My Friend Fred Marafono, Fijian Warrior

Fred Marafono 13th December 1940 - 27th March 2013

Kauata Vamarasi Marafono M.B.E.

13th December 1940 – 27th March 2013

In the mid-1970s, I passed SAS selection as a young 20-year old from the RAF Regiment.  Only six candidates passed that winter course; five men and one very good young Rupert (officer).  I had superior fitness but not much else going for me at the time. The SAS must have seen me as a blank canvas they could turn into one of their own.

The day I was badged, I was sent to Boat Troop, B Squadron.  There was no Troop Rupert in charge, just a Troop Sergeant who introduced himself simply as “Fred”.  Fred was a giant in every respect; a physically massive individual with a presence to match. When he shook my hand, mine was lost in his.  I’d never seen a Fijian before, and in my ignorance, I thought he was a giant Gurkha.

Last weekend, Fred’s funeral was held at Hereford Cathedral.  I figured it would be standing room only. Still, I was awed by the sheer number of Regiment lads who had travelled far and wide to pay homage to him. It was easily the biggest gathering of ex-22 SAS Regiment soldiers I’d ever seen.  As I scanned the faces of the aging warriors crowding into the cathedral, I saw men I had fought alongside and others who came before me who I only knew through stories I’d heard in the Regiment.    The remarkable turnout said everything about Fred.  A cathedral full of living legends had come together to pay their respects to the greatest legend of them all.

I’ve attended many funerals of fellow Troopers since I left the Regiment nearly 19 years ago. All have been emotional, but Fred’s moved me beyond measure. Part of that was surely down to the Fijian community who turned out in such large numbers to remember their native son.  From the 1960s onward, the British Army has been blessed with having young Fijian soldiers in its ranks and I’ve watched over the years how when the going gets tough, the Fijians get going.  Even today in Afghanistan, it’s often the Fijian soldiers who jump in and sort out the mess.  But it was the Regiment and the bond we share that struck the deepest chord with me. Words cannot describe the surge of pride I felt to be among this rare band of brothers whose lives had been touched by Fred’s.

As the service got underway, my thoughts drifted back to how this tough, bright, big hearted Fijian warrior moulded me as a soldier and as a man. Fred was full of integrity; a teacher who always led from the front.  He was the best possible mentor for a young, green Trooper and his example motivated and inspired me through nearly twenty years of SAS service.  He taught me what it means to be a professional soldier.  Whenever I found myself in a tight spot, I’d ask myself “what would Fred do?”  The answer always got me through.  When I became a Troop Staff Sergeant, I knew it was about putting the lads first.  Because that’s what Fred did.

Many people who knew Fred have written blogs and newspaper commentaries detailing his exploits and heroism.  My intention here is entirely more personal.  I want you to know what this amazing Fijian warrior did for me.  The best time of my professional life was in the SAS, and that is mainly down to Fred.  Because it was his example that helped me find the strength, determination and inner belief that would carry me through nearly twenty years of SAS service and beyond.

So it is with tremendous sadness and deepest gratitude that I say goodbye to Kauata Vamarasi Marafono, Fijian warrior and father not only of his children, but of every man he ever led.

Published by: bobshepherdauthor

Bestselling author Bob Shepherd is an ex-SAS soldier and security advisor. During his twenty years of service with 22 SAS Regiment, Bob participated in the Oman campaign, the Iranian Embassy siege in London, The Falklands War, the first Gulf War and Bosnia. He left the Regiment in 1994 as a Warrant Officer and went to work on the international security circuit as an advisor to media, diplomats and VIPS. Bob’s work in the private sector has taken him to some of the most volatile places on earth including Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. He is a regular media commentator on security issues and has appeared on CNN International, BBC One, BBC World, BBC Radio and SKY News.

Categories SAS LegendTags, , , , 14 Comments

14 thoughts on “My Friend Fred Marafono, Fijian Warrior”

  1. Hi Bob thanks for the email I actually met Fred last year at West Yorks Police lecture theatre A very very impressive and genuine bloke Thoughts are with his family and friends Best wishes Martin Langan (retired bobby WYPOL)

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Hi Bob,

    Ducket here, I contacted you about a year ago about my friendship with Fred back in Brunei in the early 80’s

    I was lucky enough to have been an honery member of the Sergeants Mess and again was lucky to have been a friend of Fred’s. My memories of him are not of the military kind but of a wonderful man who had a great influence on my life in the very short time I knew him. There really was no one like him.

    RIP my friend,
    Yours aye,

  3. Despite never meeting him, after reading his book I thought he came across as one of the elite of the elite. He seemed to be very strong, fair and brave. Sorry you’ve lost another friend Bob.
    Take care.

  4. Beautifully and sincerely expressed, Bob. Such a respectful tribute to a Rotuman man who, when he joined the Fijian Army, surely had no idea how many lives he would touch and impact to such a degree.

  5. I attended a Diving Course at Marchwood,Fred and another guy [Arthur Hornby] was on the course.Fred stood out he excelled at every challenge and helped the weaker students.Met him again several times in Hereford always a pleasure to be in his company.

  6. I met Fred in Guyana in 2011. I wrote to my family about how impressed I was. We had plans to be involved in agriculture in Guyana. I was wondering why he never responded to my last email. I learned only today of his passing away.
    B. Goyette, Ottawa, Ontario. Canada

  7. Had the pleasure and privilege of working with Fred in Sierra Leone – two Fijians brought together via different paths – myself via the ADF and Fred via the British SASR. A great human being who made a difference in this world.

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