Senate debates

Wednesday, 2 December 2020


Sheean, Ordinary Seaman Edward (Teddy), VC

7:57 pm

Photo of Anne UrquhartAnne Urquhart (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Yesterday, Tuesday 1 December, was a somewhat special day to some but not to others. Seventy-eight years ago on the same day, Ordinary Seaman Edward 'Teddy' Sheean went down with his ship, HMAS Armidale, losing his life at the age of 18, with so much of his life unlived and sadness and tragedy for his family, friends and loved ones.

Yesterday, Teddy's family, after all that time, received into their hands the VC which was finally awarded to Teddy. Teddy died as he strapped himself to an Oerlikon gun. In an act of gallantry, he chose certain death to ensure that his comrades had a chance to live. HMAS Armidale had been hit by two torpedoes and a bomb from the air. Ordinary Seaman Teddy Sheean disobeyed the order to abandon ship and fired back at the Japanese aircraft. He was wounded in the chest and in the back but continued to fire, shooting down one bomber and keeping the other aircraft away. He was seen, still firing the gun, as the Armidale sank. Forty-nine of the 149 of his shipmates who had been on board survived. The citation for his Victoria Cross says that his pre-eminent act of valour and most conspicuous gallantry saved Australian lives.

Teddy's nephew Garry Ivory accepted the medal from the Governor-General in a quiet ceremony in Canberra yesterday. Mr Ivory has campaigned tirelessly for 32 years for his uncle's bravery to be recognised. Congratulations to Mr Ivory and to all those involved for the many, many hours and years that they've put in to ensure that Teddy was recognised.

Teddy was born in 1923 in Lower Barrington, a small rural village near Latrobe, just a few kilometres south-east of my office in Devonport. In Latrobe there's a memorial, and a lovely walk through an avenue of honour along a peaceful path all the way to the lovely Bells Parade. It's named the Sheean Walk. I spent some time there a few months ago to reflect on the sacrifice that Teddy made for his country. I'm sure that the sun is shining brighter at Sheean Walk today. All Tasmanians—in fact, all Australians—are very proud to call Edward 'Teddy' Sheean, VC, one of our own.

Senate adjourned at 20 : 00