Why Were They So Quick to Close The Owen Gun Project?
Going back to April 1943, the Australian High Command could have found themselves in the middle of another political minefield. In April the Prime Minister, Mr. John Curtin, ” expressed great concern and said that the matter would be decided by the War Cabinet at a meeting in the next few days. Then on the facts, Cabinet reversed the decision and acknowledged the Owen Gun as the standard submachine gun for the Australian Forces. Then Two further orders, each for five thousand (5,000) guns, were later placed with Lysaght’s but that was in April, but by May they had to spend money in a huge war propaganda campaign to paint the Japanese as demons for sinking the ‘Centaur’. That would all have been for nothing as their bodies and their careers would have been hung out to dry if it had come out that the Centaur was loaded with Owen Guns and 9 mm ammunition. Was that the reason that Lysaght’s received no more orders after May 1943. Was the Centaur the reason the Owen Gun project was cancelled? Was that the reason why thousands of Australian troops had to make do with inferior products or none at all.
All that was in front of the Australian High Command. They did not know anything about an atomic bomb, no one did. The Australian’s were still fighting the Japs in New Guinea in 1943. In 1943 there was fear about yesterday, fear about today and fear about tomorrow. Nothing was certain and everyone knew the war had a long way to run, before our lads got to Tokyo. The Americans had ordered 60,000 Owen Guns just for its Pacific forces. The British that were still making 20,000 Sten Guns per week in one factory at Fazakerley in Lancashire and carried on making them until September 1945 making over two million in total. The British had tested all types and the Owen Gun had come out the best in all classes of tests.
Why did they continue to make an inferior product in vast quantities when by 1943 they had established that the Owen Gun was the best? Who put them off from accepting the Owen Gun?
Was it that the John Lysaght factory, which was only a hundred yards from the dock, that had the ability of loading its Owen Guns directly onto the ships that took them to the battlefield had to be packed up, and closed to prevent any uncontrolled investigation into the Centaur sinking?
To stop ordering the most sort after sub machine gun of World War Two in May 1943 when even in January 1945 the three Allied Powers Russia, USA and Great Britain were convinced that the war would not end until 1946 or 1947 and that they would have to accept a million Allied Casualties in the invasion of the Japan main islands and that invasion would take at least a year.
Yet the Australian High Command stopped ordering in May 1943 and had the factory closed up by September 1944?
Obtained new document from Australian War Memorial
Quote “An authoritative assessment of the qualities of the Owen gun is to be found in the report of tests conducted by the Ordnance Board of Britain during December 1943. In competition with five other guns, the Owen was rated first in four of the five tests and first in over-all order of merit” (Canadian tests came to the same conclusion "Superior to all other types"). Apparently the reason for the slow take up of the Owen was the Brits promised a high quality SMG the military here nearly fell over when they saw the piece of junk (STEN or as British troops called it Stench Gun) the Brits were offering. They also stiffed Australia on the quality of tools to make them as well as charging those damn colonials top dollar for the privilege. The manufacturer of the AUSTEN claimed a build time of 6.5 hours compared to 37 for the STEN the Owen was the preferred weapon of front line Australian troops the AUSTEN was kept to the rear.
Not the original Evelyn Owen Tests they were more rigorous . Some extremely poor weapons drills probably by people roped in for the footage.
Owen Gun Tested Against Other Sub-Machine Guns
Soldiers test a variety of sub-machine guns while sand is sprayed onto the guns also some mud testing.
__________________ When everyone carried guns people were polite.
Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity.
Joined: January 04 2010 Posts: 393
Posted: January 17 2012 at 11:21am | IP Logged
Speaking of the Owen, in Small Arms Review article about the Uzi and influences on it, Owen is mentioned and discussed how it's not by any means third generation of smg's, but also not even second generation (?!).
(the link : http://files.uzitalk.com/reference/pages/article_uzihistory2 .htm)
"Unlike the ZK 476, the Australian Owen was not a third generation subgun.
Neither was it a second generation. Made with much skilled labor and machine
tool time, like a Thompson, the Owen was a first generation subgun."
Like a second generation subgun’s, the Owen’s receiver was made from extruded
steel tubing. Nearly every other part however, was made on a milling machine
from a solid bar of steel. This required the labor of a skilled craftsman. Even
the Owen’s extruded tubing receiver was labor intensive to complete. The
magazine well and the release pin housing for the quick-detachable barrel were
welded to the receiver. The welds were then polished so smoothly that the mag
well and release pin housing appear be seamless parts of the receiver.
Only the Owen’s lack of wooden furniture made it appear to be a second
generation subgun. " -----------
So, it could be that the Owen was just too well built (for war standards) and thus too expensive...
Joined: January 03 2011 Location: Australia Posts: 1186
Posted: January 18 2012 at 4:22am | IP Logged
The Owen was never too expensive. It requires a lot less parts than a Sten with none of its faults including going off if dropped. The Thompson requires massive amounts of complicated parts & was so old in design it still used an oiler.
The Owen was a prized item if it could be obtained by US & British troops in Asia & the Pacific. It was in use up till the early years of Vietnam. One criticism frequently launched at it was the early versions were so hurriedly made they were almost custom built with the parts not readily interchangeable.
I do recall a US movie Armorer saying when the UZI first became available. "I don't know why everyone wants one they don't work they jamb up they're junk" . For its time it was the greatest SMG available. I have tried to get the Documentary showing testing by Evelyn Owen unbelievable even by modern standards. A Gun inches thick in clinging mud a simple shake off & fully operational again. The Documentary is currently unavailable for sale.
I should add that extruded tubing requires no internal reworking being draw to correct size. And parts were ground not highly polished.
Its lack of adoption by other countries is no surprise late in the war even though superior. The Centaur story (Hospital Ship loaded with Owens & Ammunition) most likely accounts for the 60,000 not being provided to the US. AUS was still a heavily British influenced country then it had already been decided to prosecute war crimes, at wars end.
An example the Brits designed an LMG as a replacement for the BREN if Enfield Armory was bombed or England over run it was cheaper easier to make & more reliable. Never made production they had tens of thousands of BRENS it would mean another weapon, training & parts. Imagine the US suddenly changing to the M14 a year before D Day it would never happen.
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