The Fiji Islands in the South Pacific are today a well-known world-famous tourist destination, but before that they had great military importance.
The Fiji Islands were a confederation of independent kingdoms until they became a British colony in 1874. The First World War passed almost unnoticed on the islands. Only one resident of Fiji fought in that war, specifically in the ranks of the French Foreign Legion, obtaining the Croix de Guerre. During World War II, Fiji became a place of strategic importance, being located on the sea route between the US and Australia. In the autumn of 1940, the Fiji Defense Forces began constructing coastal artillery emplacements.
In the spring of 1941, the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) began the installation of British BL Mark VII 6-inch (152 mm) naval guns in these positions, completing six coastal batteries in the country. . With a range of 13 km, these cannons were a model from 1899, already outdated for naval uses at that time, but still valid for coastal artillery. One of the batteries was installed in the southwest of Viti Levu, the main island of Fiji, with two of these cannons being installed in the place known as Momi Bay.
The objective of this battery was to prevent a Japanese invasion of the island. To calculate the firing distance, the two Momi Bay guns had a small command post with a rangefinder. In October 1942, the US Army took over the battery, installing a sonar system in order to detect Japanese submarines. In July 1943 the US Army's 283rd Coast Artillery Battalion assumed control of the battery. In November 1943, the Momi Bay guns made their only war action, firing some shots after a radar signal was detected that was not confirmed as a submarine.
The Momi Bay Battery had a short-lived existence.In February 1944, this shore artillery position was closed as it was considered unnecessary as the fighting was taking place too far from Fiji. In 2017 the battery was restored by the National Trust of Fiji Islands, installing a small visitor center, like a museum, which explains its history to tourists. You can see here a video from the National Trust of Fiji Islands about this battery:
Last Saturday, Forgotten Weapons published a video showing this battery and recounting its history and the characteristics of its cannons:
You can see here a couple of screenshots from the first of the videos. Here we see the front of the battery, which is facing west. On the left we see the "King's Gun" and on the right the "Queen's Gun", which were the names originally assigned to both cannons. Among them we see the command post, which had a rangefinder to measure shooting distances. To the left we see the visitor center.
Here we see the back of the battery. To the left, at the top, is the command post, and below it was an ammunition depot, built underground. The building on the right should be a living area for the gunners. South of the command post was a weather station, which does not appear in this image.
Main image: National Trust of Fiji Islands.
Don't miss the news and content that interest you. Receive the free daily newsletter in your email:Click here to subscribe