As a member of the Fiji History Community, I have started to research my Grandfather Livai Veilawa. My initial enquiry has been:
What was happening in Fiji, in the region and internationally, when my Grandfather Livai Veilawa entered the second half of the third decade of his life, with effect from 1914, and was seeking employment?
Here is a summary of my findings to date:
Livai Veilawa was 25 in 1914 and had not once lived on Dravuni, the village of his father and ancestors. The first six years of his life, including his birth, were spent in various villages on Kadavu where his father, Simione Ravana was posted as a Methodist catechist – the first from Dravuni to do so. The next 19 years were spent in his mother’s village, in nearby Naqara, Ono, Kadavu, This came about on the basis of a decision that his father had taken not to return to his village since he was unhappy about the changes that had taken place on Dravuni during his absence as regards traditional chiefly leadership.
Livai was born in Nabukelevuira, district of Nabukelevu, in 1889 and he grew up as a child in Nukunuku, Tavuki and Namalata before moving to Naqara, where his mother, Elenoa Raluve hailed from.
Reaching 25 years of age, he needed employment. His parents were getting old and he needed to show discipline and responsibility in his home away from home. Sometime after his 25th birthday, he moved to Suva to seek employment and found work as a stevedore on the Suva Wharf. There was work galore there. It was also the place where he was recruited by Ratu Sukuna to be a member of the Fiji Labour Corps (FLC) that was mobilized between 1917-1919 to Calais and Marseilles in France and Taranto in southern Italy, to help out in the war effort of WW1. Ratu Sukuna himself had earlier joined the French Foreign Legion and had distinguished himself as a war hero.
WW1 generated a lot of activities in Europe. These had ripple effects in Fiji and in the Pacific region. Soldiers from Fiji quickly enlisted and were mobilized to the frontline either directly as Fiji contingents or as members of the NZ Expeditionary Force. Various provinces did not want to be left out and they contributed to the war efforts either in cash or in kind.
The NZ Expeditionary Force captured Samoa in the region. Samoa was then a German colony. Fiji volunteers participated in that invasion.
Status of my Research
The next step in my research is to visit the National Archives of Fiji (NAF) to verify sources of research findings I have already acquired from other sources. A challenge I need help with is that through the NAF, I will be able to sort out the inconsistencies of data and information, relating to the FLC that have appeared in different publications.
Watch this space for more updates!
[Image courtesy of Christine Liava’a: ‘Qaravi Na’I Tavi: They Did Their Duty – Soldiers from Fiji in the Great War’ 2009]