OPT-NC is issuing these stamps, designed by New Caledonian artist Roberto Lunardo, to mark the centenary of New Caledonian enlistment in the Great War.
On 5 August 1914, Governor Repiquet issued a decree making Noumea the mobilisation centre for French citizens in the Pacific, New Caledonia, the New Hebrides and the Établissements Français d’Océanie (French Settlements in Oceania). Starting in September, and then in December 1914, members of the military, public servants and reservists took ship for France, travelling via Sydney; they included 51 volunteers from New Caledonia and the New Hebrides.
On 23 April 1915, 713 men, forming the first New Caledonian contingent, left on board the Sontay (shown on the first stamp), en route for Marseilles. The Niaoulis (or Créoles) were posted in colonial regiments to battlefronts in Northern France, Belgium, Verdun and the Somme, and to fight in the French Army of the Orient. From 1917 onwards, on the Chemin de Dames battlefield, they joined the companies of the Bataillon Mixte du Pacifique, while the Français (or Métropolitains) fought with regiments from the French regions where they were born.
France needed greater numbers of workers and fighters so, on 29 December 1915, Governor Repiquet began recruiting a Kanak skirmisher battalion. On 3 June 1916, the Bataillon des Tirailleurs du Pacifique, nicknamed "Bataillon de la Roussette", was formed. On 4 June 1916, over 900 men were shipped out on board the Gange, including 134 Europeans and 727 indigenous skirmishers (Kanak, Tahitian, New Hebrides, Indochinese and one Wallisian). On 3 December 1916, 912 men, including 357 Kanaks, took ship for Marseilles, followed on 10 November 1917, by 769 soldiers (Niaoulis, Français, Tahitians and Kanak and Tahitian skirmishers).
The Kanak skirmishers, the other indigenous soldiers and the French citizens of Oceania fought heroically during the Oise offensives, on the Chemin des Dames in 1917 and 1918, at the Battle of the Serre, at the capture of Vesles-et-Caumont (second stamp) and in the Orient. In all, 383 Kanak and 193 European New Caledonian soldiers lost their lives in the Great War. The survivors began returning home on the El Kantara (third stamp) on 10 May 1919, with a second contingent following in November 1919, on the Kia Ora.