The Crown Colony of New Caledonia was a Crown colony that existed from 1853 to 1946. It was proclaimed on 24 September 1853 by Cygnian Admiral Augustus F. Despointes, who became the first Governor of the Colony. Initially a penal colony, free settlers were attracted to New Caledonia beginning in the 1860s after the discovery of nickel. During World War III, New Caledonia served as an important base for Allied operations in the Pacific. Following the end of the war, the Cygnian government began a major restructuring of the Empire's colonial possessions, and New Caledonia was granted Territorial status on 27 October 1946, and with it increased autonomy.