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Remembered Today:

Lithgow Small Arms Factory Museum


Mat McLachlan

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Hi all,

Last month I was heading through the mining town of Lithgow in NSW and noted the signs to the Lithgow Small Arms Factory Museum. I was well aware of Lithgow's famed arms manufacturing history, but this was the first I had heard of a museum commemorating the fact. I called in - and thank the lord I did! What a collection of historic arms - absolutely mind-blowing for a town with a population of only 11,000 people.

For those who don't know its history, the Lithgow Small Arms Factory was established in 1907 following the new federation's desires to build and equip its own defence force. Lithgow was selected as the site ostensibly because it was close to Sydney and had convenient access to nearby coal and iron ore mines plus a good electricity supply. The fact that the new Defence Minister was born and bred in Lithgow may also have influenced the decision! The factory was the principal arms manufacturing plant for the Australian military through both world wars and into the 1990s. In its 100 year history the factory manufactured most of the service rifles and many of the machine guns used by Australians in all wars. Between 1912 and 1930 the factory manufactured 220,476 SMLEs (and 2 Vickers guns). Between 1938 and 1946 the factory manufactured 414,280 SMLEs, 17,374 Brens and 13,413 Vickers guns. It was also the principal manufacturing plant for the SLR rifle used by Australian troops in Vietnam and the Steyer AUG on its adoption by the Australian Army in the 90s.

As Australia's main armaments factory, many captured weapons were sent here for evaluation and testing. Thanks to the factory's policy of retaining every weapon that came through its doors, it amassed an impressive collection. Here's some shots of part of that collection now displayed in the museum. Apparantly the museum only showcases a small part of the entire collection. I'm sure anyone with an interest in military firearms will spot some real gems in the following pics. If you are ever in the area, do yourself a favour and call in.

Cheers,

Mat

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Locally manufactured Vickers. You are more than welcome to clamber all over this, dry-fire it and even partially dismantle it (which I did...)

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A range of sub machine guns, assault rifles and machine guns. Of particular note, the FG42 (bottom of pic) and the StG44 (bottom left on wall).

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Sub machine guns. Note the two SMGs that faced off in the bitter fighting on the Eastern Front in WWII: the Soviet PPSh41 (bottom left) and the German MP40 (top right).

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More SMGs. Nice Thompsons and Owens (one of the few Australian weapons NOT manufactured at Lithgow). Also some of the models of SLR manufactured at the factory (in the background).

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A small section of the pistol display (enough to send Luger fans into rapture). Apparantly there are hundreds more pistols in the collection that aren't displayed.

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Last pic. A long shot of part of the collection. The case on the right features the first production weapon (Serial No 1) of the most important firearms manufactured at the factory.

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You lucky So and So.

John

It's actually a really great idea - they get school groups getting their photo taken behind the gun and it's a rare opportunity for kids to actually handle a piece of history. Our draconian gun laws (at least where historic firearms are concerned) mean that a heart-wrenchingly large number of historic firearms have been melted down in the last 10 years.

I enjoyed checking out the Vickers in detail. I've had plenty of experience with the mechanisms of 08/15s, so it was good to see the other side, so to speak.

Cheers,

Mat

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We have a collection similar to this, the old pattern room collection from Enfield Lock, which now resides in Nottingham. Difference is, it is well and truly bolted up, and nobody sees it. But it is equally fantastic, if not more comprehensive.

The facility it is housed in, is within the bounds of the Hechler and Koch factory. If that closes, who knows what happens to the collection.

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You are a little bit out of date I'm afraid. The Nottingham Pattern Room closed about three years ago.

The collection is now part of the Nation Firearms Collection and is housed in a seperate facility at the Royal Armouries at Leeds. Same restrictions on entry apply though.

Regards

TonyE

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Our draconian gun laws (at least where historic firearms are concerned) mean that a heart-wrenchingly large number of historic firearms have been melted down in the last 10 years.

Cheers,

Mat

Great Pics Mat and I have put it on the "to visit" list. :D Some How I don't think my DE-AC Lewis will ever see the shores of Australia (as much as I would like it ) I wouldn't fancy it being melted down to make road manhole covers, the same as I saw on the news many years ago. Loads of stuff including Owen guns being picked up by magnet in a foundry in wollongong and being dropped in to a smelter type thing.

Another place worth a visit if your in the area is The Royal Australian Infantry Corps Museum at Singleton.

On another tack !! Any more info on your Book reaching Blighty yet ?

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Hi MO,

I'll have to check out that museum in Singleton.

The book is on its way to Tom Morgan's bookshop as we speak. It should be close to getting there by now. I'll check with Tom.

Cheers,

Mat

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Hi MO,

I'll have to check out that museum in Singleton.

The book is on its way to Tom Morgan's bookshop as we speak. It should be close to getting there by now. I'll check with Tom.

Cheers,

Mat

Hi Mat,

I have my copy of your book now. Looks great. I love the shot of the 2nd Div memorial as it was.

The Singleton Museum is at:

Royal Australian Infantry Corps Museum

Lone Pine Barracks, Singleton, NSW 2331

Telephone 02 6570 3257, fax 02 6570 3239

Open: Wednesday to Sunday 9.00am to 4.00pm.

Closed ANZAC Day, Good Friday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Collects, preserves and exhibits the history of Australian Infantry from the Sudan War (1885) to today.

The small arms factory museum site quotes:

The museum houses one of Australia's most comprehensive collections of machine guns, rifles, pistols and related items from around the world. Unique to this museum are Australian designed experimental, prototype and pre-production weapons.

On display are numerous non-military items manufactured at the well known Lithgow Small Arms Factory during its 80 years of precision engineering, including sewing machines, sheep shearing handsets, hand cuffs and many other commercial items.

A rare collection of photographs depict the early production sections in the Small Arms Factory.

Other photographs and memorabilia reveal the involvement of factory employees in the social, sporting and cultural events of the city since 1912.

Looks great and I think I have a couple of weekends taken up. The Lithgow museum is on Methvern Street opposited the Australian Defence Industry site.

Thanks for brining it to our attention.

Chris

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Hi Mac,

Thank you for making the effort to show us your great pics of the Lithgow Small Arms Museum. I hadn't realised they had one there.

Regards

Chris

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I am sure I have posted this before, but a couple of years ago I was on a business trip to Sydney and having a free day I insisted my host drove me into the Blue Mountains to visit the Lithgow museum

Unfortunately the day was the one day of the week that the museum is closed (Wednesday I think) so I had flown countless thousand miles to no avail.

To paraphrase the great W.C.Fields, "I went to Lithgow but it was closed".

Regards

TonyE

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Bad luck Tony. I think the museum has longer opening hours now, so add it to your itinerary next time you are out here.

Mat

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