Teddy Sheean VC – A Selfless Act of Valour. By Tom Lewis. Big Sky Publishing, Newport NSW, 2021
Reviewed by Greg Swinden
The author played a significant role in putting forward the case for the award of the Victoria Cross (VC) to Ordinary Seaman Edward ‘Teddy’ Sheean as part of the 2012-13 Inquiry into unresolved recognition for past acts of naval and military gallantry and valour. He also produced the 2016 book Honour Denied – Teddy Sheean – A Tasmanian Hero; part of the campaign to continue the fight for the long overdue award of the posthumous VC to Teddy Sheean. So I can think of no better author to write the final book on this long journey to see justice done and honour rewarded.
The depth of the author’s knowledge is shown throughout the book from his many years of working with the extended Sheean family and includes some previously little known information regarding Teddy, such as his engagement to a local Tasmanian girl on his last leave and that after his death she never took off the engagement ring or married.
Interviews with Armidale survivors, over a number of years, flesh out the whole story of Armidale’s final action, Teddy Sheean’s heroism and the equally poignant drama of the rescue of who did survive the sinking of the corvette. A pleasing note is the countering of some of the HMAS Armidale myths, perpetuated in previous books, particularly the completely unsubstantiated rumours of the Japanese Navy finding and killing a raft load of Armidale survivors.
The story of the campaign to have Teddy Sheean awarded the VC is well described as is the lack of VCs for Hec Waller of Perth and Robert Rankin of Yarra; although the book fails to mention the award of the Unit Citation for Gallantry in 2014 to the entire ship’s company of the sloop HMAS Yarra for their whole-ship gallantry – effectively a VC for the ship due to their collective bravery.
I was however disappointed with some aspects of the book as it does look like a ‘rush job’ to get the story out. A number of spelling errors, poor quality maps, some photos of limited relevance and what I would term as ‘historical padding’ (back ground data of limited value to the main storyline) indicate a lack of proof reading and also detract from the main story line. Endnotes are used effectively but there is no index. Tom’s previous book on this matter Honour Denied – Teddy Sheean: A Tasmanian Hero is a far more readable and high quality publication.
Overall Teddy Sheean VC – A Selfless Act of Valour is an easy read and a suitable memorial to Teddy Sheean and the ship’s company of HMAS Armidale (I).