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Owen Gun Reference Info

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I see lots of info posted on the web about other WW2 subguns, but very little info about the Australian Owen gun (or Owen Machine Carbine). Strange considering they were one of the most reliable and well liked subguns of WW2. They were so well liked by the troops that they were still in service when Australia enter Vietnam, and were still in the armory of some reserve units and the navy well into the late 70's and early 80's, so I asked David to set up an Owen forum so hopefully we could get some discussion going.


First off, here's some reference material for all you Owen buffs out there:


The 3 most common reference texts are:


1. The Owen Gun, by Whayne Wardman, ISBN 0731603656


2. The Owen Gun Files: An Australian Wartime Controversy, by Kevin Smith, ISBN 0908031548


3. 9mm AUSTEN Mk I & OWEN Mk I SMG, S.A.I.S No. 3 by Ian Skennerton.


The first two texts primarily deal the the story of the Owen Guns coming to be and have very little technical info.

The 3rd book is the one to get for technical info. This is the 3rd booklet in Skennerton's excellent Small Arms Identification Series. Anyone who owns an Owen needs to get this book.

It can be ordered from Skennerton Directly http://www.skennerton.com/ and cost $10.


As well as the above there's also are large amount of other memorabilia and publish documents relating to the Owen gun. I recently discovered that a catalog of just about everything relating to the Owen exists. This was the result of life's work of a Mr. Alan Stein. Completed when he was 84 years of age, Mr Stein distributed to his listing to various libraries and archives during October 2008.


The following is an edited version of Alan Stein’s original listing etited into cronological order by Mr. Michael Organ.




W.C. Wentworth, Demand for Defence: Being a Plan to Keep Australia White and Free, Sydney, January 1939.




[Various] File of memos recording the transfer of machined and heat treated parts from Lysaght's Newcastle plant to the Owen Gun annex at Lysaght’s Port Kembla works. Approximately 100 memos, dated June 1941 to November 1942. Lysaght Archive, item no. 5G1 0.2-03. The policy was to allow 2% loss for spoilt or defective work in the machining and heat treatment. For example, when 2000 guns were ordered by the Ordinance Department, the Port Kembla administration wrote orders on Lysaght's No.3 machine shop at Newcastle for 2040 units of each part. The file containing copies of these inter-works memos was left in a cupboard for more than 30 years until retrieved about 1974. It is now in the Lysaght Archives, Blue Scope Steel Ltd.


Evelyn Ernest Owen, Improvements relating to firearms, Australian Patent No. 115974, 22 July 1941. 18 columns + 2 sheets of drawings.


[Various] Album of over 500 photographs recording progress in the development and manufacture of the Owen gun. Most of the photographs were taken by David Brown, a trainee metallurgist at the Port Kembla branch of Lysaght's. The original album is now held in the museum of the Small Arms Factory, Lithgow, New South Wales, with a copy in Wollongong City Library and a second copy in the Australian War Memorial Library, Canberra.


[Various] Album of 50 -100 photographs of machines and workforce carrying out the precision machining and heat treatment of parts in NO.3 machine shop at the Newcastle works of Lysaghts. This album was the property of Barry Cooper, Morgan Street, Merewether, about 1980. Present owner and location are not known. A procedure is under way to locate it and have it preserved in the archives of University of Newcastle.


[Various] On completion of the Owen Gun project, a cabinet containing each development model and the 9mm production model was presented to the Australian War Memorial, Canberra. This collection no longer exists as an integrated record of their development and production. The ten (10) guns have been used to build other collections including a travelling exhibition.


[Anonymous] Laudatory address to the management of Lysaghts from the workforce of the Owen gun annex at Port Kembla, expressing gratitude for the opportunity to work on such an important project. Framed. Illustrated by Ruby Buist. For text of address see (16). Lysaght archives. BlueScope Steel Ltd. library, Port Kembla.


V.A. Wardell, Owen gun - Notes on development., 27 October 1941, 10p. Typescript. Mitchell Library, Sydney. Copies in the Australian War Memorial Library and in the Lysaght Archives. Revised 1942 and 1943. Smith provided a valuable insight by publishing in full the original typescript dated 27 October 1941.


V.A. Wardell, Copies of at least 20 letters on the Owen Gun project, 1941 -1944. Most of these letters are not in the Australian archives. Mitchell Library, Sydney. The file includes a copy of a letter (pp 4) to P.C. Spender dated 12th July, 1944, on how the STEN and AUSTEN were promoted by other interested parties.


[Various] Collection of 44 files including letters to V.A. Wardell and copies of letters from V.A. Wardell; also copies of reports etc. Some items are copies of material deposited in the Mitchell Library. The collection is held in the estate of V.A. Wardell. Catalogued by G.R. Hart with copy of catalogue to A.W. Stein.


Australian inventor creates new miracle gun. Fox Movietone [film]. 29 September 1941.


Owen gun passes world's most searching test. Fox Movietone [film]. Copies of at least two of these films are held in the Australian Film and Sound Archive, Canberra. Copies of at least two of these films are held in the Lysaght Archives, c/o BlueScope Steel Ltd and in the Owen Gun Archive deposited in the Archive Department of the University of Newcastle. These copies are recorded in both VHF and Beta format. Copies of two films are also held by the Wollongong Rifle Club.


K. Schapel, Owen gun hold-up to end, Daily Telegraph, 5 November 1941. See also Editorial (presumably by Brian Penton) of the same day. The series of articles in the Daily Telegraph was a consequence of discussions between V.A Wardell and Brian Penton, editor of the Daily Telegraph. The discussions commenced about October 1941, probably at the Union Club, Sydney. Vincent Wardell withheld his consent for publication of (1a) for several days. Although a letter from the Secretary for the Army dated 13th October 1941 stated that the 9mm Owen gun had been adopted, a re-design by Ordnance Production Directorate was in progress. Lysaghts received details of the re-design on the 24th October. Vincent Wardell did not support this approach but was prepared to wait a short time for the Army and O.P.O. to change their attitude towards the G.S. Wardell design which had been proved in controlled tests. When no constructive communication was received, he approved the text of Ken Schapel's article for publication on the 5th November, 1941. The press reports were reviewed, with quotations, by Wardman (4), Smith (5) and Morton (6).


Finey, Gad, There's no ramrod. [Cartoon] Daily Telegraph. 19 November 1941.


Finey, Gad, I'm sure it won't work. [Cartoon] Daily Telegraph. 20 November 1941. Both cartoons were reproduced by Wardman (4, p.54) The original art works, signed by Finey for both cartoons (a) and (B), were deposited in the Lysaght Archives.


"[Adolph Hitler] When you've finished playing with it, let me have it." Caption attributed to Adolph Hitler, looking through window. [Cartoon] Sydney Sun. n.d.


K. Schapel, The army stalled for two years, Daily Telegraph, 21 November 1941.


R. Hughes, This man knew his gun was good, Daily Telegraph, 21 November 1941.


Demonstration of the Owen gun (and other guns). Fox Movietone [film]. 22 December 1941. Randwick rifle range, in the presence of Lt. Colonel L. M. Cosgrave, Trade Commissioner for Canada. Reference (3) p. 21.




Evelyn Ernest Owen. Improvements relating to sub-machine guns. Australian Patent No. 116434. 13 January 1942. 12 columns. 2 sheets of drawings.


V.A. Wardell, Owen gun - Notes on development., First revision July 1942. 26p.. Typescript. Mitchell Library, Sydney.


Owen gun delay explained. Daily Telegraph, 29 October 1942.


9mm Owen gun - Notes for armourers. pp. approx 10. Illustrated. Australian Military Forces. November, 1942. This was written, Wholly set up, and printed by Lysaghts in their basic printing shop in the Port Kembla branch of Lysaghts Works, in response to Order 1\10. PS623 dated 4th November, 1942, for 1000 copies (3, Appendix 11) presumably issued by the Ordnance Production Dept. Copies endorsed "Not to be published". It is a serious reflection on the level of interest developed by the officers of the Australian Defence Forces that they had insufficient knowledge of the weapon's operation to write and publish this booklet within the resources of the military forces and the O.P.O. At least one re-print was ordered. Copies in the Lysaght Archives 5G 10.2 -A2.




V.A. Wardell, Owen gun - Notes on development, Second revision 22 March 1943, pp.26 + 6. Typescript. Mitchell Library, Sydney.


For better or worse. Mr and Mrs Pott. [Cartoon] Smith's Weekly. 4 September 1943.


Letterhead for Evelyn Owen's timber milling business at Tongarra which commenced in November, 1943. pp1 J blank. The Owen Gun project. University of Newcastle archives.


Letter from V.A. Wardell to the Hon. F.M. Forde, Minister for the Army, advising Evelyn Owen's resignation from the Lysaght staff on Thursday, 18 November 1943, to operate a timber mill and continue development of an automatic pistol. 13th November, 1943. pp1. Mitchell Library collection.




So long, Owen gun. Report of dinner, Friday 1st September 1944, by Mr Dolvey, journalist for the Illawarra Mercury. The Illawarra District and South Coast Advance. New series No. 633. Wollongong. Thursday, 14th September, 1944. pp. 1, 2. The occasion was the successful completion of orders for the Owen gun. The Lysaght management was host to all of the workforce in the Port Kembla Owen gun annex.




D.I. Cameron, Lysaght's silver jubilee. 1921-1946. see pages 91-93. Lysaght's Works Pty. Ltd. 1946. No author statement. pp115. Illus. The author was Donald Ian Cameron, M.A (Cantab) b. 3rd April 1910. d. September, 1969. Chief Research Officer for Lysaght Works Pty. Ltd., then Research Superintendent 1955-1969. The authority for this is AW. Stein who shared the office with D.I. Cameron when he was writing the ms for Lysaght's Silver Jubilee, at the end of 1945, for publication before the 4th April, 1946, which was the date of the jubilee. Norman J. MacLeod contributed to the chapters on the Port Kembla works.




D.P. Mellor, Small arms and machine guns. Chapter 15 of The Role of Science and Industry, Vol. 5 in Series 4, ‘Civil’, in Australia in the War of 1939-1945, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1958, pp.325-332 and illustration facing p. 309.


Owen, Evelyn Ernest The Australian Encyclopaedia. 2nd ed. Sydney. Angus and Robertson. 1958. Volume 6, p. 429. This entry was deleted from the 4th edition, 1983, published by the Grolier Society of Australia, then reinstated in the 5th and 6th editions.




J. Lorenc, The story of the Owen gun. The Lysaght Gazette. Vol. 19. No. 15. May, 1968. Illustrated. The Lysaght Gazette was the monthly in-house journal for the Newcastle works of John Lysaght (Australia) Ltd.




I.V. Hogg and J. Batchelor, The Submachine Gun. Sydney. 1978.




Mary Smith, [Owen Gun], Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Sydney. 1981. pp 2. 5 references. 1 illustration. No title recorded for this introductory leaflet.




Beale, E. The development of young EVO. IIlawarra Historical Society Bulletin. Part 1: July, 1982 pp 36 -38 and Part 2: August, 1982 pp 45 -48.


G.S. Wardell, The development and manufacture of the Owen gun. 2nd edition. illustrated. Published by A.W. Stein, Central Library, John Lysaght (Australia) Ltd., November 1982, 32p.


G.S. Wardell, The Owen gun story in brief. Introduction, one page only. IIlawarra Historical Society Bulletin. November 1982. p. 71.


G.S. Wardell, History of the Owen gun. Manuscript written 1941 -44 and extended in 1982. Typescript, pp. 75 approx plus supplementary papers. 4 copies in G. S. Wardell estate. 1 copy in Lysaght archives. 1 copy held by A Stein. Item 3a is a condensed version published in 1982 with about 100 copies distributed, gratis.




G.S. Wardell, The Owen gun - An analysis of events, May 1984. AW. Stein, Jamberoo, NSW, 13p.


G.S. Wardell, The Owen gun - Notes on design, May 1984. A.W. Stein, 5p. Published with (3b) as a single volume.




Andrews, Eric. Fight for a defence industry. Review of A.T. Ross Armed and ready: The industrial development and defence of Australia 1900 -1945. Turton and Armstrong. pp 436. The Newcastle Herald n. d. probably 1983 -1986.


A.T. Ross, The arming of Australia: The politics and administration of Australia's self containment strategy for munitions supply 1901-1945. Thesis admitted for degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the ADF college of the University of NSW. 1986. Approx. 620 pages including appendix of approx. 400 pages. One copy (bound) is in the Lysaght archives, c/o BlueScope Steel Ltd, Item 5G1 0.2 -H6. For discussion on the Owen gun, see pp. 344 -370 The design of sub-machine guns. See also Lysaght archive. Item No. 902 -H1.




R.G. Haycock and A.T. Ross, The Owen gun scandal, War and Society. 5 (2) 1987. University of N.S.W. and Defence Force Academy, Canberra. pp17.




I.D. Skennerton, 100 years of Australian service machine guns. Private publication by 1.0. Skennerton. Margate, 1989.

I.D. Skennerton, Australian service machine guns. Ian Skennerton. P.O. Box 56. Margate, Queensland. 4019. n.d. pp. 122. Approx. 200 illustrations.




Wayne Wardman, The Owen gun. W. Wardman, Curtin, ACT, 1991, 209p. Index. Illustrated. Bibliography. Biographical data for V.A and G.S. Wardell (pp 123 129). See also pp.201-203. Wardman (pp.205-209) provided additional bibliographic data to 1991, also an index to nine documents in the Australian archives.




P.N. Richards, Lysaght Enterprise. B.H.P. Co. Ltd, Sheet and Coil Products Division. Port Kembla. N.S.W. 2505.1992. pp 303 plus appendix A-E. Illustrated. 53 fig. 34 tables. pp 59-62.




Cornish, Paul. Dept. of exhibits and firearms, Imperial War Museum, Lambeth Rd., London. SEI 6HZ. Review for Journal of the Historical Breech Loading Small Arms Society. No bibliographic details. c. October 1993 - early 1994. Laudatory review of W. Wardman, The Owen Gun, 1991. Copy enclosed with letter from Paul Cornish to Jenny Wardell, 16th September, 1993.




Kevin Smith, The Owen gun files - An Australian wartime controversy. Turton and Armstrong, 21 Lister St. Wahroonga, NSW, 1994. pp.273, 250 references. Index. Illustrated.




A.T. Ross, Armed and Ready. The Industrial Development and Defence of Australia 1900-1945. Turton and Armstrong. 1995. pp. 371-381.




Norm Barney, Girls going great guns. The Newcastle Herald - weekend edition. Saturday, August 29, 1998. Illustrated. p.7




Clive Morton, The Evo Owen story. April 2003. The longer edition (sic) published by the author, June, 2006. pp 132. Illustrated. Copies available from C. Morton. P.O. Box 166, Gordonvale, Queensland. 4865.




William Verity, A tortured genius. Illawarra Mercury - The Weekender, Saturday, 14 May 2005. Supplement to IIlawarra Mercury pp.58, 59.




Eric Carpenter, Gratitude: The last casualty of war. Wartime. Issue 35. July 2006. Illustrated. pp 44-46.




Stein, Alan. Precision machining and heat treatment of parts for the Owen gun at Lysaght's Newcastle plant during World War 11. Orange, NSW. Published by the author with 15 copies distributed, gratis. pp 12. 16 refs. Appendix. lIIus. Diagram of heat treatment plant. May, 2008. This important aspect of the Owen gun project did not receive adequate coverage in the published literature.





The Owen Gun project. Lysaght Archives, c/o BlueScope Steel Ltd. 47 documents. Catalogue No. 5G 10.2.


The Owen Gun project. University of Newcastle archives. About 20 documents donated by Alan Stein, including copies of Wardman (4) and Smith (5).


Photograph of Evelyn Owen. Enlarged, tinted. Approx. 60 X 80 cm. Lysaght archives. BlueScope Steel Ltd. Library, Port Kembla.


Biography of Vincent Andrew Wardell (1903 -1990). Text submitted to Australian Dictionary of Biography for publication in (approximately) 2010.


Biography of Gerald Stanislaus Wardell (1904 -1992). Text submitted to Australian Dictionary of Biography for publication in (approximately) 2017.


Owen, Evelyn Ernest (1915 -1949) Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra. The Australian National University. Volume 15. p. 549.



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Wayne Wardman's book, The Owen Gun (ISBN 0731603656), presents the case that while Evelyn Owen was the inventor of the gun, the two Wardell brothers --Vincent Wardell, the General Manager of Lysaght's, and Gerald Wardell, its Chief Engineer--were the ones who developed (and politically protected) Owen's ideas to transform it from a workshop project into a producible design and made it a success.



Edited by MGMike
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