Australian wartime factory codes

As I am basically interested in SAA I tend to overlook manufacture of larger calibres. For those who like the big stuff, the following list of factory symbols may be of use.
This list was current at 6th April 1943.

Note the differentiation between Ammunition and Small Arms Ammunition factories. The ammunition factories did not, to my knowledge, produce SAA.

M.A Small Arms Factory, Lithgow, New South Wales
M.A.B Small Arms Factory, Bathurst, New South Wales
M.A.C Small Arms Factory, Cowra, New South Wales
M.A.D Small Arms Factory, Dubbo, New South Wales
M.A.F Small Arms Factory, Forbes, New South Wales
M.A.K Small Arms Factory, Kandos, New South Wales
M.A.L Small Arms Factory, Wellington, New South Wales
M.A.O Small Arms Factory, Orange, New South Wales
M.A.P Small Arms Factory, Parkes, New South Wales
M.A.F.L Small Arms Factory, Portland, New South Wales
M.A.Y Small Arms Factory, Young, New South Wales
M.B. Explosives Factory, Ballarat, Victoria
M.B.O Ordnance Factory,Bendigo, Victoria
M.C. Ammunition Factory, Finsbury, South Australia
M.D Ammunition Factory, Derwent Park, Tasmania
M.D.K Explosives Factory, Albion, Victoria
M.E Explosives & Pyrotechnic Factory, Maribyrnong, Victoria
M.F. Ammunition Factory & No 1 SAA Factory, Footscray, Victoria
M.F.A Fuse Factory, Albury, New South Wales
M.F.B Fuse Factory, Broken Hill, New South Wales
M.F.G Shell & Fuse Factory, Goulburn, New South Wales
M.F.W Fuse Factory, Wagga, New South Wales
M.G. No. 2 SAA Factory, Footscray, Victoria
M.H. No. 3 SAA Factory, Hendon, South Australia
M.J No. 4 SAA Factory, Hendon, South Australia
M.J.B Incendiary SAA Factory, Hendon, South Australia
M.K. Ammunition Factory, Kalgoorlie, Western Australia
M.L Munitions Supply Laboratories, Maribyrnong, Victoria
M.O. Ordnance Factory, Maribyrnong, Victoria
M.O.H Ordnance Factory, Hamilton, Victoria
M.O.H Ordnance Factory, Horsham, Victoria
M.O.s Ordnance Factory, Stawell, Victoria
M.P.M Primer Factory, Mildura, Victoria
M.P.T Primer Factory, Tamworth, New South Wales
M.Q Ammunition Factory & No. 5 SAA Factory, Rocklea, Queensland
M.R. Ammunition Factory, Rutherford, New South Wales
M.S. Explosives Factory, Salisbury, South Australia
M.S.P Shell Factory, Port Pirie, South Australia
M.V Explosives Factory, Villawood, New South Wales
M.W. No. 6 SAA Factory, Welshpool, Western Australia
M.X Filling & Pyrotechnic Factory, St. Mary’s, New South Wales

I left out the H.T.X which was the monogram of the Clothing Factory.

Trust some of you guys will find this of interest.



John, thanks a lot! There is no such thing as “too much” reference!


Thank you for the Australian factory code list and for your previous posts on SAA ammunition!



Many thanks for the codes.


Strictly speaking, these Letter grouping were NOT “Codes” (as we would interpret the German secret letter combinations) but the Telegraphic address ( or Telegraphic short-Hand) much in use in the Anglo-American World…to expedite Telegrams and Later Telexes. Also, they were Not Secret…they were available at any Post Office,( with a Telegraph Key) and on the documentation of the Various Factories. In the 1920s and 30s, Many US industrial concerns used this system even in the Catalogue description of their Products…The Lima Locomotive Works (Lima, Ohio) had a Booklet running to several score Pages with telegraphic abbreviations for all their Products, from complete Locomotives to small individual Loco accessories and spare Parts. It greatly saved on the “Per-word-Cost” of International Telegrams. ( a Letter grouping of up to five letters or digits was considered “a word” for costing.)…That is why the Famous “Zimmermann Telegram” in 1917 was laid out in “5 digit” groupings.

Any Spy could find out which factories were where, simply by referring to the Telegraphic directory ( Just as we read a Phone Directory these days.).

The Imperial Chinese Telegraph Service ( covering all of China by 1895) used a similar system, whereby each “Standard Character” was numbered, from 1 to 10,000; Telegraphists had prodigious memories, and could transcribe a Chinese Text into “numbers” and transmit them faster than a Morse code (English) key operator. (Mentioned in “An Australian in China” by Morrison, on his trip up the Yangtse River from Shanghai to Burma in 1895; he used the Telegraph to transmit Money from his bank to himself at Telegraph stations along the Way).

Of course, all these Dinosaur Technologies disappeared with the Demise of the Telegraph, Telegrams and Telexes by the 1970s ( “Telegrams” were being sent by Telex in the 1970s; after that Facsimile transmission took over, and now it is called "Email"
Fax Machines are now “obsolete” as independent items, and it is only a matter of time before they are discontinued as a Part of a Copier/Printer/Scanner accessory for Computers.

Interesting how Ammunition Identification and Communications are linked.

Doc AV

Poor choice of words in my heading.

The correct term used is “Symbol” to differentiate the factories, and identify their products.



The correct term is monogram. However, of all the British and Dominion monograms, I can only think of one that is a true monogram in that it has overlapping characters, namely ‘EOC’ (Elswick Ordnance Company).

Of the hundreds of British, Canadian and Indian monograms that I have researched, I don’t recall any of the cable addresses mirroring the monogram.

I’ve read one article (uncorroborated) that claims Australian monograms came from the stations’ telegraphic addresses. If there is any truth in this I would say the monogram came first and the telegraphic address came second.


Hi Tim,

In a letter to me from Footscray dated 14th November 1969, they enclosed an original copy of a list of what they called monograms used by the various factories. This term used because internally they called the factory identifier i.e. MF, MH, MG etc a monogram, not a headstamp, although they understood the term “headstamp”. Headstamp being the total characters on the base of the cartridge.

The list is headed:

"Department of the Army - Inspection Division

Symbols of Government Factories
As approved by Inspector-General of Munitions
To 6th April, 1943"

I haven’t researched the telegraphic address origination, but have no reason to disagree with DocAv on the matter.

Unless I stumble on some evidence it will be a moot point which came first, the telegraphic address or the symbol. In the case of MF the factory identifier was a transition from CAC through a number of other identifiers such as SAAF ( Small Arms Ammunition Factory) to MF. I have too many other things to research and too little time, but will certainly advise of anything I do find.



As early as 1913, the Telegraphic address of SAF Lithgow was “Munitions Australia”…Since this was Two words, it was shortened to “MA” from then onwards, in the mid- 1920s, other Gov’t Munitions Factories, were given the “M…” Telegraphic address, which also became their Monogram for Identification Purposes.
Hence, in the early 1920s, CAC ( a private Corporation, which contracted to the Commonwealth) was first Leased, then Bought outright, by the Department of Supply – “Small Arms Ammunition Factory, Footscray”, Then A^F (Ammunition (Gov’t) Footscray) then MF (Munitions, Footscray). This Two part Monogram and Telegraphic address was applied to all Gov’t owned establishments concerned with Munitions Manufacture (Small Arms, Ammunitions, Artillery, etc,etc.)…The “M” signified “Munitions” and the subsequent letters identified the Location of the Factory concerned ( Closest Telegraph office)…THis practice was continued by the Annexes of Lithgow initially ( Orange was “MAO”, but by 1943-44, the “M” had been dropped in Gun markings, and only “OA, BA, etc” ( Orange Annex, Bathurst Annex) was used. I don’t Know if the “Monogram” was also used as the Telegraphic address, in these WW II cases.

The woodworking annex at Slazengers Sporting Goods, was always “SLAZ” as this was a Private (Non-Gov’t) Factory.

BTW, the earliest “Munitions Australia” Telegram is located in Documents at the SAF Lithgow Museum, regarding communications with both Colt and Pratt & Whitney regarding the early set up of the Lithgow Plant. ( Before WW I). There are also other Telegrams from the Interwar period, where the Practice had become Normal. ( From copies seen in various Publications etc. over the last 30 years of Cartridge Collecting)

Doc AV

Thanks DocAv.

Your period of collecting covers the time when I “went missing” and am now trying to fill in the numerous gaps.

I’ve been stimulated to look at what correspondence I have from MF and wartime records. By the 1960s, Footscray was not putting a telegraphic address on letterheads, if they ever did. Their telegram address at that time was “Gunam” Footscray.

The only telegraphic address I have found so far, is from Australia House in London dated 5th July 1940, which is “Crotonate. Estrand. London”. Neither the Department of the Army or the Munitions Supply Board provided a TA on their letterheads in the early part of the war. All the correspondence I have relating to the automatic supply of drawings (about 2" thick), appears at a quick glance to have been sent by airmail.

While looking through my records I came across a list of “Stamps and Workmarks used in S.A and S.A.A Section” after June 1943, presumably by the Army Inspection Service. If anyone is interested send me a PM and I’ll try to scan the documents.



John and DocAV,

Thank you both. I’m puzzled as to why the Inspector-General of Munitions was referring to them as Factory Symbols as I would have thought they would have been still adhering to the rules, regulations and whims of the UK Ordnance Board, who would have referred to them as monograms.

Below is a very small selection of UK monograms with the company and their cable address. Just to illustrate the lack of connection between monogram and cable address.

A - Anchor Chain Co. Ltd - “ Chains”
A. & S. - Adshead & son - “ Paragon”
A. F. Ltd/B - Fenwick & Co. - “ Athletic”
A. M. S. - All Metal Smallware Ltd. - “ Tupresco”
A. S. & C - A.Shaw & Co., Ltd. - "Denver”
B. - Birkby’s, Ltd. (Plastics). - "Elo, Liversedge"
DLR - De La Rue Ltd - “ Delaplas. Piccy “
FH - Carpathian Silver Co. Ltd, B’ham - “ Argosy”
FINCH - Finch & Co., Ltd. - “ Sanitary”
HBM - Houghton - Butcher Manufacturing Co. Ltd. - “ Rhamnus "
HLP - Hoover Ltd. - “ Houswepe”,
HWW Ltd - Hygienic Wire Works Ltd. - “ Genykage”
LMOS - Littlewoods Mail Order Stores Ltd. - “ Littsplice”
SH&S - Samuel Heath and Sons, Ltd. - “ Spinning”



I guess it was just different strokes for different folks. Monogram, headstamp or symbol, they were only used to identify the source, although in the case of SAA, it identified the factory which completed the round. MS is a case in point. I believe Royal Laboratories, in many cases, also had their monogram on cases made by outside suppliers.

In essential things we followed British practice in order to enable interchange of equipment between Commonwealth forces. Thus the constant flow of drawings from England to Australia. It was only when the item wasn’t British, e.g the .45 Auto, or we hadn’t received drawings, e.g. .303 H4 we did our own thing, produced our own drawings and then usually had (Aust) as part of the description. We also generally followed the headstamp drawings, annulus colour, packaging, with the exception of .303 AP, which for some reason didn’t have the green tip.

Remember, by the middle of the war, this country of 7 million (with 10% on active service), apart from producing thousands of other stores, including aeroplanes from scratch, had increased SAA production from around 3 million a year to over 1000 million rounds. I guess we weren’t being too worried about what to call a headstamp.