Queen approves award of Victoria Cross to WWII hero

| August 13, 2020

Consider this an early Valor Friday. The story is too incredible not to relay immediately.

Another case of long overdue recognition has been righted this week. Queen Elizabeth II yesterday approved award of the Victoria Cross for Australia (posthumous) to Ordinary Seaman Edward “Teddy” Sheean (RANR).

Sheean was only 18 when he died protecting his fellow sailors from Japanese attack as their ship went down on December 1, 1942 in in the Arafura Sea. A legend in the Royal Australian Navy, his heroism was only recognized with a posthumous Mention in Dispatches (roughly equivalent to an American Bronze Star w/ “V”). After nearly 80 years, he is finally receiving the Victoria Cross, the UK and Commonwealth’s highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy.

On that fateful day, Seaman Sheean was one of 149 men assigned to the corvette HMAS Armidale (J240) when they were attacked at about 1300 hours by a flight of five Japanese dive bombers. They damaged two aircraft and the other three missed their mark. An hour later several Japanese Zero fighters engaged the ship, distracting their guns, while a flight of nine torpedo bombers attacked Armidale. At one point during the battle a torpedo was released late, streaking through the air in front of the ship’s bridge before hitting the water.

Fighting to evade the enemy, the besieged ship was struck in quick succession by two enemy torpedos. The first hit the mess deck, killing many of the troops being housed there, and the second hit the ship’s engine room. This was immediately followed by the detonation of a bomb on the aft portion of the ship. The ship was lost. The order was given to abandon ship.

Despite being injured in the battle, Sheean helped free lifeboats. The Japanese fighters, seeing the sailors entering the water, turned away from attacking the ship and instead strafed those in the life rafts. Seeing this play out, Sheean took two hits from the attacking aircraft, one to his chest and one in the back. In spite of these grievous wounds, he clawed his way across the ship’s deck and strapped himself into the ship’s aft Oerlikon 20mm cannon.

It was from that cannon position that he single-handedly engaged the enemy fighters, as the ship was sinking beneath him. He downed one enemy plane, kept firing as the water rose up around him, and damaged at least two other planes. He remained at that post, firing the gun until the stern went below water, engaging the enemy as the gun disappeared from sight. Survivors testified that they saw tracers from the cannon as the young sailor fought past his last breath.

Victoria Cross

Many of the 49 survivors credit Sheean with saving their lives. Sheean was one of 100 Allied troops who died that day. His VC is the first ever awarded to a member of the Royal Australian Navy. He is one of only 101 Australians to have ever received the VC, and one of only 21 Australians who received the medal for actions during World War II.

Source; ABC (Aus)

 

Category: Aussies, UK and Commonwealth Awards, Valor, War Stories, We Remember

Comments (15)

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  1. Jay says:

    “ORDINARY Seaman” my ass….

    Teddy Sheean is an EXTRAORDINARY Seaman.

  2. 5th/77th FA says:

    DAAAAYYUUUUM! A crew served weapon, floating Artillery, served by just one man, still firing thru the water as the ship sank.

    “…no greater love.”

    Gun Salute…All Batteries…Volley Fire!

    Thanks Mason, a twofer of Heroes. You do realize that this is no way relieves you of the responsibility of providing a Valor Friday Post.

  3. Graybeard says:

    Greater love has no man…

  4. Jay says:

    I keep reading, and RE-reading this. Its frigging unbelievable. He took TWO damn rounds to the chest and back. These were not small rounds. Then he crawled and STRAPPED THE FUCK INTO his own 20mm cannon, knowing the recoil would rock the shit out of him, and still took one of the bastards out and keep firing. Holy shit.

    • FuzeVT says:

      A6M had the following Guns:
      2× 7.7 mm (0.303 in) Type 97 aircraft machine guns in the engine cowling, with 500 rounds per gun.
      2× 20 mm (0.787 in) Type 99-1 Mk.3 cannon in the wings, with 60 rounds per gun.

      Yes, not small rounds – either one.

      • David says:

        Not to dispute his actions at all, but .303 is roughly a .30-06 class cartridge and was what the Enfield service rifle’s chambering.

        • Slow Joe says:

          A .303 in the chest is no joke, no matter on what part of the chest it hits you.

          In the end, it doesn’t matter if Seaman Teddy Sheean really got shot in the chest or not. It might have been fragmentation or some other thing. When the shit goes down there is a lot of confusion.

          What does matter its that Seaman Sheean fought literally to his last breath to save his battle buddies.

  5. FuzeVT says:

    I wonder what took it so long to be awarded. Sounds like there were plenty of witnesses and the act was well known.
    I guess like our awards system, theirs might need some overhauling as well.

    • Jay says:

      Apparently bureaucracy knows no nationality:

      “In 2011, at the direction of the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, Senator David Feeney, the Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal opened an inquiry into thirteen cases of unresolved recognition for past acts of gallantry. Among the group were eleven naval personnel, including Sheean. Known as the ‘Valour Inquiry’, the Tribunal was directed to determine if the individuals were unduly overlooked for recognition at the time of their actions and, if so, whether late awards were appropriate. The inquiry lasted two years and included 166 submissions from 125 individuals and organisations, before the Tribunal reported its findings in January 2013. In the case of Sheean, the Tribunal found that there was no manifest injustice with the award of the Mention in Despatches, and that there was no new evidence to support the consideration of Sheean for the Victoria Cross for Australia. If Sheean had lived, they reported, he might have been recommended for either the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal or the Distinguished Service Medal instead, but neither medal could be awarded posthumously in 1942.”

      One other thing: “crewmates later testified to witnessing tracers rising from beneath the water’s surface as Sheean was dragged under.”

      • Mason says:

        For comparison’s sake; The CGM was the second-level award for valor in the face of the enemy for Other Ranks (i.e. enlisted and warrants). The DSM was the OR version of the Distinguished Service Cross, with both being the third-level award for combat bravery.

        So the CGM would be comparable to a Navy Cross and the DSM would compare most with a Silver Star in the American awards system.

  6. Messkit says:

    The ship certainly sank much faster than normal, due to the massive steel balls of Seaman Sheean.

  7. Steve says:

    An amazing story and a great Aussie hero.

    What a legend.

  8. Aussiepusser says:

    Finally his heroism has been acknowledged.
    My husband proudly served in HMAS SHEEAN (SSG77) from 2001 to 2003.