Teddy Sheean panel stated it best possible when it discovered the 'true story had …

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Edward ‘Teddy’ Sheean was the youngest and most junior sailor on HMAS Armidale when he died defending his ship from a Japanese attack during World War II.

The 18-year-old was unwounded when he ignored orders to abandon the sinking ship, rejecting the potential safety of an escaping motorboat to instead strap himself to an anti-aircraft gun and fire in defence of his shipmates.

About Sheean
Sheean is a surname and may refer to:

Teddy Sheean (1923–1942), sailor in the Royal Australian Navy
Vincent Sheean (1899–1975), American journalist and novelist
HMAS Sheean (SSG 77), fifth of six Collins-class submarines operated by the Royal Australian Navy
Diana Forbes-Robertson, also known as Diana Sheean, wife of Vincent Sheean (1915–1987), British writer

Teddy Sheean panel said it best when it found the 'true story had …

About 'true

Mr Sheean’s extraordinary actions were credited with damaging two enemy aircraft and helping save the lives of 49 crew. Sadly, the young Tasmanian went down with the ship.

Despite these well-documented and well-known acts of bravery, it has taken almost eight decades to convince anyone in power that the farm labourer-turned-war hero deserved Australia’s highest military honour.

Teddy Sheean panel said it best when it found the 'true story had …

That day finally came on Monday, when Prime Minister Scott Morrison backtracked on his previous refusal to support a Victoria Cross for Sheean and announced his Government would recommend the honour on the advice of a panel he convened.

“Sometimes justice takes a long time, but I’m pleased that it’s now being addressed,” Mr Morrison said.

Mr Sheean’s story is straightforward. His path to a Victoria Cross has been everything but.

PM accepts recommendation to award Teddy Sheean the Victoria Cross
Announcing the decision, Mr Morrison said justice sometimes “takes a long time”.(News Video)

Monday’s panel finding was the latest in a long line of inquiries into Sheean’s actions.

After Sheean’s death, he was awarded a Mention in Dispatches. This was based on a “hastily written” Report of Proceedings submitted immediately after the attack, which skimmed over the events and misspelled Sheean’s name.

A 2013 inquiry looked at the Tasmanian’s case for greater recognition among 13 others.

It recommended against awarding him a Victoria Cross, arguing his actions “did not reach the particularly high standard required for recommendation of a VC”.

That was based on a government policy which called for compelling new evidence or proof of maladministration to retrospectively award the Victoria Cross.

A second inquiry was held last year to look at Sheean’s case alone.

Its terms of reference meant it was unconstrained by those same policies and was instead able to examine the sailor’s actions only against the eligibility criteria for the Victoria Cross.

That Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal panel ultimately unearthed new evidence despite not being required to do so — and unanimously recommended Sheean receive the honour.

One would think the next step was obvious. But the 2019 report was kept secret until pressure was put on the Prime Minister’s office to make it public.

At that point it was revealed the Federal Government had actually rejected the independent tribunal’s recommendation, arguing no new and compelling evidence was found.

Black and white portrait of Edward 'Teddy' Sheean
The Queen will now consider the VC recommendation for Sheean, who died at the age of 18.(Supplied: Australian War Memorial)

Attacks and counter-attacks ensued. One news outlet reported the Defence Chief had warned the Federal Government against awarding Sheean the Victoria Cross because it might upset the Queen.

Another newspaper reported that the chief of the Defence honours tribunal had accused Defence Minister Linda Reynolds of misleading the Senate when rejecting the findings of last year’s panel. Indeed, she later corrected the record.

For the first time in recent history, Labor MPs backed the oft-dismissed cause long championed by dogged Tasmanian Veterans’ Affairs Minister Guy Barnett.

Garry Ivory
Sheean’s nephew Garry Ivory has campaigned for VC recognition for 32 years, supported by MP Guy Barnett.

There was even a robo-poll from a Liberal-aligned company quizzing Tasmanians on whether it was important to them that Sheean’s actions were recognised.

It was under these circumstances that Mr Morrison announced yet another panel — this time, what he called an “expert panel”, which Labor described as a blow to the Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal — to look into Sheean’s case.

Two of the panel’s four members were paid more than $60,000 for six weeks’ work to state what seemed obvious to long-term Sheean campaigners.

The Prime Minister’s office has defended the latest review as an attempt to make up for the discrepancies between the recommendations of the 2013 and 2019 panels.

The expert panel even found new evidence to support Mr Sheean’s case after translating Japanese war records.

But cynical political minds privately believe this was a move from the Federal Government to back the 2019 inquiry’s findings as broader public sentiments swayed towards Sheean.

‘Gun still firing as ship sank’

Eyewitness accounts of Edward ‘Teddy’ Sheean’s act of extraordinary bravery in 1942

Read more

The latest panel report found that years of missteps and stiff government policy had stopped Sheean from receiving the honour.

There was also a fear that it could open the floodgates to more retrospective awards; former defence minister and Australian War Memorial director Brendan Nelson, who chaired the expert panel, on Monday said that was unlikely, as Mr Sheean’s was an extraordinary case.

Of course a high standard must be achieved in order for an Australian to receive a Victoria Cross.

But the Government’s own panel said it best, finding in its report: “The true story of Sheean had always been there.”

Aerial view of HMAS Sheean ploughing throw the waves.
A Collins Class Submarine was named in Sheean’s honour but a Victoria Cross has proved problematic until now.(ABPH Joanne Edwards)