The French had a very extensive overseas colonial empire that included territories and protectorates on almost every continent. Many of these were very small and consisted of small outposts (especially in North America), whilst others were much larger and more extensive. Asia and Africa formed the largest part of the French Colonial Empire but following the end of the Second World War almost all of these were grudgingly granted independence, many after local uprisings and wars.
The Second World War lasted from Sep 1939 to May 1945 in Europe and Aug 1945 in Asia. Due to the fact that many French colonies issued stamps just prior to the start of the war, I have included stamp issues from 1935 to 1946 rather than limiting it to the 1939 to 1945 time frame.
These stamps were issued by the French Committee of National Liberation and were available after the Allied landings in Corsica, then in liberated areas in the South of France. From Nov 1944 other colonies as well as France itself made these issues available.
Alexandretta was a Turkish province of Syria which was administered by France following a League of Nations mandate in 1922. Syrian stamps were used here until 1938 when the region was given autonomy and stamps overprinted 'Sandjak d'Alexandrette' were issued.
In 1847, following a 17 year war, France gained control of the African region of Algeria. French stamps without overprints were used until 1924, but from then on stamps inscribed 'ALGERIE' were issued.
At the outset of the First World War, Cameroun was a part of the German Empire and issued stamps of the German Empire followed by the 'Hohenzollern Yacht' issues used throughout the German Empire colonies. In 1916 the region had been occupied by British and French troops and was divided between them. This status-quo existed until 1946 when the region became a trusteeship under the United Nations.
Following the First and second Franco-Dahomean Wars with France, the kingdom became a French protectorate in 1894. Later In 1904 the area became part of a French colony, French Dahomey. The area was administered by France until indepence was granted in 1960 and was renamed the Republic of Dahomey.
Beginning in 1911, Fezzan (a part of modern day Libya) was occupied by Italy. Then with the Alied success against the Italian and German forces in North Africa, Free French troops occupied Murzuk, a chief town of Fezzan, on 16 January 1943, forming the Military Territory of Fezzan-Ghadames. When the French military control ceased in 1951, all of Fezzan became part of the Kingdom of Libya.
Levant is equivalent to the region including Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Palestine and most of Turkey south-east of the middle Euphrates. Free France and its Free French Forces were the government-in-exile led by Charles de Gaulle during the Second World War fighting alongside the allies after the liberation of France.
French Equatorial Africa (Afrique-Équatoriale Française), was the federation of French colonial possessions in Equatorial Africa, comprising what are today the countries of Chad, the Central African Republic, the Republic of the Congo, and Gabon.
French Guiana is a region of France on the northern Atlantic coast of South America bordering Brazil to the east and south and Suriname to the west. During World War II and the fall of France to Nazi German forces, Guiana officially rallied to Free France in 1943 (although it had been doing so unofficially since 1940). It abandoned its status as a colony and once again became a French department in 1946.
The French Protectorate in Morocco (1912-1956), also known as French Morocco (French: Maroc Français), was a colonial regime imposed by France in the Sherifian Empire. The protectorate was officially established March 30, 1912, when Sultan Abd al-Hafid signed the Treaty of Fes, though the French military occupation of Morocco had begun with the invasion of Oujda and the bombardment of Casablanca in 1907. The French Protectorate lasted until the dissolution of the Treaty of Fes on March 2, 1956, with the Franco-Moroccan Joint Declaration.
French Polynesia, officially the Collectivity of French Polynesia, is an overseas collectivity of the French Republic and now its sole overseas country. It is composed of 118 geographically dispersed islands and atolls stretching over an expanse of more than 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) in the South Pacific Ocean. In 1940, the administration of French Polynesia recognised the Free French Forces and many Polynesians served in World War II.
French Sudan was a French colonial territory in the Federation of French West Africa from around 1880 until 1960, when it became the independent state of Mali. The colony was formally called French Sudan from 1890 until 1899 and then again from 1921 until 1958, and had a variety of different names over the course of its existence.
French West Africa (Afrique-Occidentale Française, AOF) was a federation of eight French colonial territories in Africa: Mauritania, Senegal, French Sudan (now Mali), French Guinea (now Guinea), Ivory Coast, Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), Dahomey (now Benin) and Niger. The federation existed from 1895 until 1958. Its capital was Saint-Louis, Senegal until 1902, and then Dakar until the federation's collapse.
Guadeloupe is an archipelago forming an overseas region of France in the Caribbean. It consists of six inhabited islands, Basse-Terre, Grande-Terre, Marie-Galante, La Désirade, and the Îles des Saintes, as well as many uninhabited islands.
French Indochina was a grouping of French colonial territories in Southeast Asia. It consisted of three Vietnamese regions of Tonkin (north), Annam (centre), and Cochinchina (south), Cambodia (from 1887), Laos (from 1899) and finally, the leased Chinese territory of Guangzhouwan was added in 1898. The capital was moved from Saigon (in Cochinchina) to Hanoi (Tonkin) in 1902 and again to Da Lat (Annam) in 1939. In 1945 it was moved back to Hanoi. After the Fall of France during World War II, the colony was administered by the Vichy government and was under Japanese occupation until March 1945.
Ivory Coast (formally Côte d'Ivoire)an officially the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire, is a country located on the south coast of West Africa. The first West African French settlement, Saint Louis, was founded in the mid-17th century in Senegal. In World War II, the Vichy regime remained in control until 1942, when British troops invaded. By 1943, the Allies had returned French West Africa to the French Government in exile. The Brazzaville Conference of 1944, the first Constituent Assembly of the Fourth Republic in 1946, and France's gratitude for African loyalty during World War II, led to far-reaching governmental reforms in 1946.
The administration of the region under the French was carried out through a number of different governments and territories, including the Syrian Federation (1922–24), the State of Syria (1924–30) and the Syrian Republic (1930–1958), as well as smaller states: the State of Greater Lebanon, the Alawite State and Jabal Druze State. Hatay was annexed by Turkey in 1939. The French mandate lasted until 1943, when two independent countries emerged, Syria and Lebanon. French troops completely left Syria and Lebanon in 1946.
Madagascar, previously known as the Malagasy Republic, is an island country in the Indian Ocean, approximately 400 kilometres (250 miles) off the coast of East Africa. France invaded Madagascar in 1883 in what became known as the first Franco-Hova War, France annexed Madagascar in 1896 and declared the island a colony the following year. Full independence was finally achieved on 26 June 1960.
Martinique is an insular region of France located in the Lesser Antilles of the West Indies in the eastern Caribbean Sea. During WWII, the pro-Nazi Vichy government controlled Martinique under Admiral Georges Robert. German U-boats used Martinique for refuelling and re-supply during the Battle of the Caribbean. Free French forces took over on the island on Bastille Day, 14 July 1943.
Mauritania is a country in Northwest Africa. France laid claim to the territories of present-day Mauritania from the Senegal River area and northwards, starting in the late 19th century. France finally gianed control over the country in 1912 following almost 10 years of fighting against shaykh Maa al-Aynayn and his followers. Full independece from France was achieved in 1960.
New Caledonia is a special collectivity of France, located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, to the south of Vanuatu, about 1,210 km (750 mi) east of Australia. On 24th Sep 1853, under orders from Emperor Napoleon III, Admiral Febvrier Despointes took formal possession of New Caledonia. In June 1940, after the fall of France, the Conseil General of New Caledonia voted unanimously to support the Free French government, and in September the pro-Vichy governor was forced to leave for Indochina. In March 1942, with the assistance of Australia, the territory became an important Allied base and the main South Pacific Fleet base of the United States Navy in the South Pacific moved to Nouméa in 1942–1943. The fleet that turned back the Japanese navy in the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942 was based at Nouméa.
In 1906, France and the United Kingdom agreed to administer the islands jointly. Called the British-French Condominium, it was a unique form of government, with separate governmental systems that came together only in a joint court. The condominium's authority was extended in the Anglo-French Protocol of 1914, although this was not formally ratified until 1922. The independent Republic of Vanuatu was established in 1980.
Niger, officially the Republic of the Niger, is a landlocked country in West Africa named after the Niger River. The Military Territory of Niger was created within the Upper Senegal and Niger colony (modern Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger) in December 1904 with its capital at Niamey. In 1922 Niger became a fully-fledged colony within French West Africa. Niger acquired full independence on 3 August 1960.
Réunion is an overseas department and region of the French Republic and an island in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar and 175 km (109 mi) southwest of Mauritius. The island has been inhabited since the 16th century, when people from France and Madagascar settled there. During the Second World War, Réunion was under the authority of the Vichy regime until 30th Nov 1942, when Free French forces took over the island.
Saint Pierre and Miquelon is a self-governing territorial overseas collectivity of France, situated in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean near the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. During World War II, despite opposition from Canada, Britain, and the United States, Charles de Gaulle seized the archipelago from Vichy France, to which the local government had pledged its allegiance. In a referendum on December 26, 1941, the population endorsed the takeover by Free France by a vote of 63 for Free France with 3 ballots void.
The Republic of Senegal is a country in West Africa bordered by Mauritania, Mali, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau. In the 1850's the French began to expand onto the Senegalese mainland from their base on the island of Goree. French colonists progressively invaded and soon took over all the kingdoms except Sine and Saloum under Governor Louis Faidherbe. On 4th Apr 1959 Senegal and the French Sudan merged to form the Mali Federation, which became fully independent on 20th Jun 1960.
The Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon (1923−1946) was a League of Nations mandate founded after the First World War and the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire concerning Syria and Lebanon. The French mandate lasted until 1943, when two independent countries emerged, Syria and Lebanon. French troops completely left Syria and Lebanon in 1946.
Togo is a country in West Africa bordered by Ghana, Benin and Burkina Faso. Prior to the First World War Togoland was under the control of the German Empire, however British and French troops invaded and took control of the area on 7th Dec 1916. After World War II, the residents of British Togoland voted to join the Gold Coast as part of the new independent nation of Ghana in 1957. French Togoland became an autonomous republic within the French Union in 1959.
In 1881, using the pretext of a Tunisian incursion into Algeria, French troops invaded and forced the Tunisians to agree to the terms of the Treaty of Bardo. With this treaty, Tunisia was officially made a French protectorate, over the objections of Italy. During World War II, French Tunisia was ruled by the collaborationist Vichy government located in Metropolitan France. From Nov 1942 until May 1943, Vichy Tunisia was occupied by Nazi Germany. From 1942–1943, Tunisia was the scene of the Tunisia Campaign, a series of battles between the Axis and Allied forces. The battle opened with initial success by the German and Italian forces, but the massive supply and numerical superiority of the Allies led to the Axis surrender on 13th May 1943. Tunisia achieved independence from France on 20th Mar 1956.
Wallis and Futuna is a French island collectivity in the South Pacific between Tuvalu, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and Tokelau. On 5 April 1887, the Queen of Uvea signed a treaty officially establishing a French protectorate. The kings of Sigave and Alo on the islands of Futuna and Alofi also signed a treaty establishing a French protectorate on 16th Feb 1888. The islands were at that time put under the authority of the French colony of New Caledonia. During World War II, the islands' administration was pro-Vichy until a Free French corvette from New Caledonia deposed the regime on 26th May 1942.
These Vichy issues were prepared by the government of the unoccupied area of France for use in the French colonies. However these stamps were not placed on sale outside of France as the colonies declared for the Free French before these stamps were shipped from France. These issues were available in France however.