Her Majesty The Queen has approved the posthumous award of the Victoria Cross for Australia to Ordinary Seaman Edward ‘Teddy’ Sheean – just two days after the Governor General asked her.
The Victoria Cross is the highest award for bravery.
Defence said in a statement this afternoon that this was a great honour for the late Teddy Sheean, for his family, for his shipmates, for the Royal Australian Navy and for the Australian Defence Force.
On 1 December 1942, HMAS Armidale came under aerial bombardment and torpedo attack from Japanese aircraft.
The ship was badly damaged and the crew was ordered to abandon ship.
As the enemy continued to fire upon the ship and his shipmates already in the water, 18-year-old Ordinary Seaman Sheean chose not to abandon ship as ordered and returned to the aft Oerlikon gun.
Despite being wounded enroute, he strapped himself in to shoulder mounts and harness and commenced firing the gun at the enemy, shooting down one aircraft and possibly damaging others while also attempting to disrupt and distract the enemy aircraft from strafing and killing his defenceless shipmates in the water.
Despite severe and possibly fatal wounds, Sheean continued firing the gun even as the ship slipped under the waves, dragging him with it to his grave.
Ordinary Seaman Teddy Sheean deliberately sacrificed his own life trying to save his shipmates.
Of the 149 people on board the ship that day, 100 were lost, with many of the survivors attributing their survival to Sheean.
EDITOR’S NOTE: I have long supported the campaign to award the VC to Teddy Sheean – and I wholehearted congratulate all those who campaigned for it.
However, I can’t help but feel a certain hypocrisy in Defence’s headline statement, on this occasion, that “Teddy Sheean’s bravery and sacrifice has long been recognised and honoured by the Department of Defence and the Royal Australian Navy“. Yes, I know they named a submarine after him etc – but, it’s not three months since the same ADF and RAN issued a public statement rejecting the unanimous review-committee’s recommendation of VC – with Chief of Navy the number one objector during that review.