'Ted was the sort of boy who would do anything for his mates'

Nineteen-year-old Ordinary Seaman Edward 'Teddy' Sheean died strapped to an Oerlikon anti-aircraft gun in HMAS Armidale. On 1 December 1942 the corvette, which was transporting Dutch and Indonesian troops to Timor, was attacked by 13 Japanese warplanes near the Timor coast. Armidale started to sink and after the call to 'abandon ship', the crew and troops dived over the side. But, seeing his shipmates being machine-gunned in the water, Sheean scrambled back to his gun and despite shocking wounds he continued to fire at the Japanese aircraft – shooting one down and damaging two others. Teddy Sheean was posthumously Mentioned in Despatches and many of the men who survived the sinking owe their lives to Ordinary Seaman 'Teddy' Sheean.

The fifth and newest of the Australian-built Collins Class submarines, HMAS Sheean, commemorates the heroism of 19-year-old Ordinary Seaman Edward 'Teddy' Sheean. It is the first time in Australian naval history that a warship has been named after a junior sailor. Sheean's sister, Mrs Ivy Hayes, launched the submarine in Adelaide on 1 May 1999.

HMAS Armidale had sailed from Darwin in November 1942 with 149 men on board. The corvette headed for Timor where she was to land Dutch colonial troops and withdraw Australian guerrillas. Armidale was just 100 kilometres south of Timor when she was attacked by Japanese aircraft and hit by two torpedoes. The ship sank in less than five minutes. The oil-covered survivors, many of whom were wounded, swam for lifeboats and rafts. Two groups of survivors were recovered after several days and a search was begun for the others. The third group of sailors who escaped on a raft were photographed by the pilot of a Hudson reconnaissance aircraft who dropped a message to say rescuers were coming. Later air and sea searches in the area failed to find them. The Dutch troops also were all lost after sailing away from the Australians in a small raft.

Ninety-eight of the men on board Armidale died.

Last updated: 1 February 2019

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2019), 'Ted was the sort of boy who would do anything for his mates', DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 24 October 2021, https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/wars-and-missions/world-war-ii-1939-1945/events/japanese-advance-december-1941-march-1942/fall-timor/ted-was-sort-boy-who-would-do-anything-his-mates
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