Saturday, November 7, 2009

Mesake Shall Not Forget

We shall not forget - Timoci Vula
Sunday, November 08, 2009

MORE than 50 years ago, a young man who once lived at Topline in Lautoka was among a group of men who found themselves in a boat, not knowing they were headed to war against the Japanese in the Solomons.

The last Mesake Soli could remember of Fiji then was the Lautoka harbour slowly disappearing on the horizon.

The next thing the 92-year-old man of Vorovoro in Dawasamu remembered was seeing the group of island he later found out to be the New Hebrides.

By this time, amid missiles and bombs being dropped on them in the water, Solomon canoes were approaching their boat to take them ashore.

Mr Soli told his story as he prepares for Remembrance Day which will be celebrated around the world on Wednesday.

"Then we were told we were going to war, even by then firing of guns and missiles was already in play."

Mr Soli could not fully recall the sequence of events. "It was a long time ago and I am getting forgetful".

In parts, he told his story to the Fiji Times making sure he was relating events as they happened.

He paused now and then to recollect.

Mr Soli cannot remember the exact number of people who made up their platoon but said there was a good number of Fijians from all over Fiji.

He said they were then taken to Malaita where he saw beautiful dark Solomon women walking around with naked upper bodies.

"That time, malaria was rife in Malaita and the people there suffering from the disease." He said they fought with pride and courage, saying Fijian men were indeed brave and courageous.

He recalled that he fought alongside Sefanaia Sukanaivalu, who was awarded the Victoria Cross.

Mr Soli said the atmosphere was tense and all they could think of was home.

It was a time when they listen to, supported and protected each other.

"We were fired at and we fired back."

Mr Soli remembers that they spent about 11 months in the war before they came home. Remembrance Day will be celebrated on November 11 -- the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month.

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