21st November 02:14 AM
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to unveil statue of Fijian SAS hero Labalaba in Nadi
By Lena Reece
Tuesday 09/10/2018
A Fijian hero in the Special Air Service (SAS) a special forces unit of the British Army, Sergeant Talaiasi Labalaba

A Fijian hero in the Special Air Service (SAS) a special forces unit of the British Army, Talaiasi Labalaba will be honoured with a statue in Nadi, for his bravery in the Battle of Mirbat in 1972.   

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markel will on their first royal visit to Fiji from the 23rd to the 25th of this month officially unveil the new statue commemorating Sergeant Talaiasi Labalaba.

British military top brass hailed fearless Labalaba as one of the Who Dares Wins regiment's greatest heroes for actions which cost him his life during a battle with Communist rebels in Oman in 1972.

Sergeant Labalaba was part of a unit pinned down by an overwhelming force of guerrillas inside a fort. As they came under a hail of fire, Labalaba raced 800 metres to take control of a 25‑pounder artillery gun which normally needed a three‑man crew to operate.

He displayed notable bravery by solely continuing to fire the 25 pounder in spite of being seriously wounded when a bullet hit him on the jaw, after his Omani loader was seriously wounded early in the battle.

Labalaba’s body was returned to England and buried in the cemetery at St Martin's Church.

Speaking to Fijivillage the British High Commissioner Melanie Hopkins highlighted that on the morning of Thursday 25th October, the Duke and Duchess will travel to Nadi where they will attend a special event at Nadi International Airport and also officiate at the unveiling of the new statue.

Upon their arrival on Tuesday 23rd October Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will be accorded a Guard of Honour at Nausori Airport, before calling on the President, Jioji Konrote at Borron House.

Hopkins also revealed that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will then attend an official welcome ceremony at Albert Park.

She says that the ceremony at Albert Park is very significant in the relationship between Britain and Fiji as the ceremony will mirror the visit of Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh in 1953.

Hopkins says that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will then attend a reception and a State Dinner hosted by the President, Konrote at the Grand Pacific Hotel at which the Duke will speak.

She says that on Wednesday 24th October Prince Harry will lay a wreath at the War Memorial, and meet a number of Fijian war veterans, some of whom served with the British Armed Forces.

Hopkins adds that the links between the British Army and Fiji continue to this day with more than 1250 Fijians currently serving in the British Army.

Hopkins says that the Royal couple then continue their second day in Fiji with split programmes – The Duke will travel to Colo‑i‑Suva Forest Park and The Duchess to the British High Commissioner’s Residence and will then travel to Suva Market.

On the Thursday 25th October, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will travel to Tonga and will be met by Her Royal Highness The Princess of Tonga, Angelika Latu-fui-peka.

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