Naval Historian and Author | Ian Pfennigwerth |Australian Navy History

Ian Pfenningwerth

Australian Naval Historian


About Ian Pfennigwerth

Naval Historian

Ian Pfennigwerth served nearly 35 years in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), beginning as a Cadet Midshipman at the RAN College Jervis Bay in 1958 and leaving the navy in 1992 as a Captain. In between he trained in the UK, swept mines in PNG waters, had two operational tours in Southeast Asia during Indonesian Confrontation, and served on exchange in two British navy frigates in European waters. Ian held increasingly senior positions in RAN ships, commanded the guided missile destroyer HMAS Perth, and occupied staff billets in Fleet Headquarters, Navy Headquarters in Canberra and in the Australian Embassy in Washington DC. The final twelve years of his service were primarily in Intelligence postings, and he was Australia’s Defence Attaché in Beijing in 1989-91.

On leaving the RAN Ian built a consultancy in Asian business development for the Australian ITC sector until retiring for the second time in 1999. He commenced his third career by gaining a PhD from the University of Newcastle in 2005, where he began to research and write about Australia’s naval history. This resulted in eleven published works, numerous articles and the naval chapters in three military anthologies; Ian also edited the Journal of Australian Naval History in 2006-12.  An unpublished book is used as a text at the Australian Defence Force Academy.

Vice Admiral Mike Noonan, RAN Chief of Navy, accepting a copy of Bravo Zulu Volume 2 from Ian Pfennigwerth, November 2018
Vice Admiral Mike Noonan, RAN Chief of Navy, accepting a copy of Bravo Zulu Volume 2 from Ian Pfennigwerth, November 2018

Ian completed his career as an author with the publication of a two-volume work telling the stories behind the honours and awards presented to Australian naval people between 1900 and 2014. This nine-year task, completed with the indispensable assistance of a team of volunteer researchers, has delivered two amazing books which reflect the origins, development and history of the RAN.

Now retired for the third time, Ian will continue to engage the Australian public though radio, journal articles and presentations to community groups and organisations in reflecting on and appreciating the contributions its navy has made to the nation. His main focus, however, will be enjoying life with his wife Elizabeth and their family.