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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 13

I Colonial Origins

II First World War

III Between The World Wars

IV The Second World War

V Post-second World War

VI After The Joint Project

VII Science And Decisions At The Top

VIII Armed Services Technology

IX New Tasks And Projects

X Transfer Of Research And Development

XI Acknowledgement



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Between The World Wars

At the conclusion of the War in 1918, Leighton was in a position to report fully to the Australian Government on the nature and prospects of the Arsenal Project.[10] He had seen the way industry in Britain had been mobilised for munitions production and saw the future role of the Commonwealth Arsenal, particularly in view of the general 'war weariness' that now overlaid political thinking, as being a core element, maintaining limited (and consequently uneconomic) production in peacetime and developing new manufacturing methods in Australia. He considered that in any future emergency technological expertise could be disseminated amongst appropriate industries.

When he returned to Australia in 1919 Leighton expressed with some force his conviction that the location of an Arsenal near Canberra, remote from a labour and shipping centre, was unsound and that existing facilities should be developed and a balanced industrial complex formed with scientific support under a Munitions Supply Board. The Government accepted his ideas, the Arsenal Project as conceived was abandoned, and a Board was created with Leighton as Chairman and Jensen as its Secretary. Although disarmament was being actively pursued, the Board proceeded to lay the foundations of a nucleus munitions industry, commencing appropriately with the establishment of a Munitions Supply Laboratory at Maribyrnong in Melbourne in 1920 under Bell as Superintendent. The initial staff came from the Victoria Barracks Laboratory and the young technologists who had been trained in England. Its official functions, which reflected five years of planning by Bell, were to maintain standards of manufacture and supply, to promote by research the production of defence supplies from Australian raw materials, and to investigate special problems of manufacture, inspection and service use of defence stores and equipment.

Munitions supply capacity was gradually expanded by the Board within the Maribyrnong area by outright purchase of the Colonial Ammunition Factory in 1927, and by the creation of an Ordnance Factory in 1928.[11] Thus the essential concept of a Commonwealth Arsenal was realised after more than ten years of far-sighted preparation under difficult circumstances.

During the post-war period, the main activities of the Munitions Supply Laboratories became established.[12] They embraced metallurgical and chemical analyses and the physical testing of metals and alloys used in munitions manufacture, investigations of the physical and chemical properties of explosives, and the checking of and maintenance of measuring instruments and gauges used in the inspection process during manufacture. The matter of standards was of central importance in the manufacture of items originally designed and developed overseas and officers of the Laboratories were directly concerned with translating modifications advised by the British War Office to local procedures. The need to establish operating rules for industry by way of legally recognised standards of methods of measurement was recognised by the separate States of Australia as a result of wartime experience.

The Commonwealth Institute of Science and Industry, created in 1920 by W. M. Hughes, the Australian wartime Prime Minister, after his observations in the United Kingdom of the workings of its Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, was instrumental, with the assistance of the newly formed Institution of Engineers (Australia) in causing the Government to form the Australian Engineering Standards Association in 1922. The requirement to create an effective organisation to provide scientific support in developing Australia's resources led to the formation in 1926 of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) with George Julius, an engineer, as Chairman, David Rivett, a chemist with background experience in research related to explosives as Executive member (later chairman) and G. Lightfoot as Secretary.[13]

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Australian Engineering Standards Association; Colonial Ammunition Factory; Commonwealth Arsenal; Commonwealth Institute of Science and Industry; CSIRO; Munitions Supply Board; Munitions Supply Laboratories (M.S.L.); Ordnance Factory

People in Bright Sparcs - Bell, Marcus; Jensen, J. K.; Julius, Sir George; Leighton, A. E.; Lightfoot, G.; Rivett, Sir David

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 924 - 925, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher