224 Commonwealth Government to Lord Cranborne, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs

Cablegram 649 14 December 1940,

My telegrams 625 and 638. [1] We have conferred with Mansard [2] on defence and overseas force proposal.

(1) As French Pacific has always been a single defence command, (2) as Noumea will be headquarters of proposed three battalions to be raised, (3) for facilitation of accounting and administration, it is agreed with Mansard that it is preferable that there be one responsibility for questions in connection with Free French Forces in Oceania.

We gather proposal is to raise 1,000 men in Tahiti for transhipment to Noumea where they will join local forces for training before embarkation en bloc. 300 trained men have been in barracks at Papeete for some time and men are being enlisted in New Caledonia. Formerly practically all payments for defence were made by Metropolitan France.

Matters which will require immediate consideration are:

(a) advances for purposes of military requirements both for home defence New Caledonia and Tahiti and expeditionary force;

(b) supply of clothing, equipment and possibly arms;

(c) transportation of battalions when ready.

It seems to us that the question which of His Majesty's Governments should ultimately assume financial responsibility for Free French forces in different parts of the world is subsidiary to the main desideratum which is to ensure immediately that funds will be available for those forces. Until Administration knows that money will be forthcoming it cannot proceed with its plans for the raising and training of men. Pending determination of ultimate responsibility, it seems essential that an assurance in respect of New Caledonia and Tahiti should be given at once, the question of apportionment of cost between His Majesty's several Governments being considered in the meantime. Commonwealth Government is prepared to give such an assurance if desired.

Should be grateful to have an early expression of your views. [3]

1 Dispatched 20 November and 9 December respectively. See file AA:A1608, D41/1/9, iii.

2 Former Free French Governor of Tahiti who visited Australia during December 1940 to discuss defence assistance for French Oceania.

3 This cablegram was repeated to Peter Fraser, N.Z. Prime Minister, as no. 89.

[AA:A981, NEW CALEDONIA 1, v]