Pacific family gathered in remembrance

Solomons’ International Assistance Force (SIAF) personnel gathered for a memorial service to mark Fiji’s Infantry Day on June 23.

CAPTION: Australian Defence Force officer Lieutenant Colonel Tim Warner lays a wreath during Fiji’s Infantry Day commemoration service at Vilu War Memorial, Solomon Islands. Story and photo by Corporal Julia Whitwell.

SIAF was formed at the request of the Solomon Islands Government after the riots in November 2021, and includes police personnel from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Papua New Guinea as well as Fijian, Australian and New Zealand defence force members.

The memorial service, held in two parts at Honiara then at the Vilu War Memorial, was attended by Solomon Islands Prime Minister Menassah Sogavare and other guests of honour.

It was the first time the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) held an Infantry Day service in Solomon Islands.

   

Infantry Day commemorates Corporal Sefanaia Sukanaivalu, the Republic of Fiji Military Forces only Victoria Cross recipient, who fought and died in the Solomon Campaign during WW2.

On June 23, 1944, Corporal Sukanailvalu’s platoon was ambushed at Mawaraka, Bougainville. Other soldiers in platoons ahead of his were injured.

Despite the danger, Corporal Sukanailvalu volunteered to crawl forward to rescue the wounded.

After rescuing two soldiers, he went back to rescue a third, but was injured in the groin and legs and couldn’t move further.

With his platoon still under attack, Corporal Sukanailvalu raised himself up to reveal his position and draw enemy machine gun fire away from his fellow soldiers.

SIAF Fijian military contingent commander Lieutenant Colonel Asaeli Nabuliwaqa Toanikeve said Corporal Sukanaivalu’s bravery and sacrifice lives on in the nation’s memory.

“It’s an honour to be here, so near to where Corporal Sukanailvalu fought so valiantly, to remember him on this day, 78 years on,” Lieutenant Colonel Asaeli Nabuliwaqa Toanikeve said.

“We are proud to represent Fiji and carry the legacy of this soldier and his men; to still be working to maintain peace in the Pacific.”

SIAF Australian Defence Force commander Lieutenant Colonel Tim Warner said Corporal Sukanaivalu’s actions represented the Fijian military’s spirit.

“The story of Corporal Sukanaivalu’s valour is consistent with what I know Fijian soldiers to be – strong and fierce in battle, and caring mates for those they are here to protect,” Lieutenant Colonel Warner said.

“It’s a privilege to be working with our Fijian partners within SIAF and I am humbled to share Infantry Day commemorations with them today.”


 
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