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  • Writer's pictureHelen Avaient

Edward Sheean VC was a true Australian hero from Tasmania

Updated: Oct 20, 2023

In the town of Latrobe Tasmania there is a 2.9km walking trail named - the Teddy Sheean Walk, named after a true Australia hero. Edward (better known as "Teddy") Sheehan was born near here and soon after his birth, the family moved to Latrobe, where he grew up.

The walk is a favourite of mine and takes around an hour to complete. Notice the word walk there, but some people do run it in less time.

a map of the route of the Teddy Sheean walk in Latrobe Tasmania

Any time of the year is a good time to enjoy this trek that takes you from the centre of town, up and over a hill, along a river, then back into town. It does make one wonder however, just who is Teddy Sheean and why did they name a walk after him?

a circular plinth at the start of the Teddy Sheean Walk has a bronze three dimensional picture of his face

Fortunately there is signage near the start of the walk in the main street, that tells of the bravery of this young man. I initially held back tears, but they finally defeated me and spilled down my cheek, as I read of Teddy's strength and bravery in World War II.

Shortly before 14:00 on 1 December 1942, Armidale, by then separated from Kuru, was attacked by no less than thirteen aircraft. The corvette manoeuvred frantically. At 15:15 a torpedo struck her port side and another hit the engineering spaces; finally a bomb struck aft. As the vessel listed heavily to port, the order was given to abandon ship. The survivors leapt into the sea and were machine-gunned by the Japanese aircraft. Once he had helped to free a life raft, Sheean scrambled back to his gun on the sinking ship. Although wounded in the chest and back, the 18-year-old sailor shot down one bomber and kept other aircraft away from his comrades in the water. He was seen still firing his gun as Armidale slipped below the waves. Only 49 of the 149 men who had been on board survived the sinking and the ensuing days in life rafts.

There is only one ship in the Royal Australian Navy that bears the name of a junior sailor - the HMAS Sheean, a Collins Class submarine, named after Teddy.

a plaque tells the story of the Collins Class Submarine named the HMAS Sheean and the details of the submarine

Recognising his selfless actions, in 2020, Ordinary Seaman Sheean was awarded the posthumous award of the Victoria Cross. He is the first member of the Royal Australian Navy to be awarded this incredibly well deserved honour, Australia's highest honour of valour. On 1 December 2020 a ceremony was held at Government House in Canberra and his family presented with the insignia. This was exactly 78 years to the day since his death. This award, along with the walk, means that the bravery and sacrifice of this young man will never be forgotten.

Along the path are posts topped with plaques describing various conflicts of war that Australia has been involved with.

plaques along the Teddy Sheean walk state various skirmishes Australia has been involved with and details of the event. This one is about Malaya and the Japanese invading on December 8, 1941

This peaceful path allows the visitor to reflect on the sacrifices that countless men and women have made over the years. It also allowed me to be grateful for the peace and freedom that we enjoy today. Looking at this beautiful countryside, inhaling the fresh air is invigorating, and must have often been thought of by Teddy when he was away during the war.

a curved walkway, concreted, with tall trees on either side
a concrete path through tall trees, dead branches and leaves litter the sides of the path

Native animals stop to stare at passerbys and this delightful creature even appears to pose for a photo. Remember, these are not pets, do not attempt to touch them or feed them. With the right respect, we can all co-habitate together.

a pademelon crouches on the ground looking at walkers passing by. This furry marsupial looks like a tiny kangaroo

Up and over Dooley's Hill there are some steeper parts to navigate, but achievable even by moderately fit people.

There is seating available in various spots along the path, where you can catch your breath or just sit and surrender to the beauty of the bush surrounding you.

Walk down the hill and across a road brings to the Bells Parade in Latrobe, a lovely riverside park, where platypus play in the waters here.

a wooden seat next to the river looks out over the water onto the fields bordering the other side and the hills in the distance

Beautiful at any time of year is this enchanting part of Latrobe. My last walk here was during winter. The temperate was around ten degrees celcius and I was rugged up in winter woolies, but the crisp air and clear skies were glorious.

a large tree by the river is leafless in winter

Then it is a wander along the main street to arrive back where you started this loop. The main street of Latrobe is a shopping wonderland, but that is a story for another day.

The tale of Edward "Teddy" Sheean stays with you long after you leave the walk named after him. I send a "Thank you for your service" thought to the universe in his name.

Lest We Forget!

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