TRANSCRIPT – RADIO INTERVIEW – ABC DRIVE – MONDAY, 10 AUGUST 2020
ABC DRIVE ADELAIDE WITH JULES SCHILLER
MONDAY, 10 AUGUST 2020
SUBJECT: Teddy Sheean.
JULES SCHILLER, HOST: What did Teddy do to earn the military’s highest honour? And why has it taken him so long to finally get the award? I’m joined now by a Labor MP, he’s the Member for Solomon, Luke Gosling. Welcome Luke.
LUKE GOSLING, MEMBER FOR SOLOMON: G’day Jules, how are you?
SCHILLER: Now Luke you have a military background yourself, don’t you?
GOSLING: Yes I was in the military for 13 years. I served in the parachute infantry and commandos and served up in East Timor, which is where I first came across the story of the HMAS Armidale.
SCHILLER: All right now before we go into the reasons why it’s taken so long, can you describe what Teddy Sheean did, Luke? You talk about the Armidale where he was assigned. So what happened and why has his bravery been so rewarded?
GOSLING: So it was towards the end 1942. There were commandos on East Timor, or Portuguese Timor as it was called then, fighting against the Japanese. They were being resupplied from here in Darwin by ships like the Armidale. The Armidale had gone in to the south coast of Timor and was taking commandos and civilians off and resupplying the ones that were still there. And it was set upon by a number of Japanese fighter aircraft that sent bombs and torpedoes and Armidale started sinking. Now the order was given to abandon ship, but Teddy Sheean saw the Japanese aircraft shooting at his mates in the water, and he just stayed with his gun and started firing back at the Japanese aircraft and accounted for at least one of them, which the guys that were in the water say definitely saved many of their lives; but Teddy Sheean, wounded, went down with the Armidale to a watery grave.
SCHILLER: These guns weren’t easy to operate, were they Luke? It usually took a crew of four to five to fire these anti-aircraft guns?
GOSLING: Yeah it was difficult to use. But Teddy just kept firing until the ship went under the waves. It was a huge effort, just phenomenal, and his mates in the water obviously appreciated the reprieve. Just a couple of hours ago I spoke to the last remaining Armidale survivor, a veteran called Ray Leonard in Melbourne. He’s now 97 and was just over the moon, because like many others he’s been fighting for Teddy Sheean to be properly recognised for decades.
SCHILLER: Now at the time I believe Teddy Sheean was mentioned in dispatches, which means that he was acknowledging his bravery, but it’s taken this long for him to be awarded the Victoria Cross. So what has caused the delay?
GOSLING: Well unfortunately for the Navy during WW2, their Honours and Awards were decided by the British admiralty, unlike the Air Force and the Army, whose decisions around awards were made in Canberra. Unfortunately for the Navy, the decisions on their awards were made in London, and as a result, none were awarded. Now Teddy Sheehan’s heroism has been the stuff of legend in the Navy, but what the Navy has been forced to do over the years because of this the different way in which the feats of their heroes were were managed or processed, is that they’ve started naming the ships and submarines after these heroes of WW2. In fact I’ve been in the submarine, the Royal Australian Navy submarine HMAS Sheean last year. So there are a lot of happy Navy people and a lot of happy military people and veterans, no matter what service they served in because finally what should have been a no brainer to everyone for decades is finally being acknowledged. Teddy Sheean was an absolute Australian hero who gave his life.
SCHILLER: Luke, why did you take up the cause? Why was it important to you?
GOSLING: I remember as a young lad being at the Australian War Memorial and seeing that famous painting of Teddy Sheean and reading about this young Australian from Tasmania, 18 years old, serving his country and defending the nation in 1942, the darkest hours of our nation. Darwin had been bombed significantly and he just decided to protect his mates in the water over and above his own life. It is an extraordinary story and it should have been dealt with a long time ago, and I guess the thing that’s had us scratching our heads, is why when the independent Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal said unanimously that Teddy Sheean should receive the Victoria Cross over a year ago, the Prime Minister knocked it back. I’m not making a political point, I’m just pointing out that someone was worried, and I hear that the Prime Minister took that advice, that the Queen would be displeased if Teddy Sheean was to be awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously. So what the Prime Minister did as a result of pressure from the family in Tasmania, from veterans all around the country, is get Brendan Nelson, an esteemed Australian and former defence minister and former leader of the Liberal Party, to do a review. Obviously we were very critical of that because there’s a review of an independent tribunal that had already said that Teddy Sheean deserves a VC. So, finally Brendan Nelson said to Scott Morrison, of course Teddy Sheean should be awarded a VC and today the Prime Minister has agreed. It’s taken him a while to get there but it is good news. Again, I’m not making a political point, I’m just saying that there’s a good reason for these independent tribunals. It said that Teddy should get the VC and a lot of people in the military are very happy that this day has finally come. Not only for Teddy Sheean’s family, not only for the Navy, but for our nation, as today a grave injustice has been righted.
SCHILLER: Luke and I know people like yourself and Jacqui Lambie and many, many others have been campaigning for this Victoria Cross to be awarded posthumously so thank you for your time. It must be a must be a good day for you.
GOSLING: Yeah you know, you have your ups and downs in politics but today is a good day and I’m looking forward to getting back to Canberra.
SCHILLER: All right, Luke Gosling thank you very much.
GOSLING: Cheers Jules.