Captain Ian Stewart Pullar

CAPT Ian Pullar

Ian Stewart Pullar was born in Darwin, Northern Territory on 2 September 1938; his family later moved to South Australia where they lived in the Adelaide suburb of Magill. Ian entered the RAN College, at HMAS Cerberus, in January 1952 as a 13 year old Cadet Midshipman. He was an average student, was captain of the college soccer team and also a very competent dinghy sailor. Upon graduation in 1955 he and classmates went to sea in the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne and the sloop HMAS Swan for further training and he was promoted to Midshipman on 1 May 1956. The class of 1952 then proceeded to the United Kingdom for professional training courses at the Royal Naval College Dartmouth. Ian was promoted to Sub Lieutenant in September 1957.

After returning to Australia he was appointed to Melbourne for further training and while on board the carrier served in Southeast Asia as part of the Far East Strategic Reserve. Ian chose to specialise as a Hydrographic Surveyor and joined the survey vessel HMAS Warrego in October 1959 as an Assistant Surveyor 4th Class. He was transferred to the survey vessel HMAS Barcoo in December of that year and served in her until February 1962.

While serving in Barcoo Ian was promoted to Lieutenant in March 1960, married Erica Pickering in Sydney that year and qualified as an Assistant Surveyor 3rd Class in July 1961. Barcoo was employed conducting surveys in New South Wales and Victorian waters with a side trip to Lord Howe Island. Lieutenant Pullar joined Warrego in early 1962 while she operated in South Australian waters. The Hydrographic Survey Branch was, and still is, a small, tight profession where everybody knows everybody, and the learning curve is steep. Ships stayed in the remote areas being surveyed for several weeks at a time and periods away from home were extended.

In January 1963 Ian was appointed to the RAN Hydrographic Office in Sydney and qualified as an Assistant Surveyor 2nd Class in January 1964. He joined the new survey vessel HMAS Moresby in July 1964 and during his twenty months in her, the ship operated from New South Wales to Western Australia and from Tasmania to Queensland. Then in early 1966 Ian and Erica proceeded to the United Kingdom where he was to serve on exchange with the Royal Navy for the next two years. He and Erica made their home near Maidstone, in Kent with their two children and where their third child was born, but Ian was often away at sea.

Ian served initially in the survey ship HMS Myrmidon operating in the North Sea and on the east coast of Scotland before joining HMS Vidal in January 1967 for sixteen months service in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean. Ian Pullar became an Assistant Surveyor 1st Class in March 1967 and was promoted to Lieutenant Commander in March 1968. Upon returning to Australia the Pullars went to HMAS Creswell, at Jervis Bay, where Ian was a member of the RAN College training staff. It was a welcome return to the home-every-night routine that most people enjoy.

In January 1970 Lieutenant Commander Pullar was appointed as the Officer in Charge of the Hydrographic School at HMAS Penguin, at Middle Head in Sydney, where hydrographic officers and survey recorders received their initial training. Ian was given his first command in December 1970 when he was appointed to the survey vessel HMAS Paluma. She was the RAN’s smallest surveying ship and spent most of her time working in the Barrier Reef and Torres Strait.

He was then selected to command Paluma's replacement, the newly-constructed and purpose-built survey ship HMAS Flinders. Ian took command of Flinders, on commissioning, on 27 April 1973 at Williamstown Naval Dockyard, Victoria. The next 13 months were then spent operating in north Queensland waters.

On promotion to Acting Commander, in July 1974, Ian took command of the navy’s principal surveying ship, HMAS Moresby, and was engaged in surveying work in Western Australian and Northern Territory waters. For a time the family lived in Perth, where Moresby was home ported.

Ian was confirmed in the rank of Commander in June 1975 and joined the Hydrographic Office in Sydney as the Deputy Hydrographer, RAN. He was the acting Hydrographer, RAN during 3 February-27 June 1976 while awaiting Captain Michael Calder, RAN to be promoted into the position. He then reverted to the appointment of Deputy Hydrographer.

On 28 October 1980 Ian Pullar commissioned his fourth and last command in the RAN, the newly-built oceanographic ship HMAS Cook. He was promoted to Captain in June 1981 and to many of his peers Ian was clearly destined to be the next permanent appointee to the position of Hydrographer RAN, however he chose otherwise. Cook proved to be riddled with equipment problems due to questionable workmanship by the builder during the 1970s and 1980s.


Left: Captain Ian Pullar, RAN standing in front of HMAS Cook. Right: HMAS Cook at sea in 1981.
Left: Captain Ian Pullar, RAN standing in front of HMAS Cook. Right: HMAS Cook at sea in 1981.

Cook was eventually home ported in Sydney in mid-1981 but the plethora of mechanical and electrical engineering problems with the ship caused the ship to spend an inordinate amount of time undergoing corrective maintenance. As a result Ian Pullar submitted his resignation at the end of 1981 and left the RAN in January 1982 after 30 years of service.

He initially worked for the Australian Yachting Federation and competed in the 1983 Sydney-Hobart yacht race in his yacht Odin. In 1988 he purchased a 100 acre property near Armidale, NSW and began producing Lowline cattle. The Pullars moved to Mudgee in the early 1990s where they bought a larger property and operated a Lowline cattle stud for the next few years. In the late 1990s they returned to Sydney residing in Seaforth.

Ian was also a very keen fly fisherman often spending several months in New Zealand trout fishing at the Mataura River. In 2006 he published 'New Zealand's Mataura River: A Fishing and Access Guide'. He also made model yachts for his family and friends. Captain Ian Pullar died in Sydney on 3 January 2019. He was survived by his wife Erica and their three children.