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Tas war hero Teddy Sheean awarded VC

A picture of Ordinary Seaman Teddy Sheean is seen during an announcement in relation to the awarding of a Victoria Cross at a press conference at Government House in Canberra, Wednesday, August 12, 2020. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch) NO  ARCHIVING

A picture of Ordinary Seaman Teddy Sheean (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

On the 78th anniversary of his heroic World War II actions, Teddy Sheean has posthumously been awarded Australia's highest military honour for giving his life to save his mates.

Governor-General David Hurley on Tuesday presented the Victoria Cross to family of the ordinary seaman at a ceremony at Government House in Canberra.

Tasmania-born Sheean died aged 18 in 1942 when the HMAS Armidale was sunk by Japanese bombers in the Timor Sea.

He strapped himself to an anti-aircraft gun, fired at enemy planes as the ship went down and is credited with saving the lives of 49 crewmates.

"He gave his life so those who remained on the surface had a fighting chance at survival," Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Michael Noonan said on Tuesday.

"Teddy did not choose sacrifice in an attempt to win a war, he did it to save his friends."

Governor Hurley remembered Sheean as charismatic and full of confidence.

"His rowdy last night in Latrobe (in northern Tasmania) before departing is still a strong part of local folklore," he said.

"In the words of his nephew, who was 11 when Teddy went off to the war ... 'He never picked a fight, but he never walked away from one'."

Sheean's family, including nephew Garry Ivory who was at the ceremony, was among those who have for decades fought for recognition.

Governor-General David Hurley (L) presents the Victoria Cross to Garry Ivory, nephew of Ordinary Seaman Edward ‘Teddy’ Sheean on the 78th anniversary of his death while trying to save his shipmates during World War II, in Canberra, Tuesday, December 1, 2020. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING
Governor-General David Hurley (L) presents the Victoria Cross to Garry Ivory, nephew of Ordinary Seaman Edward ‘Teddy’ Sheean on the 78th anniversary of his death while trying to save his shipmates during World War II, in Canberra, Tuesday, December 1, 2020. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) 

Scott Morrison gave a video address saying Sheean's story will "grow with the ages".

"He now takes his place as one of the guiding lights of the country he indeed served to save," the prime minister said.

Sheean, the youngest of 14 children, is the first member of the Royal Australian Navy to receive a Victoria Cross.

An expert panel in July found an earlier decision to deny him a Victoria Cross was wrong, with Mr Morrison describing it as a "substantial injustice".

The Queen in August agreed to award Sheean the medal, the 101st Victoria Cross to be given to an Australian.

It will be put on display at the War Memorial's Hall of Valour.

HMAS Sheean, a Collins Class submarine, is the first and only Royal Australian Navy ship to bear the name of an ordinary seaman.

© AAP 2020

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