Archive Ad1 778 at the National Archives (Archives New Zealand) in Wellington, New Zealand
In New Zealand’s National Archivesin Wellington, there is a military file about two French soldiers who deserted in New Zealand during the First World War, a soldier namedScottez and another soldier named Valentin Franco.
The first was a soldier called Scottez who escaped from Military Custody on board the ‘S.S. Moana”, a boat transporting him from Tahiti to New Caledonia via Wellington and Sydney, while it was berthed in Wellington on 23 April 1915. He was being transported with four French naval officers, some French ‘bluejackets’ and one other French prisoner. The information in the file shows that he was being transferred to Noumea in New Caledonia, where he was to be tried by Court Martial for “acts of robbery and drunkenness under disgraceful circumstances at Papeete”, in Tahiti.
Information went out to New Zealand authorities to look for a man ‘aged 20 to 21’, ‘about 5 feet, or slightly above’, complexion ‘Sallow, who could not speak a word of English. He was dressed in his uniform, a blue coat with a double row of vertical buttons with Anchor embossed on each button, and red anchors embroidered on the collar; dark blue trousers with a thin red piping down the side and had a blue kepi helmet.
Scottez was arrested on 26 April 1915 by the Wellington police and the French Consular Authorities sent him to Sydney, Australia three days later on the ‘S.S. Moeraki’ on Thursday 29th April. From there he was sent on to his original destination.
The information on Valentin Franco, a French Reservist, who in 1917 was reported a deserter when he failed to report himself to the French Consular Agent in Wellington as instructed, is interesting because it shows a debate about the ability of overseas citizens to remain at liberty under the law in New Zealand. New Zealand law did not mean he could be arrested. The French Consul had no power to compel this man to return to France. Eventually, in October 1917, Franco was “handed his Military Orders and a passage arranged for him to England, by steamer” leaving on the 26th October 1917.
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Last modified on Friday, 13 February 2015 17:23