The Australian War Memorial has welcomed Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement that he has recommended the Queen posthumously award Second World War hero Edward “Teddy” Sheean the Victoria Cross.
The recommendation was made following a review by a panel of eminent Australians, led by former Memorial Director, Dr Brendan Nelson AO, that found compelling new evidence in support of higher recognition for Sheean.
Ordinary Seaman Edward Sheean was killed during the attack by Japanese aircraft which sank the Bathurst Class corvette HMAS Armidale in the Arafura Sea on 1 December 1942. After the order to abandon ship, Sheean stayed at his post at the aft Oerlikon gun, firing as the ship sank.
Memorial Director Matt Anderson said he welcomed the decision and it would now be a matter for consideration by the Queen.
“By any measure, the courage demonstrated by Ordinary Seaman Edward Sheean on 1 December 1942 was extraordinary. He set an example for all and for all time by his selfless act of bravery. It is a story more Australians will now know,” Mr Anderson said.
The Victoria Cross for Australia is the only award within Australia’s Honours and Awards system that requires Her Majesty’s approval. The process is for the Governor-General to convey to Her Majesty the Queen the Australian Government’s recommendation and, if approved, the Governor-General would, in due course, make the posthumous investiture.
Of the 149 men on board Armidale, 47 died when it was attacked; only 49 men were rescued a week after the sinking. Ordinary Seaman Russel Caro, who survived the attack, later said:
“Teddy died, but none of us who survived, I am sure, will ever forget his gallant deed ... When the order abandon ship was given, he made for the side, only to be hit twice by the bullets of an attacking Zero. None of us will ever know what made him do it, but he went back to his gun, strapped himself in, and brought down a Jap plane, still firing as he disappeared beneath the waves.”
Sheean was posthumously Mentioned in Despatches "for bravery and devotion to duty when HMAS Armidale was lost”. In May 1999 Sheean was honoured by the Royal Australian Navy when Collins Class Submarine No. 5 was named HMAS Sheean, the first occasion on which a RAN vessel was named after an ordinary seaman.
In 1987 the Royal Australian Navy Corvettes Association erected a plaque in memory of Sheean in Corvettes' Corner at Shropshire Park, Ulverstone, Tasmania.
If invested by the Queen, Teddy Sheean will be the first member of the Royal Australian Navy to receive the Victoria Cross.