Home Asia Pacific Australia awards Victoria Cross to seaman Teddy Sheean

Australia awards Victoria Cross to seaman Teddy Sheean

Teddy Sheean Victoria Cross
Governor-General General (retd) David Hurley with Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Mike Noonan at the announcement of the award of the VC to Ordinary Seaman Edward "Teddy" Sheean at Government House, Canberra. Photo: Australian defense department

The Australian government has awarded the first Victoria Cross to a Royal Australian Navy member as it approved a posthumous award for Ordinary Seaman Edward “Teddy” Sheean in recognition of his brave actions during World War II.

During a special media event at Government House on August 12, it was announced the Queen had approved a Victoria Cross for Ordinary Seaman Sheean.

Governor-General General (retd) David Hurley said he relayed the news to Ordinary Seaman Sheean’s nephews.

“It is a momentous day for the Sheean family and their pride and emotion was evident,” Governor-General Hurley said.

“We will now work with the family and the Navy to arrange an investiture ceremony that will pitch the magnitude of the award.”

In 1942, Ordinary Seaman Sheean was the youngest crewman on the Australian minesweeper HMAS Armidale as a loader for the ship’s Oerlikon anti-aircraft guns.

Less than six months later in the vicinity of Timor, HMAS Armidale came under coordinated torpedo and bomb attack by enemy Japanese aircraft.

Returning to his station while wounded, the 18-year-old Sheean strapped himself to the anti-aircraft gun and opened fire at the enemy. He tried to defend his shipmates who had abandoned ship and were being strafed by gunfire from the enemy aircraft.

Witnesses described how he hit at least two enemy aircraft before he went down with the ship.

Attending the announcement, Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Mike Noonan said Ordinary Seaman Sheean’s heroism was a standard by sailors of the modern Navy to aspire to.

“It is indeed a great day for our Navy, our nation and for a young Australian sailor who paid the highest price to save his shipmates from certain death,” Vice Admiral Noonan said.

“His spirit of courage, sacrifice and service is an enduring part of our Navy, living on through our fleet and our people.

“This is a proud moment for his family who have fought for many decades for this outcome and I congratulate them on their perseverance.

“The Victoria Cross for Australia is a great honour for the late Teddy Sheean, for his shipmates, for the RAN, for the ADF and for our nation.”

HMAS Sheean, a Collins-class submarine, is the first and only ship in the RAN to bear the name of an ordinary seaman.