A true example of Australian wartime ingenuity and dedication, the Owen sub-machine gun is recognised internationally as one of the toughest and most reliable weapons to emerge from the Second World War. Evelyn Owen, from Wollongong, New South Wales, designed a weapon in his backyard shed. His repeated attempts to have the military adopt the weapon were rejected. Disappointed, he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. He did, however, manage to attract the interest of the manager of the Port Kembla plant of Lysaght’s Newcastle Works. They took the weapon to the Minister for the Army, who eventually had Owen transferred from the AIF to the Central Inventions Board. The design was finally adopted, and it went through several minor modifications during the more than 45,000 produced during the war. Owen received £10,000 in royalties and from the sale of patent rights, and used the money to establish a sawmill near Wollongong, where he lived alone. A heavy drinker, Owen was admitted hospitalised and died from a ruptured gastric ulcer on 1 April 1949 at the age of 33.
Used successfully again in the Korean War, Malayan Emergency, the Indonesian Confrontation and the early stages of the Vietnam War, the Owen sub-machine gun was eventually replaced by the American M16 assault rifle. This particular weapon was part of the original Lysaght’s demonstration collection. Infantry small arms such as this were often “sectionalised” for teaching purposes at training facilities all around Australia during and after the Second World War. It has been cut in half down its length showing the working parts. The butt contains a “pull through” and the magazine is also cut away to expose the operating spring.