NEWS

Strict Rules on Social Life Maintained Standards at Early Laucala Bay Base

While members of the Royal New Zealand Air Force at Laucala Bay in Suva were preparing for war, their social life also came under scrutiny, a new book soon to
22 Mar 2018 11:15
Strict Rules on Social Life Maintained Standards at Early Laucala Bay Base
Laucala Bay - Bee Dawson

While members of the Royal New Zealand Air Force at Laucala Bay in Suva were preparing for war, their social life also came under scrutiny, a new book soon to be released, reveals.

Rules were put in place to “protect them”, the book, Laucala Bay – The Story of the Royal New Zealand Air Force in Fiji 1940 to 1967, shows.

The author, New Zealander Bee Dawson, wrote “it was fortunate that the station facilities were attractive, as there was little opportunity to go anywhere else.”

Camp bounds were strictly laid down by the army authorities in the early days of the base operations and with Fiji firmly under British rule.

“The following places are out of bounds to airmen: Nasese Village, Toorak Dance Hall, lounges of the Grand Pacific and Metropole Hotels.

“The first two of these locations were banned in order to prevent fraternisation with the locals, the second because the lounges of these upmarket hotels were to be patronised only by officers,“ Ms Dawson wrote.

“Irrespective of where they drank, the RNZAF’s standing orders made it clear that all ranks were to avoid fraternising with the local native population.

“Conduct with Natives: The following rules are laid down for the conduct of all ranks while serving in Fiji. It will be a serious breach of discipline and will be dealt with as such for any officer or airman:

  •  To fraternise with any native in a public place. (Native includes a Fijian or iTaukei and an Indian (Indo-Fijian);
  •  To drive in the company of a native in a motor-car or motor vehicle;
  •  To  dance with a native woman;
  •  To enter a native kava saloon;
  •  To enter native villages unbidden unless in the course of military duty;
  •  To play rugby football with natives;
  •  To box or wrestle with natives;
  •  To supply any alcoholic liquor to a native;
  • νTo drink liquor in  the company of a native in any place; and
  •  To enter any area, place or building which has been placed out of bounds to New Zealand troops.

“In Suva, the officers who were accommodated in the Grand Pacific Hotel could do so much as they pleased, which often meant long hours spent sipping cocktails on the terrace overlooking the bay. However, airmen had few options other than the canteens that had been set up by the Church of England Guild and the Catholic Workers Organisation. open until 2200 hours daily, these supplied supper and writing materials.

“At the weekend’s excursions were often arranged to Nukulau Island, a short boatride across Laucala Bay.

“There was to be no slipping of standards on these “days off”, however. On Sunday 22 December 1940, the Unit’s orders stipulated that: ’’Dress will be shorts, shirts, stockings, and topees. Bathing suits, towels and drinking vessels are to be taken. Meals will be provided’’.

Elsewhere it was noted that ‘’a reminder is given that disability due to sunburn will be regarded as due to negligence and is not  accepted as a legitimate ground for light or  excused duties.

Ms Dawson wrote: “When, on 18 January 1941, a dance was held for airmen and their guests at the RNZAF barracks, it was decided that the sleeping quarters were to be used as a supper room.

“Each airman was instructed to dismantle and remove his bed before the dance and then reassemble after all guests were gone.

“No alcoholic liquor was to be brought and although airmen could invite up to three guests, native women were not eligible. All guests off the premises by 0015 hours. “Airmen will be granted an extension of one hour’s leave to 01000 hours for the purpose of escorting guests to their homes.

“Although the top brass hoped that these organised activities would keep the men away other, more exotic pursuits, entries in the army’s Routine Orders indicate that this was not entirely successful.”

In January 1941,  the orders noted firmly: ‘Would you please draw the attention of the men to the fact that  VD (venereal disease) is on the increase (Gon and syphilis). Advise all men “Keep away from these women. If you must visit them choose a clean one – SHE CAN’T BE FOUND. If you do, then visit the PA hut as early as possible – your only chance of escape. Airmen are reminded that concealment of venereal disease is an offence”.

MEDICAL

“Staying healthy in this tropical paradise came with myriad challenges. Mosquitoes, which were possible carriers of disease as well as unpleasant bedfellows, were to be kept at bay by daily ‘Flitting’ of bedrooms (especially under beds). Mosquito proof doors were to be closed no later than 1730 hours daily.

There was concern about fruit … “‘Care should be exercised in purchasing fruit from itinerant vendors. Any fruit which is not peeled before consumption should be washed in Condy’s Crystals.

“Although there was little in the way of tropical disease, feet caused significant concern. The initial insistence on a working dress of ‘black shoes and khaki stockings up to within three inches of centre of knee cap, along with khaki shorts, khaki bush type shirt (short sleeve) and topee’ led to a few problems.

“Although the shirts and shorts were appropriate for Fiji’s hot and muggy climate, shoes and socks provided the ideal breeding ground for tinea and other foot infections.”

Edited by George Kulamaiwasa

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