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The Samoa (N.Z.) Expeditionary Force 1914–1915

Chapter VII. — Suva, Fiji

page 51

Chapter VII.
Suva, Fiji.

In the early morning of 26th, in close heat and drizzling rain, the expedition entered Suva harbour, with the warships flashing their lamp signals through the dense mist.

A perky little quickfirer, placed there since the outbreak of war, commanded the entrance, and the old Survey Ship, the "Sea Lark," lay at the wharf, having run the gauntlet of the German cruisers on her way from the Solomons.

Unlike Noumea, there was no demonstration at Suva, where the wharf was under a guard of the Fiji Constabulary, and a woolly-headed Fijian dived unconcernedly off the wharf for the "Monowai's" shore line as she drew alongside for watering before rejoining the Fleet in the stream.

Here, during the day, native canoes came alongside with fruits and wares, but the occupants were out for business, and did not pelt them aboard as the Noumeans had done. They entertained the troops by chanting their harmonious melodies and diving for coins thrown overboard, regardless of sharks, to be plainly seen swimming in the vicinity. The troops, confined to the ships, looked longingly towards the attractions of Suva, and its verdant low hills with snug bungalows set in their midst.

Wharf at Suva Fiji

Wharf at Suva Fiji

page 52

During the day one officer and 19 men of the "Sea Lark" joined the expedition to assist with the boats in the landing. A Naval signaller joined the Signalling Company, and at the request of the Governor of Fiji a detail of the Legion of Frontiersmen was attached. The opportunity was taken by the P.M.O. of conferring with the Chief Medical Officer ashore and obtaining from him a supply of some necessary drugs and literature, and valuable advice on tropical diseases in general and in Samoa in particular. A nursing sister from Wellington, who had become stranded in Suva owing to the cessation of the steamer service, also joined the Nursing Division of the expedition.

Fourteen natives of Samoa, then resident in Suva, volunteered their services and were taken on board the "Moeraki" for the purpose, on arrival in Samoa, of being dispersed over the Islands to convey to the natives the intention to occupy the Territory with a British force.

Commodore Ward, R.N., joined Transport No. 1 as Beach Master.

A further conference was held aboard the Flagship, and all necessary details for the landing were there decided upon.

The stay at Suva was but brief, and early the next morning the expedition put forth on the final stage of its voyage.

With the departure from Suva a change in the demeanour of the force was apparent to the observant watcher, and the happy care-free boys of yesterday became serious men. Water-bottles were sterilized and bayonets ground, and the now old-fashioned circular metal identity discs were issued, together with 150 rounds of ammunition. A nasty sea was encountered, and even the hardened traveller was laid low, while the gunboats made a fine display as they plunged nosedeep into the heavy seas and ploughed their foam-flecked way ahead. It came as a surprise to the many on the morning following the 27th, when ships orders contained the information that "To-day is the 27th August" —the 180th degree of longtitude had been crossed and the voyage was nearing its end.