Dravuni men in Malayan Campaign, 1952-56

HM Queen Elizabeth’s coronation visit to Fiji was in December 1953 (see earlier posting). This came one year after the first contingent of Fiji soldiers (1 Bn FIR) left for the Malayan Campaign to fight the Communist insurrection. Kaidravuni Isimeli Vulatolu was a member of that contingent. He stayed for the full duration of the campaign and was a Company Sergeant Major when the campaign ended successfully in June 1956.

Livai Veilawa (grand father’s namesake) joined Isimeli Vulatolu in 1954. Both returned to Fiji safely on the ship Devonshire on 18 June 1956. The returning soldiers were welcomed back with traditional and military pomp that befitted the occasion at Albert Park. This was preceded by a celebratory march though Suva from the wharf to the Park.

I watched the military march, lined up on the side of the road with thousands of others, as a Class 4 student of Nabua Central Fijian School. I was 10. My fellow students were lined up where Kadavu House is today, along Victoria Parade.

A returning soldier on the ship Devonshire looking out to get a glimpse of relatives in the crowd at the Kings Wharf
1 Bn FIR marching along Victoria Parade, taking the mayoral salute. The battalion is led by its Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. Ratu P.K.Ganilau
The memorable ceremony of welcome at Albert Park. Half of the 1,600 men on parade were dressed in khaki, being the soldiers returning from Malaya. The other half, in white, are those whose tours of duty in Malaya had concluded earlier in the campaign

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