357 Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister, to Mr A. W. Fadden, Acting Prime Minister

Cablegram M18 LONDON, 16 March 1941, 5.42, p.m.

IMMEDIATE FOR THE ACTING PRIME MINISTER MOST SECRET

I have been interviewed by General de Gaulle [1] with reference to problems associated with New Caledonia, Tahiti and the New Hebrides. As the French Colonial Administration system has always been much more centralised than ours, he is desirous of maintaining the most constant and promptest means of communication with Sautot [2] who is in charge generally of French Oceania. At present the procedure is for him to deal with the Dominions Office which then communicates with us or through us to Sautot. I have told de Gaulle that provided that he keeps the Dominions Office informed on important matters, he may have direct access to Bruce [3] and through Bruce to us.

De Gaulle is, of course, anxious to avoid any suggestion that these French colonies are under British control, but he would certainly be very glad to use us as a means of communication with these colonies and if necessary with New Zealand. I think that this should be encouraged.

He also asks me whether we would be prepared to have private military conversations in relation to the defence of New Caledonia. I said that we would, but that we had not volunteered them because we did not want to lend any colour to enemy propaganda in relation to alleged Australian annexation of New Caledonia. You might get Ballard [4] to take this up with Sautot.

De Gaulle also renewed the request for assistance in transporting 300 French volunteers from New Caledonia and 300 from Tahiti. He assures me that [subtraction] [5] of these men will not interfere with arrangements for local defence.

For your guidance, I may say that de Gaulle is a man of considerable ability, dignity and force and is well regarded by Churchill. He is certainly a rallying point for free French opinion and on my way here I found that his movement was pretty strong in French Equatorial Africa and regarded with respect by our own people in the Sudan generally and Gambia.

MENZIES

1 Leader of the Free French movement.

2 Free French Governor of New Caledonia.

3 High Commissioner in London.

4 Official Representative in New Caledonia.

5 Corrected from the London copy (which is dated 11 March) on file AA:A2937, Free France.

[AA:A981, NEW CALEDONIA 1, vii]