Latrobe Catholic school’s proud links to VC hero

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Home > Media > News > Latrobe Catholic school’s proud links to VC hero
Latrobe Catholic school’s proud links to VC hero

Students and staff of St Patrick’s School at Latrobe have joined the wider community in acknowledging the bravery of Second World War naval hero Edward ‘Teddy’ Sheean, whose gallantry has been recognised with a Victoria Cross almost 78 years after his death.

Five current students – Year 6s Matilda, Luca, and Aiden, along with Year 1 Ellie and Prep Xavier – and two staff members at St Patrick’s School are relatives of Ordinary Seaman Sheean, who was himself a student at the school in the 1930s.

On August 12, Queen Elizabeth II approved the Australian Government’s recommendation to award a posthumous Victoria Cross for Australia to Teddy Sheean, following years of campaigning by his family and supporters.

Edward (Teddy) Sheean was born in Lower Barrington, on the North West Coast, on December 28, 1923. He was one of 16 children born to labourer James Sheean and his wife, Mary.

The family moved to Latrobe where Teddy and his siblings were educated by the Sisters of Mercy at St Patrick’s Catholic School.

Teddy Sheean started at St Patrick’s on January 28, 1930 and received his First Communion on May 21, 1931. In 1931 the weatherboard school comprised a small room for infant and year 1 students, a larger room for years 2, 3 and 4, and a hall for years 5, 6 and 7 classes. Teddy left school in Year 5 to work as a bush carpenter with his father.

Relatives of Teddy Sheean continue the family’s links with the school, including current students, back from left, Matilda (Year 6), Luca (Year 6) and Aiden (Year 6); and (front) Ellie (Year 1) and Xavier (Prep).

Current school principal Rod Linhart said the school community has long been proud of its high profile former student. Students who take part in the school trip to Canberra every two years are experts at finding Teddy Sheean’s name at the Australian War Memorial.

“Members of St Patrick's Convent School, along with many others far and wide, are very proud of Teddy Sheean being awarded posthumously the Victoria Cross and to see the Sisters of Mercy, in particular the wonderful Sr Aquinas, acknowledged as Teddy’s teachers,” he said.

“In 2016 Mrs Margaret Mackey, whose four children were fourth generation students at St Patrick’s Catholic School, presented Garry Ivory, Teddy’s nephew with Teddy’s St Patrick’s School record obtained from the school’s registrar. Teddy’s name, one of six ex-St Patrick’s pupils who sadly lost their lives [in war], is inscribed on the St Patrick’s Church memorial gates.

“We will be dedicating a space in our school history displays to Teddy Sheean as a tribute to his bravery, to recognise his enrolment in the school, his achievement and the family and community connections that continue to this day.”

At 17 years of age Sheean joined the Royal Australian Naval Reserve as an ordinary seaman in Hobart on April 21, 1941.

Five of his brothers had already joined the armed forces – four in the army and one in the navy. He was just 18 when he died on board HMAS Armidale on December 1, 1942. He refused the chance to board a lifeboat while his ship was sinking, returned to his anti-aircraft gun, shot down at least one fighter plan, damaged others and went down with the ship while defending his shipmates from enemy attack.

He was posthumously awarded a Mention in Despatches for his gallantry. There are memorials in his honour in Latrobe (where there is also a Sheean Walk) and at Corvettes Corner in Shropshire Naval Memorial Park in Ulverstone, and one of the Royal Australian Navy’s Collins Class submarines bears his name.

His is the 101st Victoria Cross awarded to an Australian since 1900 and the 15th VC awarded to a Tasmanian. It is also the first Victoria Cross for the Royal Australian Navy.

The Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Guy Barnett, led the campaign for the VC. He said: “I believe Teddy Sheean is a real hero and demonstrated courage, mateship and sacrifice… The Sheean family has already indicated that Teddy’s Victoria Cross will be donated to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra so that it can be shared by all Australians, and a tour of Tasmania for the medal is also planned in the future.”