Ian’s Latest Books


Bravo Zulu Cover vol1

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.

The first volume of the book was released in September 2016 and launched by the Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett in October. The video of the presentation is above. With almost 800 pages, 24 maps and 250 illustrations, Bravo Zulu Volume 1 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 the destroyer Voyager in a collision in 1964 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 late 2017. When pricing has been confirmed, it will be offered at an attractive discount to those who wish to order early.

Superlatives do not do justice to Volume 1 of which I received this morning.  I am more than impressed”

“I’m utterly overwhelmed by “Bravo Zulu” – grand in concept and splendid in execution.  Heartiest congratulations.”

“You have produced an outstanding and very readable reference book for those who follow us.”

“I am totally enthralled reading BZ. I consider myself well read, rarely do I not have a book on the boil so to speak. I cannot believe the detail you have managed to uncover and place before the reader. I also have to say that I feel rather small in life compared to the actions of some described in BZ. How on earth they survived some of the described actions is beyond human reasoning.”

Hard Cover – $75 + Postage

Soft Cover – $65 + Postage

Books can also be ordered though the online re-sellers listed on the Bravo Zulu page at www.echobooks.com.au


Review by Professor Tom Frame

Ian Pfennigwerth
Bravo Zulu: Honours and Awards to Australian Naval People,
Volume 1: 1900-1974,
Echo Books, Geelong, 2016

Some retired officers invite visitors to take a book from their libraries as a memento and to reduce the estate their family will need to disperse. But if I embrace this custom, Ian Pfennigwerth’s magisterial Bravo Zulu: Honours and Awards to Australian Naval People, Volume 1: 1900-1974 will be hidden from view. I intend to keep this volume because it will frequently come in handy and is a delight to read. The two letters in the title – Bravo and Zulu – mean ‘Well Done’ in naval parlance, and Volume 1 is quite literally a brick of a book as will be the second volume (1975-2014). With illustrations maps, tables, reference notes and an index, it runs to 775 pages.

This is not a traditional reference book with names and citations reproduced alongside a commentary on the origins and criteria of an award. It tells the story of the Colonial Naval Forces, the Commonwealth Naval Forces and the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and weaves the honours and awards received by Australian naval personnel from Australian and Allied governments into a fast flowing narrative. It’s inclusion of honours and awards received in peacetime and civilian bravery awards is most welcome. A good deal of the RAN’s success in combat operations resulted from energetic and enlightened peacetime service among unheralded officers and sailors.

When the research for this volume commenced in 2009, Ian Pfennigwerth and his research partner David Ruffin did not imagine the task would be so difficult or demanding. But, as Ian explains, he relied on hundreds of people to open doors and archives, to provide introductions and insights, and to make connections between places, people and events that defied quick and easy explanation.

In the first chapter the Imperial (British) honours and awards systems, the significance of certain orders and particular decorations, how an individual was recommended and the process by which they eventually received it are explained. I learned a great deal from this chapter including the lament that Australian personnel received fewer honours and awards than their Royal Navy counterparts, a fact that was ‘the subject of much adverse comment’ in the 1930s.

Subsequent chapters are arranged chronologically, the second covering the period to 1939, which was marked by upheaval and uncertainty. Transitioning from a tired colonial flotilla to a battle-ready fleet, Australian naval personnel distinguished themselves in ways that I had not previously known. Their creativity in developing new tactics and their courage in imperilling their own lives to save others in need are simply inspiring. Chapter Three details the honours and awards system operating between 1939 and 1974, when Australian honours replaced Imperial awards.

The next four chapters cover the Second World War. Given the duration of the conflict and the number of personnel in naval uniform (nearly 40,000), these represent the bulk of the narrative, sensibly told by theatre. This arrangement provides coherence for the operations of individual RAN units, often lost when they are tracked and assessed separately. I was struck by the inconsistencies in recognising wartime service, with some service in some ships in some situations more likely to be recommended. Approving authorities could not be objective when relying on written accounts rather than eye-witness testimonies, but many deserving acts went either unnoticed or were inadequately recognised. Recipients were usually surprised and always delighted with their honour or award while the empty-handed simply went on with their duties.

Chapter Nine – ‘Testing Times, 1946 to 1965’ – coincides with my area of personal and professional interest. The serious decline of the RAN in the late 1950s, and a series of accidents climaxing with the 1964 Melbourne-Voyager collision, suggested to the parliament and the press that the Navy’s professional standards were deteriorating. This was countered by the RAN’s highly effective performance in complex naval operations in Vietnamese waters and the Mekong Delta, in the air and along the Vietnamese coast. While very ably depicting the RAN’s involvement in the Indonesian ‘Confrontation’, Bravo Zulu also describes vital pioneering work in signals technology, weapons engineering, personnel management and command organisation. The Navy struggled with obsolete equipment and acquiring modern replacements, but its people used ingenuity and their refusal to concede defeat to nurse the RAN through what Ian Pfennigwerth rightly calls ‘testing times’. The final three chapters cover the Korean War, the Vietnam conflict and the ‘End of Forward Defence 1966-74’.

I decided to avoid naming any individual recipient in Bravo Zulu’s 2075 individual stories but, I want to mention seven-year-old Jennifer Purtell, presented with her father’s Distinguished Service Medal in 1943 after he had died in action in HMAS Parramatta. The picture of the presentation is incredibly moving. She could not have understood why the war was necessary or why her father had been taken from her, but I hope the medal and what it signified brought her some comfort and consolation.

Bravo Zulu is a terrific book that every library in Australia should acquire as a reference text. It is a personalised history of the RAN and an invaluable compendium for students and scholars chasing an elusive fact or form of words to detail an action or to describe a person. Echo Books is to be warmly commended on a first-class, handsome volume. In sum, the naval historical community owes a great debt of thanks to Ian Pfennigwerth and his team, a debt that will be enlarged as we eagerly await the appearance of Volume 2.

Copies of Bravo Zulu are available from Ian Pfennigwerth at www.nautilushistory.com.au

Tom Frame
Australian Centre for the Study of Armed Conflict and Society
UNSW Canberra



Bravo Zulu
Honours and Awards to Australian People Volume 1, 1900 – 1974
Ian Pfennigwerth
Echo Books, 2016
Hardback   840 pp   RRP: $74.95

Reviewer: Mike O’Brien, November 2016

Bravo Zulu is NATO shorthand for ‘well done’. This massive (over 800 page) book promises to describe the gallantry and efficiency of those Australians with naval connections who were recognised by official awards. It achieves this and much more. It is not merely a listing of names and achievements but each segment of awards is prefaced by its operational context and with concluding summary of achievements. The result is well organized and easily readable.

One example of many in this book comes to mind. The author outlines the considerable RAN participation in D-Day. About 200 RAN personnel were involved. The remarkable story of Lieutenant Keith Hudspeth in midget submarine operations prior to 6th June 1944 won him the well-deserved award of the Distinguished Service Cross with two bars. His gallantry should not be forgotten.

Ian Pfennigwerth is an accomplished naval historian with many naval histories to his credit. He attributes this volume to the assiduous work of his team whilst humbly devaluing his tenacity and leadership.

The list of recipients has more than 3,600 names on it, making it the first comprehensive account of its type that has ever been complied. The author notes that Navy record-keeping has not always been of a high standard, and indeed, that RAN history has sometimes been under-valued. He and his team had to search widely for the details of recipients of awards and privacy legislation was sometimes a bar to their efforts. Nevertheless, the listings include British and Australian gallantry awards, as well as those from the United States, France and other allies.  It also includes Humane Society awards and awards in the civil lists for retired naval personnel. The index listing the recipients is accurate and exhaustive.

A further volume covering the period 1975 to 2014 is in preparation. It will be a good companion to this essential book of reference.

I can but agree with the author’s statement:

“This is a great project, run by people who have served in the Navy, who are passionate about telling of the great things that Navy people have done.”

We are most grateful to the author and publisher for this review copy.


Progress towards Publishing Bravo Zulu Volume 2

The manuscript for Volume 2 of Bravo Zulu, containing the stories behind honours and awards to Australian naval people from 1975 to December 2014, was submitted to the publisher in December 2017, bringing to a conclusion more than eight years of hard work. While retaining the broad layout of Volume 1, it is quite a different book because, in many cases, the BZ team had access to recipients or their families on which to build the stories rather than being obliged to rely on official records. It is also bigger than Volume 1, creating a publication challenge which took most of 2017 to resolve. The process of turning the manuscript into a book is expected to produce its first ‘typeset’ version in March 2018 and, there is growing confidence that release of Volume 2 can occur in May-June 2018.

To fund its publication, a ‘special offer’ for advanced orders will be launched as soon as costs and prices are firmed up, possibly as early as March 2018. To indicate interest in this offer please click the ‘Register your Interest’ button.

A Note on Buying My Books

Publishing is a highly competitive business. Publishing houses, appropriately, do not take on any books they feel will not be commercially attractive enough to recover costs. In my case I publish what I write, regardless of commercial potential, but I do have to pay my bills. Bravo Zulu Volume 1 cost around $32,000 to research, publish and print; Volume 2 will probably cost the same. So I need to sell lots of copies of to repay my creditors and recoup my investment.

You can buy copies of my books through online retailers, and I recommend that overseas buyers do so to avoid the exorbitant costs of shipping books internationally. However, I would hope that Australian purchasers would buy their copies from me, for two reasons. First, I can ship them signed and personalised inscribed copies very soon after receiving the order. Second, I gain the benefit of most of the purchase price to pay down my debts. I get only around $4 from a sale through an online retailer –who did none of the work involved in researching, writing or publishing any of my books.