1919-2019, New Caledonian soldiers return home after the Great War
This new 75 XPF stamp issue, designed by Roberto Lunardo, forms the fifth and final instalment of the stamp series launched in 2015 to commemorate the First World War.
Previous stamps in the series were entitled “1915-1917, New Caledonian enlistment in the Great War” (2015), “The Kanak skirmisher” (2016), “The creation of the Bataillon Mixte du Pacifique in 1917” (2017) and “1918, New Caledonians in Vesles-et-Caumont” (2018). OPT-NC concludes the series with a stamp marking the return home of the New Caledonian soldiers who fought in the Great War.
The ceasefire took effect at eleven o'clock in the morning - the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918 - following the signing of the Armistice. The news spread like wildfire, bringing great relief and rejoicing. Due to strikes at the port of Marseille and the lack of ships bound for the Pacific, soldiers from France’s overseas territories were split into contingents and obliged to wait some time for a passage home.
A first contingent returned to New Caledonia aboard the El Kantara on 10 May 1919, with a second contingent following in November 1919, on the Kia Ora. In May 1920, the El Kantara carried the third and final contingent back to their homes in the Pacific.
The returning heroes, New Caledonian soldiers and Kanak skirmishers, were given a joyous welcome, with parades, peace celebrations and military ceremonies held in Noumea. Funds were quickly raised and memorials to the fallen, like the one shown on the illustrated sheet, were erected in municipalities and tribal villages all over New Caledonia in remembrance of the 193 European and 383 Kanak soldiers killed in action. The New Caledonia Veterans Friendly Society was founded in January 1919 to perpetuate the bonds of friendship forged between comrades, to provide help for the victims of war and support for the families of those who fell in battle.