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War with France

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Omar al Hashim View Drop Down
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    Posted: 21 May 2010 at 12:05
I'm after some information that I can't find from Googling concerning the circumstances of the Independence of the New Hebrides (Vanuatu).
 
My Boss tells war stories about fighting the French on Vanuatu. In short, as he tells it, Britain wanted to give the Vanuatu independence but only if the French left too - Britain and France had been jointly admistering the country. The French agreed to leave, but reneged after the English had left. My boss's unit of the Australian army was sent in by Britain to drive the French out. There was a minor battle with the French Foriegn Legion resulting in a French defeat and withdraw. (the full story contains the basic moral 'Good men don't like the French')
 
Now my boss has a habit of exaggerating storys so I wanted to corroborate this and learn what exactly happened. The only conflict that I can find any mention of at independence was the Coconut War (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coconut_War) in which Britain and France did indeed support opposite sides. The French Foriegn Legion were stationed on the Island, and France refused Britain permission to suppress the uprising.
The uprising eventually ended when PNG troops invaded the island. The PNG army both then and now is effectively an arm of Australia, and Australia of Britain, so it is highly possible that Australian forces were with the PNG troops.
 
Does anyone have any more information about the Coconut war? Know anything about Australian involvement in the war?


Edited by Omar al Hashim - 21 May 2010 at 12:06
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 May 2010 at 01:10
Shades of John Frum and the pernicious effects of contacts with Americans! Let us just say that the Anglo-French agreement over the "New Hebrides" was a corollary of the entente policy pursued by the ministers of Edward VII in 1906 and thereafter. Naturally, we should not "blame the Brits" here and instead really focus on very Australian imperial ambitions in the South Pacific. That there was an undercurrent of francophone vs anglophone as purported "independence" approached in 1980--not to mention that the "anglos" were all viewed as fricking socialists while the French were merely guaranteeing their vision of France Outremer via New Caledonia--must receive consideration. Then there is the role of Papua as an Australian "satellite" all of which made for international politics on the scale of a Gilbert & Suvllian operetta.
 
Perhaps, Omar, you would do well to search through the annual budgets of the Australian government with regard to Vanuatu so as to gauge the intricacies of Aussie involvement...
 
PS: What of what to do with the incidental detritus of le grande epoque...


Edited by drgonzaga - 22 May 2010 at 01:13
Honi soit qui mal y pense
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Omar al Hashim View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Omar al Hashim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 May 2010 at 14:03
Are you trying to say the French aren't evil?
 
Or that Australia is trying to run the pacific as a colonial empire? (Which is true to a large extent)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 May 2010 at 16:09
I think your boss is selling you a packet of foul fish. I get suspicious whenever the French Foreign Legion is mentioned. The FFL did have a single regiment (i.e., a battalion sized unit) in the Pacific at the time, but it ran the French nuclear test site. So they would not have had much of a force to send elsewhere. (Nor can I imagine why the French would have sent them.)  The French also often had a parachute regiment (8th Marine Parachute Infantry Regt, also essentially a large battalion did a tour in the Pacific at the time.) In 1988, the French did send a task force into New Caledonia to rescue some 23 gendarmes and others that had been taken hostage by Kanak Separatists. A company from the 3rd Marine Para Regt was with that force, as was the G.I.G.N. (National Gendarmes Hostage Rescue Force) and some naval commandos. Reporting at the time claimed that some 7,000 French Gendarmes and troops were in New Caledonia, but if they had any legionnaires, it was a very small contingent.

Understand that the Legion is not some corps that is separate from the French Army. In contingency operations, they are often included a the troop listing that might at the most number several companies. There will also be Marine and 'Metro' units included in such a task force.

No Australian mate of mine has ever mentioned any war between Australia and the French, and one mate, a retired SAS major, did a stint as a training major with the PNG forces.  
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Omar al Hashim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 May 2010 at 17:43
In my bosses story it is a very small contingent, comprised mostly of Australian vietnam veterens occupying a hill and throwing as many beer cans and insults at my bosses force as bullets.
 
The more stuff I find about the Coconut war the more I'm convinced that the basis of the stories come from there. This is my latest resource;
Quote Many mixed race and educated Melanesian Francophones considered themselves more French than Melanesian and were adamantly opposed to the British declared aim of early Independance. Some wanted the Condominium to remain, whilst others simply wanted the British out and France to annex the country entirely
 
Quote The French are notoriously possessive about their colonies, but despite their objections, Independence was set for mid 1980. However in May of that year, just a few weeks prior to the end of Condominium rule, an insurrection on Tanna split the island in two. One faction supported the new government while the other supported the French.
 
In short, there was a small war/conflict between the British Commonwealth and France over Vanuatu in 1980, which was won by Britain. There were (according to Wiki) French troops on Santo during the uprising and the island was invaded by Commonwealth forces. The only remaining question is over the involvement of Australian troops.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 May 2010 at 14:11
omar, I looked at the wiki articles, and there is a reference to 'PNG forces backed by Australians". It is my understanding that Australians filled PNG positions (such as training major) during that period, and many would have been Vietnam veterans, as mentioned int he story. Perhaps my problem is that I don't see this kerfluffle qualifying as a war between France and the U.K. Now the Falklands, that was a war.
 

Independence

1980 June - Jimmy Stevens, the leader of NaGriamel, declares Espiritu Santo independent of the rest of the New Hebrides renaming the island the Independent State of Vemarana. Papua New Guinea troops, backed by the Australians, put down the insurrection.

http://www.vanuatu.usp.ac.fj/library/online/texts/New_Hebrides/archive.htm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Omar al Hashim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 May 2010 at 15:01
A war between France and the UK, ok, possibly not. This is more accurately a conflict between the British Commonwealth and French colonies. The european arms of the British and French Empires have ceased to be major players in the affairs of the Empires named after them, which in the pacific, really do still exist.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 May 2010 at 17:14
Originally posted by Omar al Hashim Omar al Hashim wrote:

A war between France and the UK, ok, possibly not. This is more accurately a conflict between the British Commonwealth and French colonies. The european arms of the British and French Empires have ceased to be major players in the affairs of the Empires named after them, which in the pacific, really do still exist.


Huh? I thought the British Commonwealth was more of a forum rather than a political entity. If the former is the case, then i think the UK has very little do to with any of this, with this possibly being predominantly a Australian affair?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Omar al Hashim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 May 2010 at 10:52
The commonwealth was a political entity that is slowly transforming into a forum. But, a forum of countries that all share a common history, common (2nd) language, common trade interests, common law (no pun intended), common schooling, common sport (not to mention the Commonwealth Games) and common migration patterns.
Underneath open rivalries and enmity there are unifying threads between nations. Eduation, spheres of influence etc.
 
In the pacific the French and American islands are outside that commonality. The French move was an attempt to pull part of Vanuatu out of the commonwealth into the French sphere or even nation. The Anglophones on Vanuatu may have wanted independence from Britain but that didn't exclude asking other members of the commonwealth to suppress the francophones. Because, regardless of how much you might hate the British for their colonial legacy you can't let the French win.
 
What role the UK played in the New Hebridies is probably buried deep in the foriegn office. But I doubt that they played no role. They just kept it quite in order not to turn it into a major affair. They could force the issue quitely so why make a fuss?
 
This is not purely Australian Pacific Imperialism. In fact, all Australian action in the pacific is related to maintaining British Hegemony. Even if the UK isn't involved and doesn't care and even if the Australian government doesn't do it with those express intentions. Just because an Empire is abandoned doesn't mean it disappears. In the pacific countries didn't fight for independence, they were dumped with it, and often it hasn't stuck in peoples attitudes


Edited by Omar al Hashim - 31 May 2010 at 10:55
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Omar al Hashim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Jun 2010 at 10:51
With what we'd figured out in this thread I asked my boss exactly whether he'd fought on Espirito Santo alongside PNG. He said he had, but there wasn't much fighting because the French just surrendered and PNG wasn't much use because they "kept shooting the wrong people". But he knew everything that I'd learned from the resources here and more.
So this is exactly the conflict I was looking for.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Jun 2010 at 16:21
Ah, a war between two major powers with no casualties other than the non-national locals which did not make any major news source. Frankly, if he was my boss, I'd take him at his word whatever the facts. After all, the boss is the guy who signs your paycheck, and decides whether or not you stay hired.
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