The engagement of the French overseas territories in the Second World War
While from June 1940 a small but vocal group of French people refused to accept France's defeat and tried, with the support of General de Gaulle, to keep France in the war, they were low on troops and lacked a territorial base. Less than three months later, the situation had changed: the leader of Free France was able to govern vast territories, raise troops and challenge the legitimacy of Marshal Pétain.
This reversal of fortune can be attributed to various men and women in overseas France. In Africa, Félix Eboué from French Guiana helped build support for Free France from Chad (26 August); in the Pacific, the New Hebrides (22 July), Polynesia (2 September) then New Caledonia (19 September) recognised General de Gaulle’s authority. Other territories followed suit: Saint-Pierre and Miquelon in December 1941, Reunion, Wallis and Futuna in 1942, and the West Indies (Guadeloupe and Martinique) in 1943.
A territorial base of Free France and then a military base, the overseas territories also supplied their fair share of fighters and heroes. A total 3,500 troops were enlisted, the significance and memory of which are highlighted by the documents below, out of the 53,200 volunteers catalogued by the Free France Foundation.
Félix Eboué, a Guianese civil servant who built support for Free France
- A presentation, on the website of the Ordre de la Libération, about its republican engagement and its role during the Second World War
- Play the game!The text of the speech delivered by Félix Eboué to the prize ceremony at Carnot High School in Pointe-à-Pitre (Guadeloupe), 1 July 1937
Articles on the engagement of the French Overseas Territories in the Second World War
- An infographic on the engagement of the French Overseas Territories in Free France and access to the list of named volunteers, categorised by region
- An interview with the historian Fabrice d’Almeida and three summaries of documentary films covering the engagement of Overseas Territories in the Second World War..
- An articles from “Cols Bleus” on the Tahitian members of the Free French Naval Forces (FNFL)
- An article on the engagement of New Caledonia in the two world wars
- An article on the the rallying of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon to Free France
- An article on thedissidence in Guadeloupe and in Martinique between 1940 and 1943
- A paper from the RHA on Réunion Island in the Second World War