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NOUMEA, PACIFIC OUTPOST . . .

WHERE FRENCHMEN RETAIN FREEDOM

From R. li. Leonard, Special Representative, of The Courier-Mail, who if abroad.

NOUMEA: The tricolor or Free France still tlies proudly over the public buildings in Noumea, New Caledonia. The fact that Hitler, by armed might, has smashed the fi'oo inotitiifinnc t\f monv Tflnrnnnan rnnnfrioG Vine

failed to weaken the support of these colonial people for the democratic cause for which the Empire fights.

HE GAULLE is a name wnicn ie mentioned almost reverently ir Noumea to-day. Copies of Genera' de Gaulle's call to all free French' men to fight on are displayed ir shop windows. In letters inches deep the message expresses the hope o all Frenchmen on the island — that somi day there will be an independen France, strong, prosperous, and proud. AVith their limited numbers and limited resources, New Caledonians cannot do much to assist the cause of the democracies, but by declaring themselves allies of Britain they are facilitating the defence, in an emer gency, of an island which has splen did seaplane bases, and which, in

cidentally, is only 1000 miles from Sydney, and only a few hundred miles due cast of the Australian coast. The Pan-American Clippers which ply the long sea route between New Zealand and the United States tie up overnight in the picturesque harbour Df Noumea. The town lies in the shadow of a mountain range which may or may not have strategic value, but which certainly gives New Cale donia a rugged kind of grandeur. 'AN ODD PLACE' Noumea is not the type of town in which the average Australian would :are to live. It is an odd place with i semi-tropical climate, narrow streets, Ions drab buildings, which may be Mther shops or homes, and a mixed population of whites. Pacific natives, Japanese, and Europeans, of whom some 12.000 are white Frenchmen. In the centre of the town is a park which attracts attention primarily be :ause of the complete absence oi lawns; and opposite is the Hotel ' de Prance, where modest wicker chairs ind tables on what serves for a promenade bring to many visitors rather sad memories of the gay open air cafes of pre-war Paris. The Noumea scene is totally inadequate, but it is at least a reminder of a time-honoured French drinking custom. Apart from the presence of uniformed men, there are few signs of military life, but the rifles and glinting, slen der bayonets carried by guards in Noumea demonstrate that New Cale donia has fixed views as to the course of conduct which should and will be followed if the island faces an emer gency. A CONTRAST This part of the Free French colonial empire is rich in nickel and chromium, and smoke from a tall chimney stack on the waterfront is the sign of in dustrial activity which has followed ex ploitation of these metal deposits. Not far away is the main shipping jetty. Behind is the old-fashioned shabby town. And half a mile out in the har bour is a startling contrast to this shabbiness. It takes the form of a (lazzHngly white motor yacht, 200 feet long, the embodiment of smart ness and comfort, and formerly the property of an American million aire. This is the motor vessel 'Southern Seas,' in which Pan-American Airways passengers stay overnight. As a pri vate luxury yachb it was built by the late Mr. Cyrus H. K. Curtis, of the Saturday Evening Post. Panel through out, rails, and even decks are of solid teak, and ingenuity would be needed to discover comforts which might be added. The officers are American, the deck hands Melanesians, the waiters Jap anese, the drink stewards Americans. From commander to boot cleaner, all help passengers in luxury surround ing to feel like millionaires for a night. Half a mile away in Noumea there is no such finery. Judged by Australian or American standards, there may be many disad vantages about life in Noumea^ — but to the Frenchman it is the heart of a country which still retains its freedom and its national pride.

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