Luke Gosling – Honouring Teddy Sheean

Written by on 03/06/2020


1942 was the year Australia came under the most serious threat.  Singapore fell on the 15th of February and Darwin was bombed.  In Timor the Australian Commandos were cut off and began a guerrilla warfare campaign.  With the help of the Timorese they fought through the year.  In late 1942 they were being resupplied and reinforced by brave Australians in the Navy, by people like Teddy Sheean and his comrades on the HMAS Armidale.

Edward “Teddy” Sheean was an 18 year old, ordinary seaman serving on the HMAS Armidale whose death during a Japanese aerial attack on his ship has become a well-known episode in Australia’s WW2 Heritage.

On 1 December 1942, the Armidale was in the Timor Sea, north of Darwin, when it was attacked by no less than thirteen Japanese aircraft. The crew on board were in the fight of their lives. After being struck multiple times, the order was given to abandon ship. The survivors leapt into the sea where they were machine-gunned by the marauding Japanese aircraft. 

Teddy Sheean returned to the sinking HMAS Armidale from the relative safety of a lifeboat so that he could fire a gun at the Japanese aircraft that were strafing his comrades in the water. 

Although wounded in the chest and back, Teddy scrambled back to his gun on the sinking ship. He shot down one bomber and kept other aircraft away from his comrades in the water.  He kept firing to his last breath and went down with the Armidale.

Only 49 of the 149 men who had been on board survived the sinking and the ensuing days in life rafts.

Recently the Defence Honours and Awards Tribunal unanimously recommended that Teddy Sheean receive Australia’s top military honour, the Victoria Cross. However, the Federal Government announced last week it would not accept the recommendation.

Top End Military Historian Tom Lewis has called the decision disgraceful and he should know, Tom is the author of a book on Teddy Sheean called Honour Denied.

This is not a partisan campaign, politicians from all sides are asking for this Federal Government decision to be reversed.

I and thousands of others would like to hear from the Prime Minister as to why Teddy Sheean doesn’t deserve a Victoria Cross.

Would it be any different if teddy had been from Sydney? Or if his family was connected? Would it be any different if that young man had had a different upbringing, in a different place, in a different time? 

I think it’s shameful that the Federal Government has decided that Teddy Sheean does not deserve the Victoria Cross, and I ask the Federal Government to explain to us all why they think their opinion matters more than the unanimous view of the independent Defence Honours and Awards Tribunal.

Office of Luke Gosling OAM MP

Federal Member for Solomon

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