Aussie Military Guns

The need to defend Australia

In 1838 four United States Navy Men-of-War sailed into Sydney Harbour overnight unannounced and unexpected. This alarmed Sydney Town greatly and alerted the Colonies to their defencelessness against invasion. The gold rushes saw massive increases in Australia's population and wealth in the early 1850's and it was felt amongst the Colonies that this made Australia a more attractive target for attack. The 1854 Crimean War and the "inevitable invasion" by Russia spurred the population into actively forming volunteer military groups. Upon British Forces withdrawal from Australia in 1870 the units were placed under the control of their colonial governments and were supplied with whatever weapons their government determined.

Ties to England were strong and military expeditions were sent to various overseas conflicts to aid the Mother Country. It was a significant achievement in 1900 when the South Australian warship "Protector" sailed to China to assist in quelling the Boxer Rebellion. Protector’s Engineering Officer William Clarkson was later instrumental in the foundation of the Lithgow Small Arms Factory.

The first Federal battalion of Australian soldiers sailed to South Africa in 1901 to fight in the Boer War joining the colonial troops who were already serving there. Because many of these troops arrived with different equipment to that used by the British, supply of ammunition and field repair of weapons quickly became an issue, restricting their capabilities in battle.

The South African campaign made it blatantly apparent that Australia’s isolation from its armament source could lead to serious problems in future conflicts. After federation of the states and establishment of the Commonwealth in 1901 the new Government faced responsibility for the country’s defence. The Government resolved to make Australia independent of British munitions and armament supplies. In 1907 the decision was made to establish a factory for the manufacture of small arms in Australia.