47 Lord Caldecote, U.K. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, to Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister

Cablegram 279 LONDON, 2 August 1940, 3.20 a.m.


Reference previous telegrams regarding Tahiti. [1] The general tendency now is for the authorities in French colonies to try to combine acceptance of the authority of Vichy Government with friendly unofficial relations with ourselves. We are, generally speaking, not inclined to acquiesce in this situation, since we believe that economic necessity is bound to strengthen the link with us and weaken the dependence of the French Colonies on France. In the present circumstances, however, we are anxious to maintain contact, even if only indirectly, with as many French Colonies as possible, provided they show readiness to co-operate with us. By this, we mean that they should show some desire to maintain a spirit of resistance and should not put obstacles in our way, e.g. by detaining British ships or permitting unfriendly propaganda.

In these circumstances it would be in accordance with the policy which we are at present adopting that the Governor's [2] proposal regarding Mr. Edmonds [3] should be accepted and we therefore hope that His Majesty's Government in Commonwealth and New Zealand will be prepared to agree to his acting as Liaison Officer between them and French Colonial authorities in Commerce and Shipping matters.

Taking into consideration the guarantee of safety offered by Governor, we also welcome a decision to permit food ships to proceed, since to give material help of this kind appears the most effective way to counter the influence of the Vichy Government.

Although the matter is entirely one for the New Zealand Government to decide, United Kingdom Government also consider that provided that such a course would be acceptable to Tahiti authorities, it would be useful if the proposed special mission could proceed to Tahiti. [4] This would assist strengthening liaison with Tahiti, especially as the British Consul there is without assistants or reliable cyphers and is not a career official.

1 See file AA:A1608, D41/1/9, i.

2 F. Chastenet de Gery.

3 U.K. Consul at Papeete.

4 The N.Z. Govt proposed sending a mission to Tahiti to fulfil functions similar to those of the Australian Official Representative in New Caledonia. The mission to Tahiti was to be led either by a Minister or a senior official, and was to include supply experts. It would attempt to arrive at a modus vivendi with regard to 'shipping, supplies, liaison through the British Consul at Papeete and such other matters as the French authorities may wish to discuss'. See cablegrams of 30 July and 5 August from the N.Z. Prime Minister, Peter Fraser, to the Commonwealth Govt on file AA:A981, New Caledonia 1, iii.

[AA:A3195, 1940, 1.6201]