History of the Munitions Factories by Les McLean

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This project was supported by:
Victorian Veterans Council and the Victorian Government

Les McLean Biography

The following pages are the work of local historian, Les McLean, on various aspects of the munitions industries in and around the western suburbs of Melbourne and elsewhere. It is a mix of research of official documents and his own research and observations. The work contains detail on the Ordnance Factory not to be found in other reports.

Les McLean is approaching the history of the munitions industry from the inside. He was a manager at the Ordnance Factory Maribyrnong, where they made heavy guns, armoured vehicles and a range of larger equipment for warfare. Les started at the Ordnance Factory in 1945 while the Second World War was still running. The Ordnance Factory was one of only four Government munitions factories existing at the beginning of World War Two.

The factory closed in 1989.

Les was born in Coburg in 1923 and was educated in Coburg and Brunswick Junior Technical School. He obtained an apprenticeship as a First Class Machinist at the Government Ordnance Factory in Maribyrnong on March 31st, 1945.

He continued his studies and gained a Diploma of Industrial Management from Melbourne Technical College (now RMIT) in 1953. Les became Senior Engineer in the Department of Army Vehicle Installation Workshops and after further education was promoted to Engineer in Charge of the Technical Service Group in the Engineering Development Establishment at the Ordnance Factory.

Along the way Les became interested in the bigger picture of war and industry and researched a number of topics related to the industry where he had spent his working life. He has put together some interesting information, some of it found nowhere else.

Les was on a committee that put together the Living Museum’s exhibition in 2002 on the local munitions industry named, ‘Australia’s Arsenal. His contribution was invaluable and has had input into further research by the Living Museum on this nationally significant story about the ‘Home Base’. This web site simply presents a section of his work.

The History of Ordinance Factory Maribyrnong 1923-1993

The History of the Ordinance Factory Maribyrnong 1923-1993
by Les McLean


Other documents collected by Les McLean to download

1.  Defence Production in Australia
This is a 77 page report on the early history of the evolution of the munitions industry in Australia between the years 1882 to 1906, with a particular focus on Victoria.

We apologise that this document is difficult to read in places. We attempted to address this challenge but it became too difficult in the time available so we have produced the material as it is. It just might take a little patience to get through.

21 MB

2. Summarising Notes
This is a 17 page document summarising points about the early history of the munitions industry and the Department of Defence in Australia made by a former Secretary of the Department of Defence, Sir John Jensen.

3.1 MB

Pubs, Punts and Pastures

64.6 MB

4. A discussion about the idea of an ‘Arsenal’ for Australia prompted by ‘Federation’.

3.6 MB

5. Extracts from a report by the Secretary of the Department of Defence, Sir John Jensen, about the munitions industry in Australia in the first part of the Twentieth Century.

7.6 MB

6. Statistics of people working in the major munitions factories in the City of Maribyrnong in the 1940s and 1950s.


7. The manufacture of munitions in Australia during World War One, 1914 to 1918.

5.9 MB

8. A report on the Harness and Saddlery Factory, Clifton Hill, 1914 to 1918

1.3 MB

9. The Munitions Supply Board that was built up in the 1920s

15 MB

10. The Small Arms Ammunition Factory in Footscray during the 1914 to 1918 War

4.5 MB

11. The growth of Ammunition Factories between the wars.

11 MB

12. The Small Arms Ammunition Factory between 1919 and 1939

10.4 MB

13. A report of the development of the Cordite Factory or the Explosives Factory Maribyrnong between 1908 and 1914.

11 MB

14. The Cordite Factory between 1914 and 1919.

15.8 MB

15. The supply of special ingredients –  the Acetate of Lime Factory in the early part of the Twentieth Century

15 MB

16. The Explosives and Filling Factories 1919 to 1939

17.4 MB

17. High Explosives

8.7 MB

18. A note on gun ammunition

550 KB

19. The Ordnance Factory 1919 to 1939

19.6 MB

20.  Extracts from the 1938/39 Annual Report for the Ordnance Factory Maribyrnong

3.3 MB

21. The Ordnance Factory between the Wars

9.5 MB

22. The Fuze and Cartridge Case Factory between the Wars

1.1 MB

23. Capital Expenditure in the 1940s

841 KB

24.  War Time Directorates in the Second World War

1.5 MB

25. Munitions Annexes in the Second World War

3.4 MB

26. The Managerial side of war in World War Two

4.5 MB

27. Employment statistics in Government Munitions Factories in World War Two

2.6 MB

28. Notes on some significant people in the Story of Munitions in Australia over the major wars in the Twentieth Century

10.6 MB

29. Biographical notes on people involved in the story of munitions production in Australia in the Twentieth Century

15.6 MB

30. The Department of Supply and Development

2 MB

31. Summary of Munitions Production 1940 to 1945

325 KB

32. Letters and Newspaper Clippings from the Ordnance Factory in the 1940s

7.1 MB

33. The Militia Force_1884

1.2 MB

34. History of the Pyrotechnic Section of the Ordnance Factory 1938 to 1945

2.7 MB

35. The History of Jack’s Magazine

4 MB

36. The History of the Portsea Quarantine Station and Defence Reserve

4 MB

37.  The Portsea Quarantine Station and Defence Reserve
This short document describes the establishment of the Australian Defence Laboratory between 1903 to 1914.

3.7 MB

38.  The Remount Depot – horses in World War One

3.7 MB

39.  Statistics 1940 -1945

550 KB