Last Minutes of a Forgotten Hero – Teddy Sheean
"The men in the water gasped in amazement as they saw the blood stained, desperate youngster
Australians can be proud of a true Aussie hero, eighteen year old Able Seaman Edward "Teddy" Sheean. Teddy started his life on 28th December 1923 at a town called Barrington in Tasmania. Growing up in Latrobe, Tasmania, he went to a Catholic school until he started working with his father as a carpenter.
On the 21st April 1941, Edward "Teddy" Sheean volunteered to join the Royal Australian Navy as an Ordinary Seaman. Whilst he was in the service he joined the new Bathurst class Corvette ship called HMAS Armidale.
The ship left the shores of Sydney on the 22nd August 1942 for what was to be the last time. The Armidale was attached to support Australian operations and help to replenish Allied Forces in Timor.
On the 1st of December 1942 on route to Timor, the Japanese launched their bombers and fighters on the ship. The Armidale sustained crippling damage and the captain ordered, "Abandon ship."
Japanese attack swimming men
Cowardly and savagely the Japanese aircraft began strafing the survivors in the water who were trying to swim to safety. He saw his fellow seamen being killed. Although he was wounded, Sheean manned the 20mm Oerlikon gun aft of the ship and began attacking the Japanese aircraft.
Sheean, twice wounded, unselfishly protected his shipmates in the water as he downed one aircraft and damaged two others.
Bravely Sheean continued to protect his shipmates disregarding his own safety. Knowing the fate he sealed for himself, he stayed at his post attacking the onslaught of the Japanese aircraft as the ship slipped down to its watery grave.
"The men in the water gasped in amazement as they saw the blood stained, desperate youngster wheel his gun from target to target… Then came the most incredible sight of all - the ship plunged down and the sea rose up past Sheean's waist to his shattered chest, but he still kept firing, and as the gun itself was dragged into the sea, its barrel kept recoiling and shots kept pouring from it. Even when there was nothing left of the ship above water, tracer bullets from Sheean's gun kept shooting up from under the water in forlorn, bizarre arcs, It was an act of sublime and selfless, heroism."
from author F.B. Walker
Forty-seven of the 149 men aboard lost their lives. Many of the survivors owe their lives to Able Seaman Edward "Teddy" Sheean for his gallant act of bravery.
Amazingly Sheean was never awarded any medals for the gallantry of his single-handed battle against Japanese bombers and fighters. He was, however, posthumously "Mentioned in Despatches."
Navy honours Sheean
In May 1999, the Royal Australian Navy honoured him by naming its fifth Collins class submarine after him. This is believed to be the first warship in the history of Australian or British navies to be named after an ordinary seaman.
"The launch of the Sheean pays tribute to an astonishing act of bravery and selflessness by Teddy Sheean which stands out in time and is also symbolic of the heroic feats performed by many other ordinary Australians in wartime."
Chief of Navy, VADM Chalmers.
Speech by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence the Hon Bruce Scott MP at the launch of the new submarine SHEEAN.