Cartes postales du bagne

Hotel Banu, La Foa

31 July 2018

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We drove to La Foa in search of various vestiges of the notorious Camp Brun, where the most ‘difficult’ convicts were sent as further punishment, located between the town and Boulouparis. However, as we later found out from the Tourist Office in La Foa, these vestiges are located on private properties and, where they haven’t been destroyed, are only occasionally opened up to the public on heritage days. Apparently lots of people come looking possibly having stumbled across the same outdated information on Le Petit Futé as we have.

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At La Foa we grabbed a drink in the bar at the Hotel Banu. It was definitely the coolest bar I had visited in New Caledonia with an enormous collection of caps hanging from the ceiling. The Hotel is a family business and embedded in local history. Interestingly, it also become enmeshed in WWII politics and was the site where Admiral Georges Thierry D’Argenlieu was placed under surveillance for 15 days by supporters of Governor Sautot in May 1942. Sautot and D’Argenlieu has disagreed over the role of the American Allies in New Caledonia. I find this story of brief internment significant because of the different strategic role played by New Caledonia during WWII compared to other French colonies. Where the bagne was still an important feature in French Guiana and Poulo-Condore in Vietnam, the penal colony had disappeared from New Caledonia. Despite initial support by Governor Pélicier for De Gaulle and the Free France campaign, he begun to waver during summer 1940 before being overridden by the General Council and replaced by Henri Sautot in September 1940.

More about the history of the Commune can be found here.

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