Solo haka from UK soldier gains internet fame

FAREWELL: Lieutenant Colonel Steve Davies performing his solo haka. The video has been shared over 15,000 times.
FAREWELL: Lieutenant Colonel Steve Davies performing his solo haka. The video has been shared over 15,000 times.

When a British Army commander was faced with his men doing a Fijian war-dance of farewell, he only had one option - a solo haka.

But then Lieutenant Colonel Steve Davies is no ordinary Brit.

The Christchurch-born soldier, began his career with the New Zealand Army long before becoming something of an internet sensation for his solo haka.

Davies, commander for the last two and a half years, had brought his 32 Engineer Regiment home to England from a gruelling and tragic Afghanistan tour.

Known as 3 Mercian or Staffords, it supported the famed Desert Rats, the 7 Armoured Brigade.

Davies is their last commander - the regiment is being broken up.

At a farewell his sappers, or combat engineers, many of whom are Fijians, surprisingly spread out across the parade ground and did a cibi or Fijian war dance.

Davies did not know if the soldiers knew that he was going to do a haka.

"I'm not sure they were but the thing with any war dance be it Fijian, Maori or any nation is to look the challenger in the eye and pay them the respect and I decided to reply in kind," he said in a statement issued by 7 Armoured.

"It was very humbling - it has been great being a part of 32 Engineer Regiment."

He said the soldiers had been speaking with the regimental sergeant major (RSM) before and were keen on a war dance.

"I wasn't expecting it," Davies said.

"The RSM said that I was going to address the regiment before my departure. They came up and did their challenge and being a Kiwi I had to respond in kind."

Davies grew up in Christchurch before entering an Officer Cadet programme as an exchange cadet to the Royal Military College Duntroon in Canberra, Australia, for four years.

He was commissioned into the New Zealand Army, joining the engineers.

Following a United Nations tour in Cambodia in 1997 he moved to the UK and enlisted into the British Army.

He has proven to be immensely popular, as was reflected in the video of his haka posted on Facebook by 7 Armoured - 15,000 shares and more than 700 comments.

The RSM, Warrant Officer Mark Brookfield said regiments always liked to put on a bit of a show for a commander who was leaving.

"The CO is a Kiwi and very much loved within the regiment as a compassionate man who has looked after each and every soldier within the regiment", said Brookfield who was visibly moved by the event.

"It was a huge success and caught me unawares, it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

"To see the whole regiment do it was quite powerful."

Fijian Corporal Stan Burns was in no doubt a cibi was necessary.

"We are from the Pacific and so it had to be done," he said.

The Fijians trained everybody else in the regiment how to do it.

"Being from the Pacific we were expecting him to respond but I don't think everyone was."

Lance Corporal Gregory Aspinall had never done a war dance and found he was performing it after a 10 minute practice.

"I have never done a haka before but when you saw the CO walking down the square and we all started to walk towards him you could see everyone getting involved.

"I wasn't expecting a response from him in the slightest."

Major Wendy Faux, 7 Armoured media officer, said they were surprised by the response to the video.

"When I uploaded the video it was incredible to see the number of 'shares' and people 'reached' go up every time I refreshed the page," she said.

"Within the first hour it had 2000 shares - I think we can safely say it has gone viral.

"The comments are also incredible to read, although there were some confusing ones.

"These are most definitely British soldiers saying a fond farewell to their commanding officer and it was a privilege to see a traditional Pacific mark of respect between a commander and his soldiers."