What would Ordinary Seaman Edward ‘Teddy’ Sheaan think if he could have seen the events on the manicured lawns of Government House at Yarralumla in Canberra on this first day of summer of this crazy year of 2020?
What would Ordinary Seaman Edward "Teddy" Sheaan think if he could have seen the events on the manicured lawns of Government House at Yarralumla in Canberra on this first day of summer of this crazy year of 2020?
A gathering of our nation's most powerful and most respected assembled under a marquee, shielded from the bright sunshine, along with his family to honour his incredible sacrifice on this day in 1942.
It is wrong that Australia has taken so long to properly acknowledge the extraordinary bravery of Ordinary Seaman Sheaan but today's ceremony has finally righted that wrong, as he became the first Navy crew member to be awarded the Victoria Cross, Australia's highest military honour.
As Governor-General David Hurley noted, the story of his gallantry touches us all because it exemplifies the Anzac spirit – mateship, endurance, courage and sacrifice.
Ordinary Seaman Sheean was just 18 years old, the youngest member of the crew of HMAS Armidale on patrol off the coast of East Timor, when the vessel came under heavy attack from 13 Japanese aircraft.
The Armidale was struck by two torpedoes and, as it started rapidly sinking, the order was given to abandon ship.
But as survivors leapt into the sea, they were machine-gunned by the enemy aircraft.
The young sailor helped launch a life raft, then disobeyed orders and returned to his gun, strapped himself in and began firing at the Japanese fighter planes.
Navy records show that, although he was wounded in the chest and back, he managed to shoot down one bomber and keep other aircraft away from his comrades in the water.
The last sight of Ordinary Seaman Sheean was him still firing his gun as HMAS Armidale slipped below the waves.
In total, 49 of the 149 men who'd been onboard survived.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison was unable to join today's ceremony in person, as he remains in quarantine following his trip to Japan.
But, in a video message, he spoke for many when he asked what made this young man from Tasmania do what he did that day, "to forsake a possible rescue, climb a listing deck and strap himself in?"
"Whatever it was that caused Teddy Sheean to act so decisively and determinedly on that afternoon with blue skies and calm seas, we find ourselves drawn to it," Mr Morrison said.
Mr Morrison speculated that maybe Ordinary Seaman Sheean yearned to live up to the example of his five older brothers who joined the service before him.
The governor-general quoted the last surviving sailor from the Armidale, Dr Ray Leonard, who has described Ordinary Seaman Sheean as "a popular, affable, warm, likeable man. He didn't speak quietly. He was not lacking in confidence, he was a go-getter."
Whether it was something in his character or his upbringing that brought out such courage, his actions on that day are truly inspirational.
"His story resonates because as Australians, we continue to see and hope to see part of Teddy in the world around us – selflessness, loyalty and honour," the Governor-General said.
Now, 78 years on, his family was able to beam with pride and hold the little bronze cross which will forever honour the extraordinary achievements of Ordinary Seaman Edward "Teddy" Sheean, bringing an end to their long struggle and, for them, making 2020 a great and positive year in a country made so much better so long ago by the exploits of their heroic relative.
Source: 9News https://www.9news.com.au/national/victoria-cross-medal-awarded-to-teddy-sheean-hmas-armidale-sinking-wwii/d80f758f-26dc-42ef-a4f4-ebb71fa8b5bf