118 Mr A. R. Nankervis, Secretary of Department of the Navy, to Mr F. Strahan, Secretary of Prime Minister's Department

Teleprinter message D262 [MELBOURNE], [13 September 1940, 6.28 p.m.] [1]


The Prime Minister [2] has approved of the following message being despatched by the Naval Board to H.M.A.S. ADELAIDE repeated to the High Commissioner for the Western Pacific [3] and the New Zealand Naval Board- (Begins) 'Pass following message from Prime Minister Australia to British Resident Commissioner, Vila [4], for Monsieur Sautot. [5] Begins.

Communication received from Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs [6] addressed to Commonwealth Government of Australia, High Commissioner for the Western Pacific and New Zealand Government requesting Sautot should be notified forthwith of his appointment by General de Gaulle [7] as temporary Governor of New Caledonia, Commissioner-General of the Western Pacific and High Commissioner of the New Hebrides. The terms of the appointment are as follows from General de Gaulle:

Begins. I desire that the situation in New Caledonia should be urgently settled in accordance with the wish of the population. I confirm your appointment as temporary Governor of New Caledonia and High Commissioner of Western Pacific, and I request you will proceed urgently to Noumea and take up your duties at your post, ensuring that the sloop DUMONT D'URVILLE and civil and military authorities will rally to the cause. I deeply wish for the immediate rallying of New Caledonia, but I insist that the outlined operation shall be conducted as a French operation in its form and manner and under French flag with merely contingent support from H.M.A.S. ADELAIDE but without any naval engagement taking place. I am convinced that a firm attitude will ensure a rallying of New Caledonia without any naval or land battle being involved, and I rely on you to conduct operations to die best advantage. Ends.

This appointment leaves Sautot discretion to deal with any dissentient elements as seen by him best in the circumstances after he has taken over control. He may like to know that Free French Administration now set up in Equatorial Africa had adopted policy of offering dissentient elements alternative of remaining and co-operating or of freely leaving territory. Before leaving Vila Sautot should also be given following message from de Gaulle regarding his successor:-

Begins-I approve of your proposal to appoint Kuter [8] as French Resident Commissioner in New Hebrides. Ends' [(Ends)]

2. A message has been received from the Admiralty Reporting Officer, Noumea [9], acknowledging H.M.A.S. ADELAIDE's plan for landing Sautot, which states that 'President local de Gaulle Committee [10] unaware until today of imminent appointment and arrival at Noumea of Sautot and request action be delayed short time until adequate preparations are made, when you will be immediately notified.' The following reply is being despatched to the Admiralty Reporting Officer, Noumea, and for Mr. Ballard.

Repeated ADELAIDE and for British Resident Commissioner, Vila, High Commissioner for Western Pacific, and New Zealand Naval Board, from the Naval Board:-

'Your 1900Z/12 acknowledged. Sautot has been appointed Governor.

Necessary to know very soon probable date operation should commence, as ADELAIDE is only available for a few days more.'

1 The time and date of dispatch have been taken from the copy on file Defence: Special Collection I, Box 556, Strategic Policy in Relation to French Colonies in the Pacific. This teleprinter message was also addressed to the External Affairs and Defence Co- ordination Depts.

2 R. G. Menzies.

3 Sir Harry Luke.

4 R. D. Blandly.

5 French Resident Commissioner in the New Hebrides.

6 The cablegram was in fact received not from London but from Luke in Suva on 13 September. See file AA:A981, New Caledonia 37.

7 Leader of the Free French movement.

8 R. Kuter, Chancellor, French Residency, New Hebrides.

9 W. A. Johnston.

10 Raymond Pognon.