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Colonial Ammunition Company works, Auckland
A view of the Auckland works of the Colonial Ammunition Company

The Colonial Ammunition Company (CAC) was an ammunition manufacturer in Auckland, New Zealand. Its predecessor, Whitney & Sons, was established by John Whitney with government encouragement in 1885 during the Russian Scare. Whitney later recruited investors to expand his factory in 1888. The other shareholders were Messrs Greenwood and Batley, of Leeds (owners of the Greenwood & Batley cartridge company); T. Hall, Esq., of Mount Morgan; J. D' Arcey, Esq.; Captain de Lusada, R.N.; J. Clarke, Esq.; and T.Y. Cartwright of Notts. They formed the Colonial Ammunition Company, the first ordnance manufacturer in Australasia.

Components were made in New Zealand and Australia, shipped to England, and then assembled at the Greenwood & Batley plant in Leeds. The finished cartridges were then shipped back to Australia and New Zealand for sale. It later expanded in other business directions from 1925 on.

.303 British cartridge (Mk VII) FMJ, manufactured by CAC in 1945

In the Second World War, it was New Zealand's only industrial manufacturer of ammunition (having temporarily increased its workforce from 230 to 900), with production in countries like Australia having long since overtaken the small size of the New Zealand market for ammunition.


The company operated extensive facilities in Mount Eden, a central suburb of Auckland (originally on the outskirts of the city). The area is now mostly taken up by commercial redevelopment. Remaining from the original facilities are two iconic structures:

Colonial Ammunition Company Shot Tower
The shot tower at Mount Eden, with the bluestone building at the left.
  • A rare steel-frame shot tower for the creation of lead pellets. It was built around 1916 to allow the company to produce lead pellets. Used in the shotgun shells of New Zealand hunters, they had previously been imported, mainly from the United Kingdom. The tower was erected by local blacksmiths W. Wilson and Company and initially operated by a Mr Lylie with his two daughters (who had previously been supplying CAC with limited quantities of shot from Nelson). The tower remained in profitable operation until after World War II, when it allowed the company to keep production levels high after military ammunition requirements dropped off again. The tower is the only 20th-century shot tower in Australasia and the only remaining shot tower in New Zealand. It is now classified as a Category I heritage building by Heritage New Zealand, having been saved from destruction in the 1980s after popular protests.
  • A compact but massive bluestone building now used as a bar / restaurant.

Following the entry of the Japanese Empire into the Second World War, there was concern that the site at Mount Eden would be too exposed to a coastal attack. In light of this, production of munitions was transferred to Hamilton. After equipment was relocated and buildings constructed and manufacturing at a site on Dey Street, production commenced in June 1942. The facility was closed after the end of the war and equipment and production was transferred back to Mount Eden.

Colonial Ammunition Company, Ltd. (Australia)

This factory was built in 1888 in Australia at Footscray, Victoria, a suburb of Melbourne. It was founded by Captain John Whitney of CAC New Zealand in a joint venture with a number of English partners and was a separate entity from the commercial New Zealand company. The Australian government leased the facility from CAC on 1 January 1921 and bought the facility outright in 1927 and renamed it the Small Arms Ammunition Factory No.1. Five other facilities were briefly opened during World War 2: a new factory at Footscray (SAAF No. 2), two more built at Hendon (SAAF No. 3 & No. 4), one built at Rocklea (SAAF No. 5), and one built at Welshpool (SAAF No. 6). The SAAF No. 1 facility was finally closed in 1945 and was replaced by the nearby SAAF No.2 facility. The facility is now more commonly known as Ammunition Factory Footscray (AFF).

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