History unit puts ‘fear weapon’ on display

Described as a terror weapon, the Soviet-made LPO-50 flamethrower had a range of 100m in good weather.

CAPTION: Captain Damien Freeman talks about captured enemy weapons during a display by the Australian Army History Unit at Russell Offices, Canberra. Story by Private Nicholas Marquis. Photo by Sergeant Matthew Bickerton.

With the wind behind the user, the range increased.

The captured Viet Cong flamethrower was among a multitude of weapons and equipment displayed by the Australian Army History Unit (AAHU) at Russell, Canberra, on November 3.

Designed by the Russians to look like a machine gun from the front, the flamethrower had three cylinders filled with a thick fuel and a bipod-mounted flame gun.

Paul Mitrovich, a curator with the Australian Army Infantry Museum, described it as a fear weapon.

“No one has ever won a Victoria Cross from charging a flamethrower,” Mr Mitrovich said.

“The .50 cal has that boom, which gives you the terror effect.

“This is the flame effect; you see the flame and go ‘I don’t want to be anywhere near that thing’.”

Among the equipment on display was an AK-47 captured during the Battle of Long Tan and gifted to AAHU by 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment.

Having enemy weapons available provides a storyline of warfighting and shows how Army adapts to threats and conditions, according to Mr Mitrovich.

The World War 2 display included arms from the Pacific and North Africa theatres of war, with the Australian-designed and manufactured Owen sub-machine gun as its centrepiece.

Corporal Garth O’Connell, a reservist with AAHU and an Australian War Memorial curator, said the Owen had a strong tie to Army history.

It was invented by Private Evelyn Owen, of the Second Australian Imperial Force.

“During prototype testing it proved to be the simplest, cheapest and toughest of sub-machine guns,” Corporal O’Connell said.

More than 45,000 Owen guns were produced during WW2. They were also used in the Korean War, Malayan Emergency and the early years of the Vietnam War.

Royal Australian Infantry Corps personnel, as a part of their initial employment training, attend AAHU museums to gain an understanding of historical friendly and enemy weapons systems.





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