The 'Arsenal' in the strand: Australian chemists and the British munitions effort 1916–1919

Annals of Science 46 (1):45-67 (1989)


‘Since the Great War began’, Professor David Orme Masson told a Melbourne audience in September 1915, ‘two statements have been made, and so frequently repeated that today they are commonplace. The first is that the result…depends on…men and more men, munitions and yet more munitions. The second is that this is a war of chemists and engineers—a war of applied science’. To Britain's assistance in this war of invention and applied science came more than 120 Australian scientists, whose particular technical skills were urgently needed by the expanding munitions industries. However, their contribution to the Imperial cause and to Allied victory has been overshadowed by the heroism of ANZAC troops in Gallipoli and in France. This paper begins the task of assessing the importance of their work for Britain, and the significance of their wartime experiences for post-war Australia, as viewed through the lives of the men and their organizing genius, A. E. Leighton

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