 Ivor Lee

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Posted 10 May 2003 - 08:06 AM

Christine is writing the story of Fiji's contribution to WW1. As we are both writing about the Fiji Labour Corps we have exchanged information. I have been pleased to provide her with material I have found at the PRO and she has provided material she has found in Fiji.

I have posted below items that I think are useful in understanding more about the Fiji Labour Corps.


30 October 1915; telegram from Acting Governor of Fiji to Sec of State for colonies, offering troops.
“ Native members of Council requested me to convey to you strong desire of natives to be allowed to go to the front. No difficulty in recruiting 500 or even 1000 natives”

30 March 1916 Ratu Sukuna arrived back in Fiji after serving in French Foreign Legion

22 June 1916 article in Fiji Times.
Ratu Sukuna has formed a Fijian Force under supervision of Capt Swinburne “This force already consists of over 80 men and at the inaugural parade they presented a fine sight. ..They should be provided with a simple uniform, khakee shirts and sulus. They seem to take great interest in their work and would prove a valuable force for local defence purposes
( sulus-; sulu – wraparound skirt worn by Fijian men)


18 May 1917 departure of FLC to Honolulu then Canada, with Ratu Sukuna


26 Jun 1917 report in Fiji Times of arrival of FLC in Honolulu



1 May 1918; note in Fiji Times- “one Fiji boy killed at Marseilles on way to Egypt” (This may not refer to a native Fijian, all the men from Fiji were referred to as Fiji Boys)


16 February 1919 death of A V Evaranu (sic) in Narrow Neck Camp, Devonport, Auckland buried at Oneills Pt Cem, Devonport, NZ.
had recently arrived in NZ, invalided home as a cot case, per Hospital Ship Marama, suffering from wound in chest and lung trouble. Buried with military honours, and representation of Fiji Govt and relatives by a member of staff of LD Nathan – Fiji Govt agents in NZ



30 July Fiji Times; FLC will return about September

29 October 1919 Fiji Times; FLC arriving 31 October

31 October 1919; return of FLC.
“Kia Ora” arrived from Havre, France via Panama under Capt Levack, carrying FLC.
William Vakaotia died at sea in mid –Atlantic, buried at sea
Drumhead Thanksgiving service by Rev A J Small (head of Methodist Mission in Fiji). Tribute paid to those 10 or 11 members of the detachment that had died during their period of service” These fine young men had laid down their lives in the service of king and country as truly and as nobly as those who had fallen in battle”


There is one thing that Christine would appreciate and that is photographs of the graves of the FLC. So if anyone is going to any of LES BARAQUES MILITARY CEMETERY (1 grave) , SANGATTE, MAZARGUES WAR CEMETERY (5 graves), MARSEILLES or TARANTO TOWN CEMETERY EXTENSION (3 graves) and are willing to take photographs please let me know and I will let you know the names of the men and their location.

#17 Broznitsky

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Posted 11 May 2003 - 03:19 AM

Brilliant, Ivor, that's fascintating. Imagine the thought process that convinced these men to travel around the world to serve the King. I salute them.

#18 Drummy

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Posted 11 May 2003 - 04:18 PM

I stand corrected, but I am sure that Fijians still serve in the British Army today, can anyone confirm this?

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Posted 11 May 2003 - 05:34 PM

There are quite a few Fijians serving in the Royal Scots at the moment. Entertainingly the Army Rugby sevens team that won the Middlesex and Hong Kong sevens a couple of years ago was made up alomost exclusively of Fijians - they were terrifying!

Joe

#20 christine liava'a

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Posted 13 June 2003 - 12:34 AM

This is Christine Liava'a.
Yes there were 107 men in the Fiji Labour Corps- 100 Fijians and 7 European officers. They served at Calais, Marseilles, and Taranto, unloading ships.Several died of chest infections. One was wounded, sent back to NZ, and died in Auckland. One died on the ship bringing them back to Fiji in 1919, in mid Atlantic and was buried at sea.

Most of the other names I have are European. Some served in the 2 Fiji Contingents and 3 reinforcements, which came to England and enlisted in the KRRC.

Some served in the AIF, some in the NZEF, 6 in the South African infantry, 2 in the French forces, 5 in the Canadian Army and 1 in the USA Ambulance corps

There was also a 3rd contingent, the "half-caste contingent"which came to NZ to enlist, in August 1918, and were still here in November 1918, so never were involved in the fighting. They were all of mixed race

Does anyone know of any other photographs of men from Fiji, particularly in action?Or any other information about them, from sources in Britain? I have been to Fiji and obtained everything that is there, and what is here in NZ.

Someone mentioned students from Fiji enlisting in Britain. I know about Ratu Sukuna, who joined the French Foreign legion, and later became Prime Minister of Fiji. Who were the others?

#21 ianw

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Posted 13 June 2003 - 06:42 AM

Yes, a cursory look at SDIGW shows 9 dead Fijians of presumably white/Australian parentage , all who served with either 1st or 4th KRRC. As someone has said , imagine how they dreamed of Fiji from their trenches in France and Flanders.

#22 christine liava'a

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Posted 13 June 2003 - 08:04 AM

"Of the forty-three men who have served at the Front as members of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, there are now ten left. Originally the Fiji men composed a whole platoon, now owing to their limited numbers, they form the main part of a section……
We are resting just now away from the trenches, and are billeted in large canvas structures. There is a deep river handy, and swimming parades are the most enjoyable features of the daily routine, although the water is rather cold in comparison with the Fiji surf and rivers."
Fiji Times September 10, 1915

#23 Paul Reed

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Posted 13 June 2003 - 10:57 AM

QUOTE (christine liava'a @ Fri, 13 Jun 2003 00:34:33 +0000)
Someone mentioned students from Fiji enlisting in Britain. I know about Ratu Sukuna, who joined the French Foreign legion, and later became Prime Minister of Fiji. Who were the others?

That was me - thanks for the additional information you provided about the FLC.

I came across details of Sukuna when I was doing my MA research, but I didn't - sadly - trace names of any others.

#24 Jacky Platteeuw

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Posted 13 June 2003 - 11:40 AM

Following entries are on the Menin Gate who have connections with the Fijl Islands.
CUTBUSH, Rifleman, THOMAS WATSON, R/10196. 4th Bn. King's Royal Rifle Corps. 10th May 1915. Age 38. Son of Mrs. Frances Augusta Evelyn Swann (formerly Cutbush), of Suva, Fiji Islands.
SALE, Private, ROBERT HENRY MOODKEE, 2508. 12th Bn. Australian Infantry, A.I.F. 19th - 20th September 1917. Age 23. Son of the Rev. George Augustus Sale, M.A., and Mabel Florence Sale, of The Vicarage, Levuka, Fiji. Native of Brisbane, Queensland.
WILLIAMS, Lance Corporal, CECIL HORATIO CHILD, R/10182. 4th Bn. King's Royal Rifle Corps. 26th April 1915. Age 28. Son of the late Thomas and Fanny Ann Williams, of Wanganui, New Zealand. Enlisted in the Fiji Islands, 1914. Born at Timaru, New Zealand.
WILSON, Rifleman, ARTHUR MATTHEW, R/10191. 4th Bn. King's Royal Rifle Corps. 8th May 1915. Age 31. Son of Matthew and Ann Wilson, of Fiji Islands. Born at Levuka, Fiji Islands.
WILSON, Rifleman, GEORGE, R/10176. 4th Bn. King's Royal Rifle Corps. 8th May 1915. Age 21. Son of Capt. W. W. and Elizabeth Wilson, of Levuka, Fiji.

I must add that this entries only are for 'full' ones. Meaning detailed ones. A lot of the missing are just known by their regiment and date of death. So possibly this list is not complete. Also very interesting to see is that out of the list of 5 4 were in the 4th Bn. King's Royal Rifle Corps. In my opinion could be a good clue. Also note that 3 of them were killed during 2nd Ypres namely the Battle of Frezenberg from 8 to 13th May 1915. As already stated on other occasions the Battle of Frezenberg has been an extremely violent and bloody battle with extremely high casualties on British side.

Jacky

#25 christine liava'a

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Posted 13 June 2003 - 10:30 PM

I'm not sure of the exact battle, but they were massacred.

Interview with Rifleman Ross of the Fiji 1st Contingent, on his return to Fiji.
Fiji Times; January 12, 1916

Fijians fill Post of Honour and safeguard a battalion ; Hero Loder.

A representative of this paper had an interesting chat with ex-Rifleman Ross, of the 1st Fiji contingent, who returned to Fiji on Friday with his wounds and honours. Mr Ross is at present the guest of Mrs. MacDonald, of whose kindness and generosity he speaks gratefully.

Off to the trenches
Skipping the long period of training, Mr Ross explained that the 1st Fiji Contingent left England on the1st April, and went into the trenches near Ypres on the 6th April. They remained in the trenches for three days, and then were relieved, and marched to Ypres. After a brief rest they returned to the trenches, spending three days in the front line, then three days in the second line, followed by three days in the first line again. At the end of the nine days they prepared to leave the trenches as arranged, but the relief, which it appears had been cut up in a charge meantime, did not arrive. And for thirty-two days on end the lads of Fiji remained at their grim post in the firing line.

Overwhelming Artillery
At this stage of the war, said Mr Ross, the Germans were overwhelmingly superior in guns and ammunition. On the small front partly held by Fijians, they had at least one hundred guns, which would bombard the British troops incessantly for as long as three days together. By way of reply, a British gun or two would spurt here or there, very much like a popgun. It was practically rifles against abundant artillery, and a mighty bad time the riflemen had of it All that was now changed, thank God. But during the time the Fijians were in the trenches, the odds were completely with the enemy. Most of the time the Britishers could do nothing but lie low, suffering from the Germans’ bombardment, and being unable to return the compliment.

The Post of Honour

Four days before the 8th May (that grim morning that saw the end of the Fiji Contingent) the Fijians performed a feat of arms and valour of which little had been heard, said Mr Ross. The simple words in which Mr Ross records this deed gives a thrill. It was the time, he explained, that the French Algerians fell back on the left. The Canadians were pushed forward to save the situation, and were ”gassed”. The Germans were within an ace of surrounding the British army. Word was passed around that forty volunteers were required to hold the line while the battalion, in which the Fijians were included, beat a retreat. Sergeant Bayly begged that the Fijians should be given the post of danger, and his request was granted. This meant that forty Fijians had to hold the whole of the trenches previously held by a whole battalion. Let the Germans guess the truth, and a single charge would have ended the forty. But the Germans never guessed. The forty Fijians, alone in that long line of trenches, sprang from post to post, firing rapidly. Each man was given a traverse to himself, in which he lit a fire. He fired from one end of the traverse, then from the centre, and then quickly from the end; and so on, backwards and forwards, rushing and firing for hours, until the retreat of the battalion had been safely effected. It was a great feat, and saved the battalion, not a man of which was injured. Then came the final act of heroism. Six of the Fijians were called upon to hold that long line while the balance of the forty retired, and this they did so effectively that the whole contingent was ultimately withdrawn without the loss of a single man. The Fijians were given great praise for this feat; in fact, one well-known Army officer, meeting a Fijian in London, shook hands with him, and said, with tears in his eyes “If all my men had been Fijians, what could I not have accomplished!”

The Day of Reckoning

On the 8th May, the great day of reckoning for the gallant boys of Fiji, Mr Ross speaks with diffidence; he cannot bring himself to speak at all of the carnage that took place in the Fiji and British trenches. It had to be remembered that at this time the Germans were so overwhelmingly superior in artillery that they could inflict punishment pretty much as they pleased, provided they knew the position of their opponents. Prior to the 8th May the bulk of the British forces had been silently withdrawn a couple of miles; the trenches were there for the Germans to take if they knew they were practically empty; this they did not know; and for fear of punishment did not advance. The British troops were quietly pushed forward again. In the early morn of the 8th May a German aeroplane succeeded in discovering the position of the army, and the Germans, who had the range to a yard, commenced a terrific bombardment. Mr Ross’ own experience on that occasion was somewhat unique. About 7 o’clock in the morning he was lying down in the traverse of the trench reading a newspaper. He thinks he must have dozed off, though he remembers remarking to his comrades that the shells were coming nearer. The next thing he remembers was sitting up, to find his boots blown off his feet, and he apparently the only survivor in the traverse. He lay, with his wounds, for about three hours, and then Rifleman Loder came along and told him to get out as quickly as he could, as the Germans were about to charge. He thereupon crawled out of the back of the trench, and got behind a tree, where he remained safely without being hit. He remained there for fourteen hours. And was then conveyed to the field dressing station; thence, after the dressing of his wounds, he was removed to the base hospital at Versailles. As evidence of German brutality, Mr Ross remarked that, although he was obviously wounded, covered with blood, and was crawling along the ground, the Germans repeatedly fired at him; later, when he was being carried to the dressing station, he was again repeatedly fired at, and the ambulance men had to drop him in the middle of the roadway, and seek safety in a ditch. There was no question about it, said Mr Ross, that the Germans were more inhuman than any other race he knew of.

The heroic six

Mr Ross speaks in terms of keen admiration of the gallantry of his comrades during the retreat on the 8th May. As soon as the order was given, he saw many British troops leave their trenches quickly, and retire with the utmost despatch. But not so the remnants of the gallant little Fiji Contingent. Lying down behind the tree, Mr Ross saw plainly what was proceeding. Standing out alone, in relief, on the top of a small hill, a dozen survivors of the Fijians gave the oncoming Germans a taste of lead; and, he was sure, said Mr Ross, that the behaviour of that half-dozen saved many lives. The Fijians, on their little hilltop, were in a fine shooting position, and their presence and splendid shooting delayed the whole German advance in that section. When finally they were so pressed that they had to move, they did not run, but retired step by step, blazing as they went, as gallant and touching a picture as ever the eyes of man wished to look upon. Lying there, said Mr Ross, his heart throbbed with excitement and pride, and he never would forget the sight as long as he lived. For quite a while that little band seemed to stand alone out of that whole section of the British army, and long afterwards officers and men of other battalions talked about it. But it was only one of the incidents of the great battle and retreat, and little apparently had been heard of it on this side of the world.

Harry Loder, Hero

Harry Loder, said Mr Ross, was a hero, as brave a lad as ever wore uniform. For at least twelve hours he kept coming and going to Ross, bringing him water and cigarettes, every journey exposing him to the enemy. At one time when he (Loder) was holding up Ross’ head, and forcing a little water between his lips, a bullet went through the top of the water bottle; but the gallant lad only remarked about the closeness of the shave, and went on with Samaritan work. A little later, exposing himself all the way, he carried another injured Fijian out of the trench into safety. And between every little act of sacrifice and kindness, Loder would pick up his rifle, run to the parapet of the trench, and pick off one of the advancing Germans. It was a memory that stuck. Loder was V.C in the hearts of his comrades, whether he got the honour or not. Two days later, said Mr Ross, Loder, wounded in the leg, was taken prisoner. He, (Ross) had received a letter from him, from Germany; it was guarded in tone, but cheery.

The Beginning of the End

It was a general opinion amongst the soldiers, said Mr Ross, that if the Allies could hang out for another twelve months, they would wear down the Germans. Individually, the German was a poor fighter; but collectively, he fought stubbornly and well. Latterly. He believed that the opinion was gaining ground that the Allies would never break through the Germans’ line. However that was merely an opinion.
He had no doubt himself that the Germans would be beaten

The Future

As regards his future, said Mr Ross, he had arrived at no determination. He would like to get back to the Front, and did not think that his injury would retard him from serving with, say, the artillery. In reply to a suggestion, Mr Ross said that if a 3rd Fiji Contingent went Home, he would like to go with it as a drill instructor; he could give the boys a few “tips”, and when he got Home he would take his chance of getting in the artillery.