Darwin author Tom Lewis’s latest book is being launched this week – but in Tasmania rather than in the Territory.
The writer’s publisher, Avonmore Books of South Australia, advises that Honour Denied – Teddy Sheean, A Tasmanian Hero, is being launched by the Premier of Tasmania, Will Hodgman, at Parliament House in Hobart on Tuesday 31st May. The author then has a series of book signings and appearances around the state.
Teddy Sheean died north of Darwin in 1942, when the corvette HMAS Armidale came under intense attack by Japanese bombers and fighters. Sheean, a gunner, went back to his 20mm Oerlikon rather than obey the order to abandon ship. He fired until the ship sank beneath him. Many of his shipmates thought he should have been given the Victoria Cross.
Honour Denied analyses why Sheean – and in fact other naval heroes as well – have never been given a Cross. Lewis argues that the system at the time was intrinsically unfair for Navy people, as their awards were processed through the parent force, Britain’s Royal Navy, rather than put through an Australian system, as was the case with the Army and the RAAF.
Lewis points out that other heroes, such as Hec Waller of the Perth, and Robert Rankin of HMAS Yarra, were also denied the highest award. In Rankin’s case no decoration of any sort was given to any member of the ship’s company, despite the warship’s gallant defence of a convoy against overwhelming force. A similar action in the Atlantic saw a VC go to the commander of HMS Jervis Bay.
The book investigates Sheean’s background in considerable detail. He was secretly engaged – something which has never been revealed before. There is a considerable examination of the criteria for the award of the Victoria Cross – the author shows it has indeed been awarded many years after the relevant combat action, and its criteria has been arbitrary over the 150+ years of its existence.
Honour Denied – Teddy Sheean, A Tasmanian Hero is available from Avonmore Books www.avonmorebooks.com.au and at bookstores.
Specialist military history publisher and distributor