When Leading Seamen Alisha Mosley and Alan Williams arrived at Brisbane Airport ready for duty on Operation COVID-19 ASSIST, they could not have imagined what they were about to experience.
They were checking passes of interstate arrivals on 29 November when a passenger called out to them.
“A man coming off a flight from Melbourne called out to Leading Seaman Williams and myself asking if we wouldn’t mind coming over,” Leading Seaman Mosley said.
“As soon as we saw the Victoria Cross as part of the mounted replica medals, we realised that whoever this guy was, he was fairly important.
“He introduced himself as Terrance Quinn, the great-nephew of Ordinary Seaman Teddy Sheean, VC.”
On 1 December, the family of Teddy Sheean was presented with the Victoria Cross of Australia, awarded posthumously to Ordinary Seaman Sheean for his actions aboard HMAS Armidale (I) during World War II.
The family agreed for the original medal to be displayed at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
Mr Quinn shared the incredible story of his great-uncle, the only member of the Royal Australian Navy to receive the Victoria Cross.
Leading Seaman Mosley said she would never forget the experience.
“It was an incredible honour to meet Mr Quinn and hold Teddy’s replica medals. Unforgettable,” she said.
Earlier this year, after a long campaign, an expert panel recommended to the Australian Government that Ordinary Seaman Sheean be considered for the Victoria Cross.
On 12 August, Governor-General General (Ret’d) David Hurley announced that Queen Elizabeth had approved the awarding of the medal to Ordinary Seaman Sheean for his actions during World War II.
Shortly before 2pm on 1 December 1942, HMAS Armidale was attacked by at least 13 Japanese aircraft, and a torpedo later struck the vessel’s port side.
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 Japanese aircraft.
Once he had helped free a life raft, Ordinary Seaman 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 the 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.