Fiji Times Logo

Fiji Time: 9:29 AM on Thursday 24 April

/ Front page / News

Secrets to the grave

Avinesh Gopal
Saturday, March 30, 2013

JUST days before he died, Kauata 'Fred' Marafono wanted his people at home to know his story.

Not the whole story, mostly on the period of his life in war-torn Sierra Leone where he dedicated his life to defend the people against atrocities during the conflict that was dubbed the Blood Diamond Wars.

The Fiji Times had contacted Hamish Ross, the co-author of their book — From SAS to Blood Diamond Wars — to publish extracts and highlight the story of this unsung hero from Pepjei in Rotuma.

Mr Marafono agreed and, through Mr Ross, replied they were eager. There were only 35 copies of the book left and were going to reprint.

They planned to sell the book in Fiji.

It was Mr Marafono's dream to launch it at home. The same week, he passed away.

The true SAS soldier that he was, he stayed true to his word and kept secret some parts of his life with the SAS.

His colleague, Dr Ken Hedges, said from Ontario in Canada yesterday that he was privileged to have served with "Fred and the other four Fijians" — Talaiasi Labalaba, Sekonaia Takavesi, Jim Vakatali and Ilisoni Ligairi.

"Fred saw active service in Borneo, South Arabia (now Yemen), Oman, the Falkland Islands and other operational areas and became a real legend within the SAS," he said. "I served with Fred and the other four Fijians in 22 SAS during the period 1964 to 1967 in my capacity as the regimental medical officer, deploying with them in Borneo and South Arabia."

Dr Hedges said he spent the first five years of his childhood in Suva and had some ingrained memories of places in the Capital City and what he used to do. "When I was with the SAS, it was a very real privilege to invite Fred, Takavesi and Vakatali to my parents home in Bournemouth.

"In 2006, I was privileged to visit Labalaba's family near Nadi and give his mother a silver fountain pen which the five Fijian members of the SAS had presented to me in 1967 when I left the regiment to join the four-men crossing party of the British Trans Arctic Expedition of 1968 and 1969.

"It was a tearful moment and one which I shall always cherish," he said, referring to the time he gave Labalaba's mother the silver fountain pen.

Labalaba was best man at Mr Marafono's wedding. On his trips to Fiji, the Pepjei soldier would stop over in Nadi and visit his village.

Dr Hedges said Fred's funeral arrangements were expected to be finalised this weekend.

LEGACY OF A LEGEND

Source: The Independent

1940 Kauata 'Fred' Marafono born 13 December on the tiny Pacific island of Rotuma, 350 miles north of Fiji. One of five children. His father was a farmer after fighting for the British during the Second World War.

1957 Leaves Rotuma to study at agricultural college in Navuso, Fiji.

1961 Drops out of college to join the British Army. Serves in the King's Shropshire Light Infantry, where he becomes a corporal.

1963 Posted to Plymouth, where he applies to join the SAS.

1964 Begins a 21-year stint in the SAS.

1986 SAS founder Sir David Stirling recruits him to join his private security company.

1990 Stirling dies. Fred goes freelance.

1991 Begins a two-year stint providing security for a gold mine in Guyana.

1994 Arrives in Sierra Leone to help with a mining venture.

1995 Simon Mann recruits him to join Executive Outcomes.

1997 Joins Tim Spicer's private military company, Sandline International.

1998 Forms his own security company, Vanguard International, which works to support the Sierra Leonean government forces against RUF rebels .

2006 Returns to the UK.

2011 Publishes From SAS to Blood Diamond Wars, co-written with Hamish Ross.