This new 120 XPF stamp issue, designed by Roberto Lunardo, forms the third instalment of the stamp series launched in 2015 to commemorate all New Caledonians who fought in the First World War, and marks the creation of the Bataillon Mixte du Pacifique in 1917.
On 5 August 1914, two days after Germany declared war on France, the Governor of New Caledonia, Jules Repiquet, acting in accordance with the ministerial circular, gave the order for general mobilisation of all French citizens in the Pacific Region. On 23 April 1915, the Premier contingent créole calédonien (First New Caledonian Mixed-Race Contingent), comprising 713 men, landed in France on board the Sontay.
Ever-growing numbers of able-bodied men were needed to fight and the Decree of 9 October 1915 provided for the creation of a native military unit from the French colonies. The decree was made applicable in New Caledonia on 22 January under a circular issued by Governor Repiquet, and voluntary recruitment of Kanak and Oceanian skirmishers began the same day. On 4 June 1916, the first convoy of the Bataillon des Tirailleurs des îles du Pacifique (Pacific Islands Rifle Battalion), also nicknamed Bataillon de la Roussette, comprising over 900 men, including 134 Europeans and 727 native skirmishers of Kanak, Polynesian and Indo-Chinese ancestry, left Noumea aboard the Gange.
In April 1917, the Bataillon d’étapes des tirailleurs des îles du Pacifique became the Bataillon de marche Mixte du Pacifique or BMP, with French Oceanian mixed-race and native soldiers fighting side by side. In August 1917, the battalion was sent as reinforcement behind the Champagne front line. After wintering on the Riviera from October 1917 to June 1918, the battalion saw action in the Battle of the Serre from July 1918, where the troops fought with distinction, helping to take the village of Vesles-et-Caumont and Petit-Caumont farm (Aisne) in October. Their action earned the battalion a meritorious unit citation (10th Army Division), awarded on 10 December 1918 by General Mangin.
The Bataillon Mixte du Pacifique was disbanded on 9 May 1919. A number of men were shipped home on 10 May aboard El Kantara but most of the surviving Oceanian veterans had to wait, sometimes many months, for a passage home.
With this stamp issue showing a contingent of reinforcements belonging to the Bataillon Mixte du Pacifique, gathered in front of Gally-Passeboc barracks in Noumea in November 1917, OPT-NC wishes to pay tribute not only to the 544 mixed-race, French and native New Caledonians who were killed or declared missing in action during the First World War, but also to all those who fought in this battalion.