News & Blog

A VC after 78 Years

Posted on Tue, 11 August 2020 by Phil Mussell - General News, Medal News

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has recommended that Her Majesty the Queen posthumously award Royal Australian Navy Ordinary Seaman Edward 'Teddy' Sheean a Victoria Cross, some 78 years after the action for which it is to be awarded took place. 

Tasmanian Sheean was just 18 years old and had been serving at sea less than two years when the minesweeper HMAS Armidale came under heavy attack from Japanese aircraft off the coast of what is now Timor-Leste on December 1 1942.

Despite the order to abandon ship, Sheean helped launch life rafts before returning to his anti-aircraft gun to fire at enemy aircraft that were strafing his shipmates as they floundered in the water. Witnesses of the action say that they saw him firing at the Japanese planes even as the ship sank, he didn't survive. 

Attempts to get Sheean recommended for the VC have failed in the past with a 2013 inquiry finding that his actions didn't "reach the particularly high standard required". in 2017 the UK MoD again decided against awarding Sheean a VC.  A review last year attempted to reverse that decision but Morrison himself rejected its findings. He then called a further review which has, in turn, recommended that the Victoria Cross should be awarded, Morrison has now accepted that and on August 12 Her Majesty approved the award

The question now remains as to which VC Sheean will receive. as an Australian will he perhaps receive the Victoria Cross for Australia, an award not in existence in 1942 or will it be a "British VC appropriate for the timing of the action?