107 Sir Harry Luke, U.K. High Commissioner for the Western Pacific, to Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister

Cablegram unnumbered SUVA, 7 September 1940, 11.30 a.m.


On my return to Suva to-day from Vila, I have received telegrams unnumbered [1] and 151 [2] from the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs [3] of 6th September on the subject of Sautot [4] proceeding to Noumea. Now that Sautot is about to be appointed by De Gaulle [5] Governor of New Caledonia and High Commissioner, I consider especially in view of the three following sentences, that his despatch there is urgently desirable in order to take advantage of the excellent feeling of the local population and regularise the situation. I have just received intimation from the British Resident New Hebrides [6] that Vichy Government has dismissed Secretaire General [7] Bayardelle (see my telegram touring No. 3) [8] and that a ketch arrived at Vila from Noumea yesterday with representatives of Noumea De Gaulle Committee to make contact with Sautot and ask his consent to become Governor and High Commissioner. The representative noted that the Committee are planning to capture the DUMONT D'URVILLE for which purpose they believe that they can count on the support of half of the ship's company and some of the local troops. The representative added that the Committee were being hampered in obtaining unreserved adhesion of New Caledonia to Free France by the belief that Petain administration was being treated by the Commonwealth Government with excessive consideration. Sautot could not proceed in his own yacht which is merely a launch and in French [9] territory. Only alternative would seem to be his proceeding in the H.M.A.S.

ADELAIDE. In any case he would need the support of the ADELAIDE to counteract the support which Colonel Denis [10] might receive from Toussaint de Quievrecourt Commanding Officer of the DUMONT D'URVILLE, Removal from the Colony of the latter officer, I suggest essential. Sautot informed me at Vila that if he went to Noumea he would be satisfied to entrust the post of French Resident Commissioner of the New Hebrides to the loyal and trustworthy official named Kuter. [11]

2. I will be glad to co-operate to retain the economic pressure that may be necessary in order to bring anti De Gaulle elements in New Caledonia to reason.

3. Reference last paragraph my telegram to you from Vila of 4th September [12] deportation of three troublesome persons from the New Hebrides, British Resident Commissioner now telegraphs that as notice to them to leave will be given on 9th September, it is most desirable to receive before then confirmation of their being allowed to pass through Australia and that H.M.A.S. ADELAIDE be at Vila at the time of their embarkation.

1 Document 105.

2 On file AA:A981, New Caledonia 37.

3 Lord Caldecote.

4 French Resident Commissioner in the New Hebrides.

5 Leader of the Free French movement.

6 R. D. Blandy.

7 Of New Caledonia.

8 On file AA:A981, New Caledonia 37.

9 The original was annotated 'group mutilated'.

10 Governor of New Caledonia.

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

12 Document 98.