Naval Historian and Author | Ian Pfennigwerth |Australian Navy History

Ian’s Latest Books

Bravo Zulu Volumes 1 and 2

Honouring the Service of Australia’s Naval Men and Women

Before Federation in 1901 colonial naval officers and sailors serving in South Africa and China were recognised for steadfastness and courage and this tradition was enhanced by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) through its distinguished record during World War I. The first Australian awards for gallantry in the face of the enemy were won by members of the RAN in 1914, and they went on to consolidate this reputation for excellence and daring in European, Middle East and Asian theatres of war and through the uneasy peace that followed.

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Italian cruiser Bartolomeo Colleoni disabled and sinking after battle with HMAS Sydney, Mediterranean 1940
Italian cruiser Bartolomeo Colleoni disabled and sinking after battle with HMAS Sydney, Mediterranean 1940

In 1939 the men – and later women – of the RAN went to war again, cementing our Navy’s international reputation as a steadfast ally and determined enemy, and from 1946 the RAN fought in Korea, Malaya, Malaysia and Vietnam while developing its independent capabilities for sustainment, training and naval diplomacy in a Cold War world. Its engagement the Middle East, from the 1991 Gulf War and continuing to this day, and in several sensitive operations in the South Pacific and Southeast Asia demonstrated our Navy’s capabilities and gained it international respect through the service of its men and women.

Commanding Officers from regional navy ships engaged in international Exercise KAKADU 2014
Commanding Officers from regional navy ships engaged in international Exercise KAKADU 2014

Now, in Bravo Zulu (navalese for ‘Well Done!’), Australians have a magnificent resume of the trials, tribulations and triumphs of their Navy in 115 years of service, illustrated through individual accounts of naval men and women who received Imperial, Australian and foreign honours and awards for their service, gallantry or bravery. Volume 1 was released in 2016 covering the period 1900-74.

What Readers say about Bravo Zulu Volume 1

‘Superlatives do not do justice to Volume 1. 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.’

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Launched by Australia’s Chief of Navy in November 2018, Volume 2, covers the years 1975-2014, bringing this nine-year research project to its conclusion. The second book recounts the development and activities of the RAN from the inception of the Order of Australia in 1975 with separate chapters devoted to the Navy’s amazing response to the 1991 Gulf War, its crucial role in the 1999-2000 UN peacekeeping operation in East Timor, its enforcement of UN sanctions on Iraq, the 2003 Iraq War and the continuing service of naval people in Iraq and Afghanistan, ashore and afloat.

Commander Peter Bartlett RAN negotiating with Afghan officials 2013
Commander Peter Bartlett RAN negotiating with Afghan officials 2013

Volume 2 also describes the modernisation of Navy’s equipment during a stream of Defence reforms and reveals moving stories of efforts to safeguard illegal immigrants intercepted during border security operations. Above all, Bravo Zulu Volume 2 is about people labouring mightily to ensure that Australia’s Navy is acknowledged internationally for its organisational capability and operational reach. At over 882 pages, it is lavishly illustrated with maps, diagrams and 160 photographs and has an Index of 1,800 Recipients.

What Readers say about Bravo Zulu Volume 2

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‘You have told the story of the Navy; …so often we are inclined to forget that people prevail’.

‘It is a magnificent achievement and both volumes will continue to be an essential resource for anything I ever write in the future’.

‘My family are especially proud to read the entry about my contribution and happy to read the stories of other recipients. I particularly like the way that the work is tied to the history of the RAN.

‘Thanks for your work and diligence to see this project through, I truly appreciate it’.

‘You and your team deserve great credit for providing another wonderful addition to our Navy’s historical collection – BZ to you!’

‘I am amazed at the material you and your team have gathered, and the level of detail within each story. I can really appreciate why this has been a labour of love for you for so long, and how persistent you have needed to be in gathering information and producing such a book”

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