The Fiji Islands were discovered by the dutch navigator Abel Tasman in 1643 and were visited by British naval captain James Cook in 1774. The first complete survey of the island was conducted by the US in 1840. Settlement by missionaries from Tonga and traders attracted by the sandalwood trade began in 1835. In 1871 a Fijan warlord, Seru Epenisa Cakobau, became the first king of Fiji. He was succeeded in 1874 by the kings of England who held the country until 1987.




In the nineteenth century, when Fiji was beset with relentless violence, Fijians used many types of war clubs, starting with the gadi, a small ornamental club carried by correctly dressed warriors and chiefs at ceremonial occasions during peace times. All clubs were hand carved from the wide array of tropical hardwoods which grow in abundance in Fiji. In fact, when Brigham Young University Hawaii recently built a 57-foot traditional twin-hulled Hawaiian sailing canoe, they imported the wood from Fiji. Many of the war clubs also included fine linear carving on the handles, reflecting the personalities of the individual warrior who made and used them.

As these ceremonial clubs had a specific and individual form and as clubs were the most revered and cherished personal possessions of the Fijian warriors, they can be considered as the personal arms of Fijian warriors in the heraldic sense of the word.


The compilation of Fijian war clubs of the illustration thus can be considered in a way as a would-be Fijian roll of arms. However, the original owners of these clubs are not known and we can not attach a name to them like it is the rule in European rolls of arms.


Fijian clubs fall into several categories:


Bowai or pole clubs are similar to long baseball bats, but sometimes with wider heads. These were used for breaking bones and general disabling blows.


Waka or root clubs had straight handles with a natural knot of roots at the end and were used to crush skulls easily.


Cali were spurred or “gun stock” clubs, so-called because they resembled rifles. They were designed for cutting and disjointing blows.


I ula were throwing clubs with short handles and bulbous heads. If the handle struck the victim first it could penetrate flesh, the heavy head then jack-knifing onto the victim even if the handle did not pierce him, thus dealing a crippling, if not a finishing blow.


Kiakavo, a Y-shaped club, was utilized mainly as a dance implement so it was constructed of lighter wood and was usually not finely decorated.


19th century  Fijian War Clubs. [1]


The Royal Achievement.


Ratu Seru Epenisa Cakobau (1815-1883) was a Fijian chief and warlord who united his country's warring tribes under his leadership and reigned as Tui Viti (King of Fiji)  from 5 June 1871 to 10 October 1874,  when he ceded his country unconditionally and voluntarily to Great Britain.

Cakobau succeeded his father, Ratu Tanoa Visawaqa († 8.XII.1852) as the Vunivalu  (Paramount Chief, warlord) of Bau on 8 December 1852. [2] Claiming that Bau had suzerainty over the remainder of Fiji, he asserted that he was in fact the King of Fiji. However, Cakobau's claim was not accepted by other chiefs, who regarded him as merely the first among equals, if that, and he engaged in constant warfare for almost nineteen years to unify the islands under his authority. In 1865, a Confederacy of Independent Kingdoms of Viti was established, with Cakobau as Chairman of the General Assembly. Two years later, however, the confederacy split into the Kingdom of Bau and the Confederation of Lau, with Cakobau assuming kingship of the former. Supported by foreign settlers, he finally succeeded in creating a united Fijian kingdom in 1871 and established Levuka as his capital. He decided to set up a constitutional monarchy, and the first legislative assembly met in November of that year. Both the legislature and the Cabinet were dominated by foreigners. [3]

The royal achievement is of a thoroughly (British) European design with a shield, crown and supporters. The author of the achievement is unknown but may be Cakobau himself..

The charge of the arms is a dove carrying a branch olive in its beak. This is a christian symbol meaning  “the bringer of peace” and was probably suggested by the christian missionaries on the island. [4]

It is said that Cakobau introduced a coat of arms and a flag in 1860. The flag was blue with a white coat of arms charged with a dove. The royal flag was white with the royal achievement in the center, the coat of arms red with a flying dove carrying a branch of olive. [5] Another source however gives the royal flag white with the smaller royal achievement consisting of the coat of arms, crown and motto only, the ensign parted per pale blue and white with a red coat of arms in the middle. (illustration below).

No conclusive publication on the matter has been found until now.


The Royal achievement was printed on 10 $ debentures issued under the Public Loans Act of 1871. It is



Arms: Gules, a dove volant Argent, carrying a branch of olive Vert.

Crown: The Royal Fijian Crown.

Supporters: Two sceptres in saltire and two coco-nut palms and two stalks of sugar cane proper.

Motto: rere vaka na kalou ka doka na tui (Fear God and Honour the King).


The flag and arms were announced in the The Taranaki Herald (New Zealand) of 20 December 1871: “The Flag and Arms of the Fiji Government. – The flag adopted by the kingdom of Fiji is half white, half blue, and in the centre it bears a crown above a crimson shield, with a dove and olive branch. The arms have a similar shield, with dove and olive branch, surmounted by a crown, the supporters being two coconut trees. Below is the motto. “Rereveka na kalon ka doka na tui”, which is interpreted, “Honor and glory to the king.” [in fact: Fear God and honour the king.][6]


The sceptres are inspired by the sceptres of the British kings. The sceptre with the dove is of the model of the sceptre of King Charles II (1680-´85), the sceptre with the cross imitates more or less the sceptre of Mary of Modena, the second queen of King James II (1685-´88).   


The crown in its original form reminds of the crown of King Louis XV (1715-´74). Unlike the regalia of Hawaii the Fijian regalia do not seem to have really existed. Instead the royal club can be considered as the main symbol of royal Fijian power.


The Royal achievement of King Cakobau is on the reverse of a commemorative one-dollar coin of 1970.


The white coat of arms was printed on 1 £ promissory notes of 1871-1872. The dove is depicted wings spread. Above the arms is the royal Fijian crown.



One penny stamp

of King Cakobau showing his royal cypher C R and the royal Fijian crown, 1871.


Photo:  Cambridge University Library

Flags of Fiji, about 1871.


The royal Fijan Standard was white, displaying the crowned royal arms with the motto, the Fijian ensign was parted per pale  blue and white with the arms of Fiji in the centre. [7]


British Rule, 1874-1970


On September 28, 1874, the Council of Chiefs opted to award Fiji to Queen Victoria. On October 10, Fiji was ceded to Great Britain after a meeting of the first Great Council of Chiefs, who were there to witness the solemn occasion. A parliamentary structure based on the Westminster system of government was formed, establishing “a constitution, with Thakombau as King, the hereditary principal chiefs as the House of Lords and with a House of Commons elected by the European settlers, all in the good old British fashion. Such being the case, there had to be a Speaker, a Mace, and a Serjeant-at-Arms for the Commons”.

After the cession of Fiji to Queen Victoria on the 10th of October 1874 the royal achievement and arms of Fiji became obsolete.

As “a token of homage and fealty”, King Cakobau presented his war club to Queen Victoria. The presentation symbolised the move from “club law” to a constitutional system of parliamentary government. Adolf Brewster (1854-1937) an anthropologist who had studied the Fijian community comments that the club was known as

““Tutuvikuta i Radinmbau” which means the Mat Coverlet of the Queen of Mbau. Before blankets were known, mats woven from soft rushes were used for the sake of warmth. Thakombau was the hereditary War Lord of Mbau and the name of his club carried a double meaning. Its coverlet was the blood of the tribal enemies and when any of them were slain it was bathed with it and thus kept warm.”

The club was sent to Sydney where it was adorned with symbolic images of peace before being sent to London for its presentation to the Queen-Empress. It was transferred to Windsor Castle, where it remained for 50 years in the Royal Collection.

Following the publication of a letter of Brewster to The Times, King George V directed his Private Secretary, Lord Stamfordham, to contact Brewster to assure him that the club was safe at Windsor Castle. His Majesty further directed that the club should be returned to the people of Fiji by the Governor, Sir Murchison Fletcher, to be used as a ceremonial mace in the House of Representatives. A formal presentation ceremony took place on October 3, 1932, when the Governor read a message from the King:


“Since its presentation by King Thakombau to Her Majesty Queen Victoria, this mace has had an honoured place among the Royal treasures in Windsor Castle. His Majesty now returns the mace for ceremonial use in the Legislative Council of Fiji as a visible token of his abiding concern for the welfare of his Fijian people of whose unswerving loyalty he is deeply sensible.” [8]



As we can see from this picture, maybe made at the occasion of its return, the club is of the Bowai-type and made into a mace by adding a small crown in the form of the royal Fijian crown.


Under British Rule a new seal was adopted. On it was a mermaid with a mirror, sitting on a rock in the sea.[9] Also a new flag was adopted. Initially, from about 1875, it was the Britsh blue ensign with as a badge a coat of arms showing the mermaid of the seal, the shield surrounded with a garland of laurel and oak and placed on a paddle and a war club in saltire. This coat of arms was soon abandoned for a badge of the royal British crown and crest and the word FIJI.


Drawing: Roberto Breschi

Coat of arms on the badge of Fiji

as published in an amendmend of the 1875 edition of Flags of all Nations of the British Admiralty.


Arms: A mermaid with palmleaf and mirror, rising from the sea.

Supporter: A paddle and a war-club in saltire.

Garland: Branches of oak and laurel.


In 1908 a new achievement was adopted:


Arms: Argent a cross Gules, between in the first quarter three sugar canes couped, in the second a cocoa-nut palm also couped, in the third a dove volant holding in the beak a branch of olive, and in the fourth a bunch of banana fruits slipped all proper, on a chief of the second a lion passant guardant crowned Or, holding between the forepaws a cocoa pod proper.

Crest: On a wreath of the colours, a Fijian canoe with outrigger in full sail proper.

Supporters: Dexter a Fijian native affrontée, round his waist a Tapa Sulu (belt of mulberry-tree bark) holding in the exterior hand a barbed spear all proper; sinister a like native in profile holding in the exterior hand a pine-apple club in bend sinister all proper.

Motto: rere vaka na kalou ka doka na tui (Fear God, Honour the King).

By Royal Warrant, 4.VII.1908. [10]


The coat of arms shows the British red cross between the symbols of the main trade crops: sugar (which is the main crop), copra and bananas. The dove, of course, is from the arms of king Cakobau. In the chief the English leopard keeping a coconut (not a “cocoa pod”) in its paws stands for the British colonists and trade croppers.

The crest is a camakau or Fijian outrigger canoe which was the main means of transport between the islands. The Fijian sailing canoe is one of the most successful types of outrigger canoe. The larger versions, some of which were 30 m. in length, were capable of carrying 40 or 50 persons and making long ocean voyages. These canoes always sailed with the outrigger to windward and the mast raked forward.


The supporters are two warriors carrying the traditional weapons, the one on the sinister a war club of the model known as waka. Their hair is cropped in a special style, known from pre-colonial Fiji as in the examples of the illustration. [11]



Dominion of Fiji and Republic of the Fiji Islands


Fiji became a sovereign and independent nation on Oct. 10 1970, the 96th anniversary of the cession of the islands to Queen Victoria. It is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The Queen of England was the Chief of State until the proclamation of the Republic of Fiji in 1987.

Flags and coat of arms were not changed after the proclamation of the Republic but were merely confirmed.


Armed Forces


The emblems of the Fijian Defence Force were collected on:, now expired. The site was as follows (downloaded 2007-05-26):


Hat, shoulder & rank badges from Fiji

Fiji Defence Force crest

2nd Bn Fiji Infantry Regt (2FIR) collar dogs

Hat badge; Fiji Defence Force

Fiji Artillery Regiment 


Ratu Sakuna is a Fijian. 

  • He was 
    • born a Chief of the Royal House of Bau, 
    • graduated from Oxford, 
    • was a barrister in London, 
    • joined the French Foreign Legion in World War One,
    • was decorated for gallantry, and 
    • returned to Fiji to serve his people.

Image and text: Shaun Aumua.


Fiji shoulder titles

Fiji artillery collar dogs


Fiji Volunteers Glengarry badge, with Queen Victoria crown.

This unit was formed just after 1900, and was the forerunner of the Fijian Constabulary.

Struck in non voided brass, with copper lugs. Not maker marked, but a good quality British type strike.


  •   Badges of rank in the Fiji Defence Force are based on the British/Australian models but differ in significant ways.


Lance Corporal



Warrant Officer 2

Warrant Officer 1

2nd Lieutenant




Lieutenant Colonel




This Fiji badge group is actually a very rare Helmet Plate, a WW2 cap and a QE2 beret badge anodised.


Fiji tunic button

Fiji Bn.  UNIFIL Contingent


3 Variations of the Fiji colour patch


Fiji Navy epaulettes

MFO Fiji Contingent


Fiji Infantry Regiment Combat Badge. Note the resemblance to the Australian Infantry Combat Badge.

Fiji Volunteers hat badge pre WW1>>>


Images are thumbnails. Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Fiji Volunteers pre WW1

Fiji Volunteer Force 1911

In both photos of the variation of head-dress should be noted, especially the number of slouch hats. Officers and NCOs are European, probably New Zealanders, possibly some from UK. Also note the variations of facial hair.

Some images from Phillip Jones. Others from CWO (CW4) H H "Sarge" Booker 2nd. Some from Shaun Aumua.







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© Hubert de Vries, 2007.03.16. Updated 2012-11-09



[1] From: Williams, Thomas: Fiji and the Fijians v.I, "The Islands and Their Inhabitants" Published in 1858 by Alexander Heylin, Paternoster Row, London. Reprint 1983 by The Fiji Museum, Suva.  For more see:

[2]  From the middle of the 18th century until now some 10  Vunivalu are known by name.

[3]  About king Thakombau (Ratu Ebenezer Seru Kakobau (*1817-†1883)): Waterhouse, Joseph: The King and the People of Fiji (KIT A’dam).Cakobau, a former cannibal, had himself converted to Christianity and renounced cannibalism in 1854. He retained his position as Fiji's paramount chief as Vunivalu of Bau, and lived quietly until his death in 1883.”

[4]  Genesis 8, 8-12. In fact the dove announced that the deluge was over.

[5]  Hesmer, Karl-Heinz: Flaggen, Wappen, Daten. Gütersloh, 1975 p. 62. But he gives no sources.

[6]  Info: Jos Poels

[7]  From:  Title: King Thakombau’s war clubs. Reference: GBR/0115/RCMS 313 (former reference: MSS 91) Creator: Brewster, Adolf Brewster, 1854-1937, anthropologist. Covering dates: 1871-circa 1930 Extent and Medium: 1 volume’paper/photograph; Typewritten Repository: Cambridge University Library; Royal Commonwealth Society Library 'The legend of King Thakombau's clubs'. The text is preceded by four inserted photographs, taken 1871-1883, of King Thakombau (2), his war club and the Royal Arms and Motto of Fiji. At the end of the volume is a facsimile of  'A bill granting His Majesty certain duties, taxes and assessment and for securing the public revenues', 1872. On a loose piece of card is a small painting of the Fijian Royal Standard and Ensign.

[8]  Ibid.

[9]  Hesmer op. cit. 1975, also without mentioning his source. 

[10]  Fox Davies, Arthur Charles: The Book of Public Arms. London 1915.

[11]  Ill from  Williams, T. op.cit. 1858, p. 148.