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EVENT - RNZAF Commemorative Monument


VENUE: Lawn next to FBE Post Graduate Centre

DATE: 23rd March

The University of the South Pacific commenced operations at the Laucala Campus in February 1968. The campus is situated on land previously occupied by the 5 Squadron of the Royal New Zealand Airforce (RNZAF). In September 1942, the 5 Squadron transferred to Laucala Bay, Suva. Initially flying Singapore Flying Boats then later Catalinas, the Squadron performed anti-submarine patrols and kept watch on suspected enemy ship and aircraft movements during the Second World War. Even during the war the Catalinas were used for important humanitarian services including air-sea rescues and the transport of essential items to various Pacific Islands. Post war the number of military staff declined, but the Catalinas continued to carry out air-sea rescues and maritime reconnaissance. Throughout its life, the Laucala Bay base was a large employer of Fijians and contributed greatly to the economy of the area. When the Lau group of islands was devastated by a hurricane in 1949, the Squadron flew emergency flights to 11 of the islands of the group carrying vital food and medical supplies. In September 1951, with the signing of the ANZUS Pact, New Zealand was assigned principle responsibility for surveillance of the South West Pacific and the Catalinas were replaced with Mk V Sunderland Flying Boats. Throughout the 50s and 60s these aircraft performed important intelligence gathering, search and rescue and mede-vac services across the South West Pacific. Significantly, they were engaged in the search for the “Joyita” in 1955 and the rescue of survivors from Minerva Reef after the grounding of the “Tuaikeaepau” in 1962. In 1963 the Sunderlands played a critical air support role for the royal visit to Fiji of HRH Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh. On withdrawing from the base, the RNZAF left many valuable buildings and other infrastructure which was used by The University of the South Pacific to deliver their classes from 1968 onwards.

The University of the South Pacific commenced operations at the Laucala Campus in February 1968. The campus is situated on land previously occupied by the 5 Squadron of the Royal New Zealand Airforce (RNZAF). In September 1942, the 5 Squadron transferred to Laucala Bay, Suva. Initially Singapore Flying Boats then later Catalinas, the Squadron performed anti-submarine patrols and kept watch on suspected enemy ship and aircraft movements during the Second World War. Even during the war the Catalinas were used for important humanitarian services including air-sea rescues and the transport of essential items to various Pacific Islands. Post war the number of military staff declined, but the Catalinas continued to carry out air-sea rescues and maritime reconnaissance. Throughout its life, the Laucala Bay base was a large employer of Fijians and contributed greatly to the economy of the area. When the Lau group of islands was devastated by a hurricane in 1949, the Squadron flew emergency flights to 11 of the islands of the group carrying vital food and medical supplies. In September 1951, with the signing of the ANZUS Pact, New Zealand was assigned principle responsibility for surveillance of the South West Pacific and the Catalinas were replaced with Mk V Sunderland Flying Boats. Throughout the 50s and 60s these aircraft performed important intelligence gathering, search and rescue and mede-vac services across the South West Pacific. Significantly, they were engaged in the search for the “Joyita” in 1955 and the rescue of survivors from Minerva Reef after the grounding of the “Tuaikeaepau” in 1962. In 1963 the Sunderlands played a critical air support role for the royal visit to Fiji of HRH Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh. On withdrawing from the base, the RNZAF left many valuable buildings and other infrastructure which was used by The University of the South Pacific to deliver their classes from 1968 onwards.

USP, in conjunction with the New Zealand Government, commissioned local artist, Shane Bower to build an artwork that sat atop a Commemorative Monument to the 5 Squadron.

The RNZAF brought three planes from New Zealand and around 150 veterans of the 5 Squadron travelled to Suva for the joint unveiling by Honourable Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji together with Honourable Ron Mark, New Zealand’s Minister for Defence. The unveiling was conducted on Friday 23 March 2018 at the Laucala Campus.


Speech by Professor Rajesh Chandra Vice Chancellor and President of USP At the Unveiling of the RNZAF Commemorative Monument, Date: Friday 23rd March 2018

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