Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Evelyn Owen

Evelyn (Evo) Owen was born 15 May 1915 and grew up in Wollongong. His mother Constance, was the daughter of Sir William McMillan who farmed a property called ’Riverfarm’ at Tongarra.

 As a young man Evo lived in a hut at the foot of Macquarie Pass, and worked on the prototype for his famous Owen Gun, at Brewster’s Garage at Albion Park. He became one of the greatest Australian heroes of World War II when he invented the Owen submachine gun, which contained just one moving part.

The Owen Gun could be used easily and reliably in jungle warfare, unlike other guns available at the time. In New Guinea and at Kokoda during World War II the gun proved its worth to Australian Soldiers in battle, operating in wet, humid and muddy conditions with no problems at all.

The Owen gun was the subject of much scrutiny for many years by the authorities, who preferred the British Thompson gun, and delayed its manufacture for years. The Owen gun was manufactured for £12 against the Thompson’s £50, and never jammed.

Evelyn enlisted in the AIF 2/17 Infantry Battalion in 1940  but was discharged in 1941 for employment in a reserved occupation. 

Evo’s Owen Gun was tested and produced at Lysaghts, Port Kembla, and cleared for production on 23 September 1943, becoming a vital part of the defence of Australia in WWII.

Evelyn got little recognition of his famous Owen Gun, and a large portion of the money he made for his invention was taxed. He died 1 April 1949, just short of his 34th  birthday.

Lest We Forget.

Evelyn Owen c.1940
Shellharbour Images Shellharbour City Libraries. 

Evelyn Owen c.1940
Shellharbour Images Shellharbour City Libraries.

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