The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (H1617) Seaman Edward Sheean, HMAS Armidale, Royal Australian Navy, Second World War

Accession Number PAFU2013/150.01
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 1 December 2013
Access Open
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copy provided for personal non-commercial use

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Joanne Smedley, the story for this day was on (H1617) Seaman Edward Sheean, HMAS Armidale, Royal Australian Navy, Second World War.

Speech transcript

H1617 Ordinary Seaman Edward Sheean, HMAS Armidale
KIA 1 December 1942
Photograph: 044154

Story delivered 1 December 2013

Today we remember Ordinary Seaman Edward Sheean, who died during the Second World War on 1 December 1942.

Born on 28 December 1923, Edward "Teddy" Sheean was the 14th child of James and Mary Sheean. Growing up in Latrobe in northern Tasmania, Sheean attended a local Catholic school and afterwards worked on nearby farms. Following the outbreak of war, he enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy in April 1941. Five of his brothers also served in the forces - four in the army and one in the navy.

In June 1942, Sheean was posted to the corvette HMAS Armidale as an Oerlikon anti-aircraft gun-loader. The corvette was initially tasked with escort duties in the waters of northern Australia and Papua. In an undated letter to his mother, Sheean commented, "I don't think you need to be frightened of any of us not coming back."

Armidale arrived in Darwin in early November. Later that month it and the corvette HMAS Castlemaine sailed to Timor to reinforce the small Australian force fighting on the island and to evacuate exhausted troops and some Portuguese civilians. On 1 December, the corvettes rendezvoused with the naval tender HMAS Kuru, which had already evacuated some civilians. These civilians were transferred to Castlemaine and it returned to Darwin.

Armidale and Kuru continued towards Timor. From 12.28 pm both vessels came under repeated attack from Japanese aircraft and the Australian ships separated. Kuru made it back to Darwin. Armidale, however, fought against attacking aircraft into the afternoon. Finally, at 3.15 pm, nine bombers, three fighters and a floatplane attacked the vessel. Hit by two torpedoes and possibly a bomb, Armidale rolled over and sank in three or four minutes.

Sheean, though wounded, kept firing an Oerlikon gun even as the ship sank, and brought down a Japanese bomber. His final actions feature in many of the accounts from Armidale's survivors. Ordinary Seaman Russel Caro afterwards reported:
Teddy died, but none of us who survived, I am sure, will ever forget his gallant deed ... When the order "Abandon ship" was given, he made for the side, only to be hit twice by the bullets of an attacking Zero. None of us will ever know what made him do it, but he went back to his gun, strapped himself in, and brought down a Jap plane, still firing as he disappeared beneath the waves.

Only 49 of the 149 men on board the Armidale survived the sinking and lived to be rescued. Sheean was one of the dead. He was just 18 years old.

In addition to a posthumous Mention in Dispatches, Sheean's sacrifice had been honoured in many different ways. In his hometown of Latrobe he is remembered with the Teddy Sheean Memorial and the Sheean Walk. In February 2001 the RAN commissioned a Collins-class submarine HMAS Sheean. It was the first RAN ship to be named in honour of a naval rating.

Sheean is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial in Britain. His name is also listed here, on the Roll of Honour on your right, along with some 40,000 other Australians who died during the Second World War.

We now remember Ordinary Seaman Edward Sheean, and all of those Australians who have given their lives in service of our nation.

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