110 Mr B. C. Ballard, Official Representative in New Caledonia, to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram 15 NOUMEA, 8 September 1940, 6.45 p.m.


Your telegrams. [1] Am holding all messages for the present. [2]

Recipient (3) received message on 6th September in similar terms direct from de Gaulle, following which he is forming de Gaulle Committee with press publicity. Understand some leaders preparing to go to the New Hebrides to consult Sautot. [3]

This crystallises problem.

On the one hand the impossibility of reconciling loyalty to Vichy with carrying out the wishes of the population caused the fall of the late Governor. [4] Increasingly clear that the present Governor [5] will execute Vichy orders. He rejected the idea of referendum on Tahiti model. [6] Only wants to preserve and extend the Colony's trade to obtain funds for local necessities. I do not believe he will consent to carrying on the war in any sense. Fear hope of obtaining complaisant Vichy Governor cannot be realized.

On the other hand the population overwhelmingly, though not unanimously, [in] favour of continuing the war and recoil from idea even of nominal allegiance to Vichy which to them means German dictation. Present shipping position seen as concrete example of this. Continuation of war effort seems to them the sole hope of restoration of France. Tahiti decision and New Hebrides strengthen their feeling. I believe sooner or later they will get their way.

Leaders at present holding rank and file in check and situation superficially calm but an incident is bound to happen which will again provoke excitement.

If disorder occurred, Japanese keen competitors of labourers, small shopkeepers, etc. may possibly suffer.

(a) If a Governor appointed by de Gaulle arrived I believe he would be welcomed and followed.

(b) If I let it be known that Australia definitely wants only trade relations with New Caledonia, that might deflate the popular movement (with consequent resentment against Australia).

The present position only compromise which will lead either to full war co-operation under a non-Vichy authority or to strengthening of official position, cooling of enthusiasm and possibly alienation of the colony.

Some risk of disorder in either alternative (a) and (b) above, but much less in alternative (a) especially if French warship goes away.

But for your telegram 13 [7] I would have suggested as possible means of reconciling Government and people that Australia tactfully specify the kind of co-operation other than economic that it desires and that attempt be made to induce the Governor to go that far and the people to accept it as maximum.

If this failed, which would not surprise me, I believe alternative (a) or something like it will occur.

Would be grateful of early guidance on policy in the light of the above.


1 For cablegrams to Ballard not printed in this volume see files AA:A981, New Caledonia 1, iii and New Caledonia 37.

2 Cablegram 10, dispatched to Ballard on 5 September (on file AA:A981, New Caledonia 1, iii), transmitted messages from General Charles de Gaulle, leader of the Free French movement, to his New Caledonian supporters Charles Desmazures, Marcel Kellen and Raymond Pognon. The Commonwealth Govt disapproved of the message to Pognon (here referred to by Ballard as 'Recipient (3)), which suggested that Pognon (President of the Conseil General) should set up a General Committee in support of the Free French and get in touch with Sautot. Ballard was asked to withhold the message from Pognon until he had reported to Canberra on its likely effects.

3 French Resident Commissioner in the New Hebrides.

4 Georges Pelicier.

5 Lt Col M. E. Denis.

6 An unnumbered cablegram dispatched to the Prime Minister, R. G.

Menzies, by Ernest Edmonds, U.K. Consul at Papeete, on 3 September reported that an overwhelming majority in Tahiti, Moorea and the Tuamotu Archipelago had voted to support de Gaulle. See file AA:A1608, D41/1/9, ii.

7 Document 108.