OPT-NC is proud to present a new 75 XPF stamp, designed by artist Roberto Lunardo, a native of the Aisne region, commemorating the capture of the village of Vesles-et-Caumont in October 1918.
The first New Caledonian, New Hebrides and Tahitian volunteers, all French citizens of Oceania, enlisted in various colonial regiments as early as 1914. The Bataillon d’étapes des tirailleurs des îles du Pacifique, comprising two companies of Kanak and New Hebrides soldiers and two companies of Tahitian soldiers, was founded in 1916. In 1917, numbers were swelled with the addition of a mixed race artillery company and the battalion became the Bataillon mixte du Pacifique (BMP).
During the 1917 campaign, from June to October, the BMP was assigned to manual labour duties in the Oise and Aisne areas and to the rear of Chemin des Dames. The soldiers were then sent back to spend the winter on the Riviera and in Tunisia. The final contingent of volunteers from Noumea arrived in February 1918 and, from July 1918 onwards, the BMP was involved in heavy fighting on the Aisne front.
Sections of the BMP fought in the battle of the Matz alongside the 164th, 365th and 418th Infantry Regiments, acting as an assault troop in the bloody attack on Pasly plateau near Soissons. On 24 and 25 October, the BMP, reunited and attached to the 164th Infantry Regiment, saw front line action at the capture of the village of Vesles-et-Caumont (Aisne) and surrounding areas in the Marois Plain, on the Hunding Line. 32 Kanak, 10 Tahitian and 5 mixed race New Caledonian soldiers were killed in action. On 10 December 1918, a meritorious unit citation (10th Army Division) was awarded to the BMP by General Mangin. The BMP was dissolved on 9 May 1919, the day before the Oceanian veterans returned home aboard the El Kantara.
One hundred years after this glorious battle, the one and only occasion on which all the troops from French Oceania saw action together, OPT-NC wishes to pay tribute to the steadfast bravery of these men, who all volunteered to enlist, and to honour the memory of those who fell in battle.