Minister for Defence Materiel Jason Clare today joined past and present employees of the Thales Small Arms Factory in Lithgow to celebrate 100 years of operations.
The Lithgow factory has played a significant role in supplying weapons for the Australian Defence Force since it opened its doors in 1912.
“In every major conflict we have been involved in for the last 100 years our troops have carried weapons made right here in Lithgow,” Mr Clare said.
“From the Short Magazine Lee-Enfield rifles and sword bayonets used in World War One to the Vickers and Bren machine guns in World War Two, to the L1A1 used in Vietnam and the Austeyr rifles carried today by our troops in Afghanistan, they have been made here.”
“Over the past 100 years, this factory has produced over 1 million firearms.”
During periods of Australian history when demand for weapons was low, the factory produced everything from spanners to handcuffs, golf irons and pencil sharpeners.
“The factory employs 170 skilled employees or approximately 12 per cent of the Lithgow area workforce. It is an important part of the Lithgow community.”
Lithgow was selected in 1908 as the ideal site for a small arms manufacturing facility because the town already had coal mines and a steel mill and its distance from the coast provided protection from naval bombardment.
One of the longest serving employees at the Small Arms Factory, Ted Ferguson, joined the celebrations today. Mr Ferguson worked at the factory for almost 50 years. He started in 1939 working on the sight ramp componentry for the .303 rifles, when he retired in 1989 he was working on the latest Austeyr rifles. He only stopped working at the factory during that time to serve in the Australian Army during World War 2.
“The expert craftsmanship and skilled tradesman who have worked in this facility have helped protect our soldiers for over a century.” Mr Clare said.
Media contact: Ryan Hamilton – 0414 599 468