Brothers in Arms
24 August, 2014, 12:00 am
As we research the various stories of the young men who left Fiji to serve in World War I, we are amazed at the number of families where more than one soldier signed up and went away.
The sad story of the brothers, Arthur and George Beddows, from Taveuni, both killed in action in France, is but one such tale.
You may think that there would be few examples of more than two members of the same family signing up from Fiji; here is the story of Norman Walter Faddy and the other members of the Faddy family who served.
Norman would go on to win the Military Cross for his efforts in battle — one of the highest decorations one could receive in wartime in Britain at the time.
The Sunday Times was provided information on the remarkable contribution of the Faddy’s through Norman Faddy’s grandson, retired Colonel Jim Sanday who now lives in Sydney, Australia.
The Faddys had a long and noble military tradition going back to the 1700s when Lieutenant William John Faddy served on the ship Friendship one of the vessels that formed part of the first fleet to Botany Bay, Australia.
He later died of injuries on board Lord Nelson’s ship Vanguard at the battle of the Nile.
William Faddy was followed into the navy by his son, also called William, who was injured on the same vessel at the time his father was killed. He was 18 times engaged in battle and 11 times injured himself.
The naval tradition was next continued by Dr William Faddy who served as a naval doctor and at one time settled in NZ.
He moved to Sydney with his family in 1845 and served in various locations around NSW. It was his son, William George Faddy who also trained as a doctor who became the Fiji connection that we now recount.
More commonly referred to as George, he married English women, Ruth Harriet Johnstone, and they had sons — Percival, Norman, Francis, and Herbert, daughters Amy and Gertrude.
All eventually settled in Fiji with Percival settling at Vunisalu in the Sigatoka Valley and we know that Norman was in the employ of the Fiji Government at the outbreak of WWI.
With the outbreak of WWII, of the brothers enlisted, Herbert returned to Australia to join up and served with AIF. Norman and Francis joined up from Fiji.
The photo shown here in this feature of the three brothers in uniform was taken in England when they met up prior to all being posted to active service in France.
In front wearing the Aussie uniform AIF slouch hat is Herbert Spencer, seated behind Herbert is Norman, his cap has a white band indicating he is undergoing officer training, to his left is Sergeant Francis Faddy.
“This photo is remarkable in itself, that the three brothers could actually meet up in England under wartime conditions, coming under different army authorities, it must have taken some doing and a bit of luck, maybe good old ingenuity of the colonial soldiers made it all happen,” remarked amateur historian Michael Thoms, who The Sunday Times has been working alongside in efforts to shed light on the contribution of Fijians during World War I.
“We can only imagine 100 years later what the conversation would have been as they caught up on all the news from family at home and asked about other soldiers from Fiji. They all knew who were serving both in the AIF and the UK with the three brothers,” said Thoms.
Meanwhile, the Faddys’ sister, Gertrude, was determined not to be outdone by her brothers. Gertrude being a qualified nurse independently made her way to England and as a nursing sister spent the war years at Netley Military Hospital.
She was to be honoured for her services with the award of The Royal Red Cross Medal, the highest award to military nurses.
While we will in later editions try to bring together the stories of Nurse Gertrude and her brothers Francis and Herbert, today we take a closer look at Norman Faddy.
Norman was in the employ of the Fiji Government in 1914 at the outbreak of war, being employed as an inspector of plantations, which would be termed an agricultural field officer these days.
He enlisted in the Fiji Defence Force and with other young men including brother Francis from Fiji embarked by ship for the UK.
“Note these soldiers were not attested until they arrived in England, at which time they were sworn in and posted to their various regiments and units, many of our Fiji soldiers were posted to the Kings Royal Rifles Corps (KRRC), this infantry regiment had a long and very distinguished history,” said Thoms.
Soldier Norman went away in the Second Fiji Contingent to leave Suva which arrived in England August 1915, then followed a short period of training in England, during which time he must have shown good leadership qualities as he was commissioned as a lieutenant.
On December 30, 1915 Lieutenant Norman Faddy as he was now, along with others shipped out to France for active service and joined the army of the Allies in the battles that ranged the full extent of France and into Belgium.
While it is difficult for one to even begin to comprehend the conditions they fought in and under, there is a vast amount of written material now available on World War I.
Likewise, there is excellent material and clips on the web that allows us today to get a small idea of what they went through. Battles of Somme and Passchendaele are two of the more well-known battles which many of our young Fiji men lost their lives in.
It appears that Norman Faddy had a charmed life.
Although there is no direct information on him being injured, we do know that in July, 1917, he was engaged in an action for which he was awarded the Military Cross, the MC, one of the highest military awards.
The citation for the award of the MC to Norman reads as follows, “fought off the Germans for 12 days and led a counterattack across open ground killing and bayoneting a large number of the enemy. When his commanding officer (CO) became causality Lieutenant Faddy took over command of the battalion and commanded it with skill and determination.
“Following this action he was promoted in the field to the rank of captain, one would have thought this was enough excitement and bravery for one man’s war, but no, the military traditions ran strong in his genes and in 1918 at the time of the last big offensive initiated by the Germans, called the spring offensive at the Somme, he again was in action and won another MC”.
For this MC, the citation reads, “although his company was greatly reduced in number, he held his ground against strong enemy attacks. He led a counterattack and drove back the enemy with heavy loss and saved a serious situation. His resolute determination and courage were an inspiration to all”.
To be awarded one MC is a remarkable achievement, to win two is even a greater achievement, how proud must his fellow soldiers have been, the recipient of duplicate awards for the same medal is referred to as a Bar to the medal.
So Fiji soldier Norman Faddy survived the carnage of WWI, as did his two brothers and their sister Gertrude, all returned to Fiji, Norman settled on the banks of the Wainivesi River at Vunibaka, Tailevu to live out the rest of his life where he ran the farm with his brother Francis.
They were part of a whole group of former World War I vets who took up agriculture and dairy farming in the Naitasiri and Tailevu areas.
Norman Faddy had one daughter, Elena (Helen) who in 1948 married Sergeant Frank Edward Sanday of the Fiji Military Forces and so continued a proud military heritage.
Norman Faddy himself died in 1934 aged 46 and is buried in the old Suva Cemetery.
Our thanks go to Reg and Jim Sanday for their valuable assistance with this story of their grandfather.
Meanwhile, military historian and former prime minister Sitiveni Rabuka said the current red and green colours of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces was taken from the Kings Royal Rifles Corps, which had within its ranks many Fijians during WWI.
“This connection started after Ratu Sukuna presented a tabua for the Fiji army to the Kings Royal Rifles well after the war ended,” said Mr Rabuka.
“The RFMF went on to adopt the rifle green and peony red of the Kings Royal Rifles,” he said.
A photograph of this exchange now hangs in the RFMF Officer’s Mess at Nabua.
Mr Rabuka said the Kings Royal Royals Corps are now known as the Royal Green Jackets, a very important arm of the British Armed Forces with a distinguished history in battle.
Faddy’s grandson Reg Sanday said they always were aware of their ancestors involvement in the war even though he died at a fairly young age.
“People considered him a hero of sorts, and he was a pretty tall, good looking man. He had a presence about him that people talked about,” said Sanday.
“From what I was told of him, grandfather started off with a banana farm and then switched to dairy in later years.”
Mr Sanday was saddened by the lack of awareness of the Fiji boys involvement in the conflict and that there wasn’t any official ceremony in Fiji to mark the start of the Great War on August 4 this year apart from the one which His Excellency the President, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, attended in the United Kingdom.
“I really am quite surprised that we didn’t have anything formal to honour the memories and contribution of the men including my grandfather who gave their all in the war,” he said.
All that is left in honour of these men’s sacrifice is a number of roll of honour boards, one of which was recovered from the Old Ba Town Hall (pictured), a list of those who died at the Colonial War memorial Hospital in Suva and a Fiji Times Roll of Honour.
The war took its toll and over the decades people continue to forget the important contribution these men made towards the war.
These men, including the Faddy brothers, would probably turn in their graves to know their efforts and that of those who died and whose remains were never discovered, have been virtually unnoticed by generations of Fiji Islanders.
In recent weeks, since the first feature on Fiji World War I heroes was published, The Sunday Times section has been inundated with old photographs and stories from the relatives of the soldiers who took part in the campaign.
It is hoped that these series of features will do well to nurture the memories of these men who gave their all, in the prime of their lives for a noble cause.