On Fiji's largest island, two forgotten relics gaze across the Pacific Ocean on landscaped green hills. These are the last of the guns that were erected in the 1940's to protect the South Pacific from invading forces. Though they have long been silenced, their existence on the hills overlooking Momi Bay serves to give visitors a glimpse of Fiji's important role in the Pacific Theater during World War II.
The Momi Battery Historical Park is one of three sites on Fiji's main island of Viti Levu that were created by the New Zealand Army to assist in protecting the South Pacific from enemy ships in the early 1940's. Though the other two sites still exist, the Momi Battery is the most well-maintained one, offering a visitor's center where guests can read about the war in the Pacific and walk up the hill to the two restored 7-meter-long guns.
Construction of the Momi Bay Battery began in May 1940, at a time when the most significant threat to the South Pacific were German ships stealing supplies from New Zealand and Australia. Construction continued until April 1941; eight months later, Japanese ships bombed Pearl Harbour in the United States, bringing the war closer than ever to Fijian shores.
"The war, which in its earlier stages seemed so remote from our shores that the full measure of its menace may have been at times difficult to realize, has now been carried most treacherously into the very heart of the Pacific ."
Sir Harry Luke (Governor of Fiji 1938-1942)
Although Fiji was then just a small British colony of less than 200,000 people, it lay in an important spot between Australia, the United States and Japan. It also acted as an essential part of the communication between Australia and the US. By the Spring of 1942, Japan had managed to occupy several islands in the Pacific, and was setting its sights on Fiji, as well as the neighboring islands of Samoa and New Caledonia.
The Fijian and New Zealand troops in Momi didn't see much action through the war, but enemy forces did get close enough to do a reconnaissance flight on March 17, 1942 in a seaplane the Allies called "Glen," which was launched from a Japanese I-25 submarine.
After Japan's defeat in the Battle of Midway, plans to conquer Fiji, as well as the neighbouring islands of New Caledonia and Samoa, were cancelled. In August 1942, the New Zealand Army handed over control of the Momi Battery to American troops.
"Must we leave Momi without a single tear, kidding ourselves that it is our hope and prayer never to see the old place again. How long can we keep up the absurd pretence that Momi has not left her mark deep in our affection, and indelibly in our memory."
"Dear Departing Souls", from the Momi Meteor Bulletin (June 1942)
Only two rounds of ammunition were fired from the powerful guns at Momi; the only shots ever fired in defense from any of the three batteries in Fiji. In November 1943, the American troops stationed at the site detected an unidentified ship entering the bay, and fired two rounds of 45 kilogram shells. The vessel vanished and the guns were once again silent. The Momi Battery ceased operations 3 months later, in February 1944.
How to Get to the Momi Bay Guns
There are several local tour companies that include a visit to the Momi Bay guns in their day trips. You can also hire a taxi to take you and even wait for you there, though I recommend negotiating a set rate with the driver beforehand. To my knowledge there is no local bus that goes close to the Momi Bay gun site.
The Momi Battery Historical Park is about a 45-minute drive from Nadi. If you're driving yourself, follow Queens Road east about 20 km. It's really easy to miss the turnoff, so look for the small but colourful Shiri Vankatesh Permal Mariamman Temple - the small road on the right is the one you'll need to get onto. Follow that road for about 5 km, and turn right again just before the Bay Harvest Church. That road will take you right to the gun site, about 3.5 km. The portion of the journey from Queens Road to the Momi Battery Park should only take about 10-15 minutes, but keep in mind that most of it will be along a narrow unpaved road.
If you're driving from Suva, the journey should take about 3 hours; from Sigatoka it'll probably be around 50-ish minutes. Just follow Queens Road heading west and turn left just before the Shiri Vankatesh temple. From there, the directions mentioned above are the same.
Best Times to Visit
Fiji has beautiful weather all year round, though the wettest months are between November and March. The Momi Battery gun site is spread out over grassy hills, so be cautious if you visit on a rainy day, as it might be slippery. If you visit during the summer months, keep in mind that the gun site is almost entirely in direct sunlight so it's best to take precautions to avoid sunburn and heat stroke.
Momi Battery Historical Park Hours & Rates*
8 AM - 4:30 PM, Monday - Sunday
(Including public holidays)
Children (under 6): Free
*Current as of September 2019
Momi Battery promotional video from National Trust Fiji
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