Feature

‘Known Unto God’, The Grave Of FIji’s Unknown Soldier

Only God the Almighty knows the identity of this soldier and from which village and province in Fiji he called home.
09 Nov 2019 14:05
‘Known Unto God’, The Grave Of FIji’s Unknown Soldier
Grave Of Fiji's Unknown Soldier

Among the graves of Fijian soldiers at the Commonwealth War Cemetery at Bitapaka on the island of Rabaul in Papua New Guinea, is the grave of Fiji’s Unknown Soldier.

He was listed as a Fijian Scout or Commando. He was completely obliterated by enemy artillery fire.

No positive identification could be made. On his gravestone there is no name; just the simple words ‘Known unto God’

Only God the Almighty knows the identity of this soldier and from which village and province in Fiji he called home.

Many countries around the world have recovered the remains of their own Unknown Soldier and interred them in a special memorial or Cen­otaph referred to as The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The tradition of the Unknown Soldier was started by the British in 1920. They recovered the uniden­tified remains of one of their own soldiers who was killed in France during World War 1 (1914-1918) and entombed the remains in Westmin­ster Abbey in London on November 11, 1920.

Many other countries including the USA, France, Canada, Australia and New Zealand took up the idea and entombed Unknown Soldiers of their own in a specially built Cenotaph (Memorial).

t serves as an important unifying symbol in those countries. It re­minds them of the price they have had to pay for peace.

In Fiji, we do not have a formal Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to serve as the focus of our national remembrance service.

We do, however, have a National War Memorial at Veiuto that is still being developed and which will ultimately include a War Museum and a Clubhouse for veterans.

At Veiuto, the names of Fijians who died serving with the British Army are also inscribed. A statue of Sergeant Talaiasi Labalaba, who was killed in action in 1972 while serving with the British Special Air Service (SAS) Regiment, was only recently unveiled in Nadi by His Royal Highness Prince Harry.

The men in the British Army are the sons of Fiji too and deserve to be so honoured in this way by hav­ing their names etched at Veiuto alongside those of their fellow countrymen who have made the su­preme sacrifice.

It is perhaps an opportune time for the people of Fiji to consider the construction of Fiji’s own Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the site in Veiuto.

Such a memorial will be a national unifying symbol that will also sig­nify our maturity as a nation.

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

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