1908 the Commonwealth Government announced plans to build
a small arms factory at Lithgow. The decision was favoured
due to Lithgow's proximity to essential resources (eg
power, steel, transport, etc) as well as the security
benefits afforded by the seclusion provided by the mountains.
It is likely that Joseph Cook, formerly a Lithgow coal
miner, and at that time, the Federal Minister of Defence,
was influential in lobbying for the positioning of the
factory in his home town.
men were sent to the United States of America to the
firm of Pratt and Whitney to learn how to make rifles.
of 1909 Mr F.R. Ratcliffe of Pratt and Whitney arrived
in Australia to assist in the planning of the factory.
10 January 1910, the site of the factory was inspected
by Lord Kitchener and was officially opened on 8 June
1912 with Mr. A.C.Wright as the first manager of the
of the materials required by the factory were supplied
from other industries in Lithgow. Steel required for
the production of guns, for example, was in part supplied
the Hoskins Brothers. Electrical
power was initially generated on the site but was later
obtained from the NSW Railways' Power Plant.
demands were placed on the factory during the first World
War with production doubling and then later re-doubling.
The production of Lee-Enfield .303 rifles increased during
this time from 15,000 per year to 80,000 per year. Over
the period of the two world wars a total of 640,000 .303
rifles were made at the Small Arms Factory to assist
war effort (Brown 1989, p.86)
the end of World War I, production began to decrease
due to the decreased demand for armaments. As a result,
Armaments Factory began to diversify its production to
include stream-lined wires and metal aircraft engine
By 1931 more than half of the factory's production was
linked to sound projection and sheep shearing machinery,
Vickers Machine guns were also produced on site (Lithgow
Public School 1947).
the years before World War II items such as golf clubs,
handcuffs, rifles and machine guns were made at the factory.
When the war in Europe broke, production of armaments
was again increased with the production of the Bren Machine
Gun. This lead to considerable increases in employment
at the factory.
large forge and die sinking shop were constructed, reputedly
the largest in the southern hemisphere, and new laboratories,
boiler rooms and heat equipment were also introduced.
The workforce at this time rose to 12,000 with the inclusion
of increased shift work. This included 6,000 in Lithgow
as well as an additional 6,000 in feeder factories established
at Orange, Bathurst, Young, Forbes, Wellington, Cowra,
Dubbo, Parkes, Portland and Mudgee to assist the Lithgow
operations (Lithgow District Historical Society Notes).
Small Arms Factory was one of the major employers in
Lithgow for some time and as a result of the rising work
during World War II a suburb known as Littleton was established
with 'Duration Cottages' to house both workers and their
families. An additional railway station at Cooerwull
also established to facilitate commuter travel from the
Blue Mountains' towns.
the war, tools, pencil sharpeners, sporting rifles and
telephone parts have been produced. Operations at the
Small Arms Factory have been significantly scaled down
due to increasing government cutbacks.
acknowledges and appreciates the History excerpts taken
from the Draft
Economic Development Strategy
for Lithgow which was researched and compiled by Economic
and Community Development Class, University of Sydney
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