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Story of the 34th

Songs Of The Islands

page 130

Songs Of The Islands

Whether it was the climate, or the people, or the work we did, or just south sea island magic, we cannot tell; but it is a fact that in Fiji song-writers gave full vent to their romantic yearnings and committed to paper and to history a number of compositions which enjoyed unending popularity with men who served in the 'Cannibal Islands'. Taken by and large, however, none surpassed in popularity the famous song Isa Lei, orginally written in Fiji for the Fijian people to sing.

Other songs, not peculiar to Fiji, which had their supporters were The Ball of Baltimore, Bless 'em All, Salome, Maori Battalion and You are ray Sunshine. But we remember more particularly those compositions which were written in Fiji by soldiers; with a definite local flavour about most of them; for instance that famous ditty dealing with Suva's bad girls—Standing Alone. It could be sung with enormous pathos and sentiment. Here is it's chorus:—

Goodbye, goodbye you black b——
I know that the joke's been on me;
But when I get back to New Zealand
I'll always remember Fiji.

Then there was The Momi Bay Hotel and For the duration in lovely Fiji, both very pathetic ballads; and, of course, the magnificent troop-ship song, Side, side Monowai's side. The bawdiest of all—despite keen rivalry from The Bali of Baltimore and Salome, was In the street of a thousand … It was unprintable.

Here is Defending the CSR sung to the tune of A wee doch and doris. The sentiments expressed were those of the composer, and not necessarily everyone else, for the CSR (Colonial Sugar Refining Company Ltd) did a great deal for the troops in Fiji toward their comfort and welfare.

We are Peter Fraser's soldiers
New Zealand's infantry
We'd fight for King and country
But they sent us to Fiji;
They're fighting on in Libya,
It's safer here by far,
So to hell with King and country
We'll Defend the Csr.

page 131

There's flies and ants and toads here
And bugs that bite by night
You wouldn't think to see us
That we'd joined up to fight;
The worker stands behind us
And buys beer by the jar
With the money he is making
While We Save The Csr.

We're not so good with rifles
We've never fired a shot
But with spades and picks and shovels
The boys are getting hot;
Our ammos pretty old
And won't come up to par
But there's boxes full of leadheads
To Defend The Csr.

So while this war is raging

We'll sit here safe and sound
So the mill-wheels of Luatoka
May keep turning round;
And when this war is over
In every hotel bar
You'll hear us tell the story
How We Saved The Csr.

Finally, what might be called a tabloid history of Fiji is told in The Army in Fiji—the best known song of them all, swung to the hill-billy tune of The Martins and McCoys. Here it is:—

Now gather round I'll tell you all a story
Of an army in the days of forty-one,
While their comrades overseas
Fought and killed their enemies
They just waited while the battles were all won;
Oh, that army in Fiji, they were brave as brave can be
And they laboured with their shovels all day long
But then they didn't Know
That the savage yellow foe
Was advancing on them many millions strong.

page 132

So each day they polished up their web and rifles
And they did their drill with great efficiency
Though they had no ammunition
They were chock full of ambition
As they waited in their camps beside the sea;
Oh, that army in Fiji they were brave as brave could be
As they dug their weapon pits down by the sea
And though the water filled 'em
Just as quick, as they could build 'em
'Twas a comfort for the major and Oc

Though their rifles were of 1914 pattern
And their Lewis guns had fought at Waterloo
Though their rounds were mostly misfires
And their Air Force had no Spitfires
They were out to show the world what they could do;
Oh, that army in Fiji they were brave as brave could be
And at last the bugle blew a raid alarm
The Japs they heard were coming
And it set the wires a-humming
With the army here the Japs could do no harm.

The officers they had to have a meeting
Decided things were bad as bad could be
To NZ they sent a cable
'Send as soon as you are able
Ammunition for the army in Fiji';
Oh, that army in Fiji they were brave as brave could be
But alas that brilliant army is no more
For the old New Zealand deadheads
Sent a ton of blooming leadheads
As they heard the army used them once before.

So that army like this little song is ended
But their name will always live in memory
As a brilliant indication of a lack of preparation
That's a byword in New Zealand's infantry.

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Captain L. J. Kirk, died of wounds

Captain L. J. Kirk, died of wounds

Captain T. H. M. Ham, died on active servic

Captain T. H. M. Ham, died on active servic

Private C. L. Bishop, died on active service

Private C. L. Bishop, died on active service

Private J. E. Smith, awarded the Military Med

Private J. E. Smith, awarded the Military Med

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Battalion CommandersLieutenant-Colonel F. W. Voelcker, Dso, Mc

Battalion Commanders
Lieutenant-Colonel F. W. Voelcker, Dso, Mc

Lieutenant-Colonel J. A. M. Clachan, NZ

Lieutenant-Colonel J. A. M. Clachan, NZ

Lieutenant-Colonel R. J. Eyre, Nzsc

Lieutenant-Colonel R. J. Eyre, Nzsc

Lieutenant-Colonel J. M. Reidy. Nzts

Lieutenant-Colonel J. M. Reidy. Nzts