18 year old Teddy Sheean strapped himself in to the anti-aircraft gun of his sinking ship and shot down Japanese fighters during a skirmish.
The teenager, who was a part of the Royal Australian Navy during World War Two carried on shooting Japanese fighter planes and even a bomber out of the sky even whilst his ship, HMAS Armidale, was plunging to the bottom of the Indian Ocean.
His ship had been hit by torpedos as it sailed a long with HMAS Castlemaine back to Darwin, Australia after an operation in Timor.
Despite helping to lift off a life raft and being hit twice by the Japanese plane’s bullets, Sheean decided to return to his anti-aircraft gun and fought off the enemy whilst his friends managed to get to rescue.
His fellow Australian sailors say that due to his actions dozens of them were able to get away.
Sheean sank with the ship and 99 of his comrades.
Teddy, originally from Tasmania, was awarded the Mention in Dispatches posthumously.
However, many eyewitnesses believed he should have been given the ultimate honour for his bravery and sacrifice but this was rejected.
Previous attempts at having Sheean awarded a VC have been unsuccessful, with a 2013 inquiry finding Sheean’s actions “did not reach the particularly high standard required for recommendation of a VC”, and the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence refusing to consider him for the accolade in 2017.
In May this year, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said a review held in 2019 by the Defence Honours and Awards Tribunal had found “no new evidence that might support reconsideration of the valour inquiries recommendation”.
Soon after that announcement, tribunal chairman Mark Sullivan wrote to Ms Reynolds saying she had misrepresented the findings of the tribunal, demanding she “correct the record”.
And now the Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison has pushed to have Teddy Sheean receive the highest honour saying the VC was a “very serious award” and the government had a “very special responsibility to ensure that the integrity of the Victoria Cross is upheld for all those who have been honoured”.
He said he had written to Governor-General David Hurley to recommend the late war hero receive the award.
The family of Teddy Sheehan have been fighting for the recognition for more than 30 years.
Sheean’s nephew, Garry Ivory, said in May the review had given the family cause to be “very hopeful that this will get us over the line”.
At a media conference this afternoon, he said he cried tears of joy when he was told of the PM’s recommendation.
“I’ll remember two dates forever now: the 1st of December 1942 is when Teddy’s action was, and now the 10th of August 2020 is going to be a very, very special date in my mind forever,” he said.
In a statement, Tasmania’s Minister for Veteran Affairs Guy Barnett said today’s announcement was “worthy recognition of an extraordinary Tasmanian”.
Mr Barnett, a longtime campaigner for Sheean to receive the award, said he and Sheean’s family “always believed the evidence was overwhelming and it has been an honour working with Garry and the Sheean family these past 17 years to ensure Teddy’s bravery and sacrifice is recognised appropriately”.
“We also particularly acknowledge the only remaining survivor of the Armidale, Ray Leonard, who witnessed Teddy’s actions in 1942 and has been an inspiration and great supporter,” he said.
“The motto of the HMAS Armidale was ‘Fight On’ and all of those involved in this campaign can now rest, satisfied that on behalf of Teddy and his crew mates we did fight on relentlessly, sometimes when the odds seemed against us.
“Teddy’s extraordinary bravery and sacrifice to protect his mates should be a time to reflect, and also celebrate, for all Australians — especially at a time when we need inspiration.”
The Queen of England will award the VC to Teddy Sheean’s family.
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