A young Australian sailor is to be honoured with the nation’s highest award for bravery – 78 years after he was killed in action.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday recommended that the Queen award the Victoria Cross to Edward (known as ‘Teddy’) Sheean after a 30-year struggle by his family and supporters.
Sheean refused to abandon ship and kept firing
At the time of his death Sheean, from Tasmania, was an 18-year-old seaman on the Royal Australian Navy ship the HMAS Armidale when it was sunk by Japanese aircraft off the coast of what is now Timor-Leste in December 1942.
Despite the ship sinking and the order having been given to the crew to abandon ship, Sheean helped to launch the life rafts and then, seeing the Japanese aircraft firing at his ship mates as they struggled in the water, he returned to his anti-aircraft gun to resume firing at them.
He is presumed to have gone down with the ship and was never seen again.
Prime Minister ordered medal claim re-examined
The Prime Minister had previously ordered an expert panel to re-examine the claim for Sheean to receive the Victoria Cross after it was previously turned down.
The panel comprised the Director of the Australian War Memorial, Brendan Nelson (Chairman), former Solicitor-General David Bennett QC, former Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Peter Shergold, and Senior Curator and Historian at the NSW Anzac Memorial, Brad Manera.
“I would say to all Australians as we live through the most significant adversity in our lifetimes, approaching the 75th anniversary of the Second World War, let Teddy Sheean inspire us to be a people that are selfless, caring and brave,” Nelson said.
Compelling evidence to support award of medal
In announcing that he would be recommending the VC award be made, the Prime Minister said: “There is compelling new evidence in support of higher recognition for Sheean, [and] that Sheean was done a substantial injustice in consideration of his actions in the original decision-making period in 1942 to 1943.”
He continued: “Sheean’s courageous sacrifice of his life to save his shipmates makes him eligible for the Victoria Cross for Australia, and the highest level of recognition should be accorded in this exceptional case.”