Ian Pfennigwerth

Australian Naval Historian

Australia Naval History Australian Naval History

Ian Pfennigwerth – Biography

Naval Historian

Ian Pfennigwerth was awarded a PhD by the University of Newcastle in 2005. Previously he had spent 35 years in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) in seagoing, staff and overseas postings, his last twelve years being spent primarily in the intelligence sphere.

He commanded the guided missile destroyer HMAS Perth II, served as Director of Naval Intelligence for three years and was the Defence Attaché in Beijing for two. Resigning in 1992, he built a consultancy in Asian business development for the Australian ITC sector.

Since 2002, Ian has worked in his third career, researching Australia’s naval history, which he interprets broadly to mean the history of the influence of navies on the discovery, development and defence of Australia and its interests. He makes frequent presentations to the public and at professional conferences and seminars, has lectured on history at the RAN College, and supports and assists other authors in this genre, and writing his own publications.

His eight published books have cemented his reputation in the field. He won the inaugural Tenix HMAS Perth Award for 2008-2010, resulting in a comparative study of the origins, construction and service of the RAN ships named Arunta and Warramunga. In August 2010 Ian was awarded the ADFA History Fellowship to research and write the history of the Academy, and this was published in December 2012.

From 2006 to 2012 Ian edited the Naval Historical Society of Australia’s Journal of Australian Naval History, and he has contributed the naval chapters to the three books edited by Peter Dean of the Australian National University on Australia at war in 1942-45, published by the Cambridge University Press.

Ian’s most recent book, published in 2014, was a study of the RAN in its first year of operations in the Pacific and Indian Oceans in World War I – Under New Management. In the wings is a Web book, a simply written and attractively presented introduction to the subject with the title Australia’s Naval History in a Nutshell. Information on his most recent major project is presented below.

Ian is a regular guest of community groups such as Probus and Rotary to whom he makes presentations on naval topics. These are tremendous opportunities to acquaint Australians with elements of their naval history that, for the most part, are new concepts to many.

Ian’s Next Book

Bravo Zulu: Honours and Awards to Australian Naval People 1900-2014

Volume 1, 1900-1974 Now on Sale

Between 1900 and 2014 almost 4,000 Australian naval people received honours and awards for their efforts, courage, sacrifice and service to the nation. Whether earning a George Cross for defusing mines during the World War II ‘Blitz’ of the UK, an American Silver Star for flying helicopters into intense enemy fire in Vietnam, or a Conspicuous Service Medal for quietly ‘just getting the job done’, these are the stories of the men and women who have been recognised for their service to the Royal Australian Navy. Some give an insight into the daily running of our Navy. Others recalling inspiring feats of courage under fire or bravery in risking their own lives in saving others, on and off duty.

For the past seven years Ian Pfennigwerth and a team of dedicated volunteer researchers have explored the background of these honours and awards – Imperial, Australian, and foreign. The outcome is a book crafted so that even those with no knowledge of things naval will appreciate the significance of each award while becoming acquainted with the history of Australia’s naval forces – and enjoying a good read.

With intense relief and satisfaction, Ian can announce that the first part of telling these stories to the nation is about to happen.  Volume 1, covering the period 1900 to 1974 will be released this month. It is a book of almost 800 pages with 24 maps and 250 illustrations. It has a 74-page Index of the recipients of honours and awards, linking the text to the recipient. The book traces, through the recipients’ stories, the formation and development of the RAN, its fortunes during World War I, its resurrection from the depths of the Depression, and its fine fighting record during World War II. Post-war the stories tell of our Navy’s growth toward independence, the exploits of its men in Korea, Malaysia, Indonesian Confrontation and Vietnam, and its development of ships and weapons system like the famous Ikara anti-submarine missile.  There are also stories about the loss of Voyager and of spectacular feats in naval flying and diving.

Volume 1 comes in two editions; the hardcover retails for $75 and the paperback will sell at $65. Postage will be $13.00 for domestic purchasers. Overseas postage rates depend on the purchaser’s address. Deliveries will take place from this month ahead of the official launch of the book by the Chief of Navy in Canberra in October.

Work on preparing Volume 2, covering honours and awards to December 2014, is well underway with anticipated delivery in early 2017. When pricing has been confirmed, it will be offered at an attractive discount to those who wish to order early.