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48 Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, to Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister

Cablegram 14 LONDON, 22 August 1941, 6.58 p.m.


Your telegrams 4339 and 4[4]31. [1] Your views were brought at
once to the notice of the United Kingdom Government and I have now
received the following reply:-

'Concern expressed by Government of Australia about the effect on
Sautot [2] and New Caledonia of the appointment of Commandant
d'Argenlieu as High Commissioner has been shared in London and the
matter has been discussed at length with the Free French
Headquarters. D'Argenlieu has now been officially gazetted on
direct orders of General de Gaulle [3] who is at present in Syria
and Sautot has been advised so that there is no possibility at
this date of reversing the position.

On the other hand it is certain that General de Gaulle has not
been influenced by either Bayardelle [4] or Brunot [5] and one of
d'Argenlieu's first duties will be to clear up contention in
Tahiti. On present information there is no intention of leaving
Brunet there.

General de Gaulle's main preoccupation is military. He is greatly
concerned [by] [6] developments in the Far East and d'Argenlieu's
chief function will be to organize defences of the Island in close
collaboration with the Dominion Authorities concerned. As a
distinguished naval officer he has particular qualifications for
this task and is taking with him some twenty Free French Officers
to assist him. He is a co-member with Sautot on the Council of
Defence and enjoys high prestige in Free French movement; he is
also a senior member of the Carmelite Order.

Free French Headquarters are satisfied that relations between him
and Sautot cannot but be of the friendliest. De Gaulle has been at
special pains to spare Sautot's feelings. He maintains him as a
member of the Council of Defence and has decorated him with the
Cross of Liberation. French believe that d'Argenlieu and Sautot
will agree on some division of responsibility which will be
mutually satisfactory.

The United Kingdom Government were glad to learn from the
Commonwealth Government's telegram 4431 of 14th August that Sautot
has been reassured by telegram from d'Argenlieu. They understand
however that he proposes to establish his headquarters at Noumea
and the suggestion in the last paragraph of Commonwealth
Government's telegram is being conveyed to Free French
I had myself watched the activities both of Brunot and Bayardelle
with some misgiving and had suspected that Bayardelle might be
planning intrigues against Sautot. You will have seen from
External Affairs Department telegram 489 of 1st July [7] that
Bayardelle had apparently got on the right side of Pleven [8],
Cassin [9] and Muselier. [10] You will see, however, from United
Kingdom reply that they are emphatic that de Gaulle has not been
influenced by either Bayardelle or Brunet.

I agree entirely with your view about the undesirability of the
appointment of high officials from outside. D'Argenlieu has no
knowledge of Pacific and his experience of French colonies has
been mainly in the West Indies.

At the same time I believe that success of his mission to French
Canadians suggests that d'Argenlieu will be able to adapt himself
to Frenchmen of a very different type from those of republican
France. As you know French Canadians, after the collapse of
France, lost one of their main interests in the war and their
sympathies have been pro-Petain [11] rather than pro-de Gaulle.

The United Kingdom High Commissioner in Canada [12] confirms the
tact with which d'Argenlieu handled his mission and the success
with which it was attended despite the fact that he had no backing
from either the Canadian Government or the United Kingdom High

Massey [13] bears this out.

I am encouraged to think that d'Argenlieu may be successful in New
Caledonia by reason of the fact that he is reputed to have kept
aloof from French politics and furthermore because he appears to
be in no way a careerist. The view held in some quarters here is
that the appointment is a mistake on the ground, which is not
without substance, that de Gaulle has too few men of d'Argenlieu
type around him in London.

I think it might be a good idea if d'Argenlieu were to pay a visit
to Australia at an early stage, and you might consider the
desirability of telegraphing the United Kingdom down these lines.


1 Corrected from the London copy on file AA:A2937, Free France.

Cablegram 4339 is published as Document 36. Cablegram 4431
(dispatched 13 August) is on file AA:A1608, D41/1/9, iv
2 Free French Governor of New Caledonia.

3 Leader of the Free French movement.

4 Secretary-General of the Free French administration in New
Caledonia until March 1941
5 In charge of the Free French administration in Tahiti.

6 Corrected from the London copy on file AA:A2937, Free France.

7 On the file cited in note 6.

8 Rene Pleven, who was then on a mission to the United States on
behalf of the Free French movement.

9 Legal adviser to de Gaulle.

10 Commander-in-Chief of Free French naval forces.

11 French Head of State.

12 Malcolm MacDonald.

13 Canadian High Commissioner in the United Kingdom.

Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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