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Owen gun
submachine gun for jungle warfare

The Owen submachine gun was designed by Evelyn Owen specifically for the needs of the Australian army during World War II. It was tested in wet and sandy conditions, the sorts of conditions likely to be found in Australia's north and in Asia and Africa where it proved to be superior to other machine guns.

The simplicity of Owen's design made the gun easy to assemble, to clean in battle and cheap to manufacture. It was lightweight, reliable, and easy to pull apart and put together for cleaning and maintenance.

Acceptance of the gun was slow at first, but eventually the army adopted it as a standard weapon for Australian troops in the Pacific. Over 45 000 were manufactured for the army by Lysaght's in Port Kembla. It was nicknamed the 'diggers' darling' during World War II when it was used in the Pacific campaign against Japan. American soldiers are said to have swapped just about anything to get their hands on a trusty Owen gun.

Who Did It?
Key Organisations
Lysaght Bros Ltd : manufacture
Key People
Evelyn Owen : inventor
Vincent Wardell : manager at Lysaght

Further Reading
Making it: innovation and success in Australia's industries
R Renew
Powerhouse Publishing, Sydney, 1993, pp 53-54.

Machine Gun News. April 1995
Australians at War - The Owen Gun
Owen Gun

Questions & Activities
Owen gun

A sectioned model of the Owen Gun (left) and the real thing. Courtesy Powerhouse Museum. Photo Peter Garrett.
ATSE Powerhouse Museum