The story of the first cadet-midshipmen to join the Royal Australian Naval College is without parallel.
In 1913 twenty-eight thirteen-year-old boys joined the new Navy at a time when Australia was both idealistic and ambitious. The boys were drawn from every State and became known as the 'Pioneer Class'.
Australia's Argonauts is the result of many years' research. It brings together previously unpublished diaries, letters, archival material and photographs. The Pioneer Class bore witness to or were leading actors in the most important events in the Navy's early history. The most famous member was John Collins, hero of the Sydney-Bartolomeo Colleoni action, who became the first Naval College graduate to be Chief of Naval Staff. The class also included Rupert Long who played a pivotal role in Naval intelligence, Eric Feldt who ran the famous 'Coastwatchers' and Peyton Kimlin who wrote the score for one of Australia's first ballet. But like the argonauts of legend, they faced travails that sometimes consumed them.
The book charts the lives of the Pioneer Class from their first days at the Naval College, service with the Grand Fleet in World War I, naval and civilian careers between the wars, their great contribution during World War II and their passing into our history.
The Pioneer Class were not only the first, but the greatest class to graduate from the Naval College.
'unrelenting research ... It is much more than a chronicle of the 1913 Entry, this is a window on the nation at war, societal attitudes and practises of our nation from the early days of Federation. Not only for old and young salts but also the nation's readers at large'. Vice Admiral Ian MacDougall AC, AFSM RAN (Retired), Chief of Naval Staff (1991-1994). '... Peter Jones has opened a window into our past that for too long was closed and shuttered. This is not just a story of remarkable Australians. Nor is it simply a story of the Australian Navy during its years of endurance. This is a story of what Australia was, what it wanted to be and what it became as the twentieth century advanced ... Australia's Argonauts spans Australia's history and national experience. It is a fascinating book.' Rear Admiral James Goldrick, author of Before Jutland 'Although they graduated a century ago, I feel a personal connection with the first class to enter the RAN College. My first commanding officer had been trained at sea during the Second World War by members of the pioneer year and I suspect some of their enduring influence shaped my own entry's formative experiences. Peter Jones has not only captured the spirit animating that remarkable group of naval officers, he has helped scholars and students to understand why they were so revered and how they transformed the RAN from a remote Dominion squadron into a medium-sized naval force with it own distinctive ethos. This thoroughly engaging and deeply moving work is marked by painstaking research, nuanced analysis and sensitive handling of both brutalising events and human frailty. It will become a classic text in the RAN's evolving history.' Professor Tom Frame, author of Where Fate Calls and a member of RANC Junior Entry 1979.