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

Cablegram 192 NOUMEA, 13 March 1941, 3.30 p.m.

My telegram No. 189. [1] Political side of this question will not have escaped your notice. Whatever the origin of the present mission, all that the Governor [2] knows is de Gaulle's [3] statement in your telegram No. 152 [4] that the mission was being sent, as training and equipment of expeditionary force were to be undertaken in collaboration with Australia.

Mission has been excellently received, all possible information given and most searching questions fully answered. Governor and other authorities realize that the Australian interest in the defence of New Caledonia is partly inspired by the motives of self-defence.

General attitude may be summarised as being that as they have no means of naval and aerial defence they will be grateful for anything in those spheres which Australia can offer and will make New Caledonian waters freely available for this purpose and accept the presence of official Australian personnel. Without anticipating the mission's report in aerial matters, it can be stated that all Alexander's [5] requests relating to the establishment of an air base have been met. For land they consider that they have adequate man-power which they could use effectively if they receive equipment for the purpose and therefore do not want Australian personnel.

They have seventeen million francs available for war expenses and are prepared to spend this locally where the franc can be used, and where their purchases require foreign exchange they are prepared to set aside the franc to the extent that such exchange is made available.

Continued delay in getting expeditionary force away cannot fail to affect morale not only of the force but of the colony as a whole;

on the other hand delivery of rifles will have an immensely stimulating and encouraging effect.

I regard it as essential that when decisions are made on the mission's recommendations the impression should not be left with the local authorities that Australia has got all that she regarded as important while New Caledonia is not being seriously assisted in the fields which it regards as important and in which it could make an effort for itself.

I am concerned solely to point out the existence of this political aspect as a factor to be given its proper place in the problem as a whole.

BALLARD

1 Dispatched 13 March. It transmitted a message from Lt Col R. E.

Fanning, a member of the Australian Military Mission then visiting New Caledonia, urging a reconsideration of the Commonwealth Govt's decision that for an indefinite period it would be unable to arm the New Caledonian Free French expeditionary force. See AA:A3830, 1941, 654.

2 Henri Sautot.

3 Leader of the Free French movement.

4 Dispatched 1 February. See file AA:AA75/215, 18/41.

5 Wing Commander J. Alexander represented the R.A.A.F. on the Australian military mission to New Caledonia.

[AA:A3830, 1941, 655]