22 October 2010

Victoria Cross may be awarded for World War II

ZUI this article from the Sydney Morning Herald:
THE NAVY will reopen its archives from World War II to examine whether any of its sailors should be awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for valour.

Of the 97 VCs won by Australians since the Boer War, four have gone to the Royal Australian Air Force and the rest to the army. The navy has never received one.


[Tasmanian] Senator [Guy] Barnett suggested the honour should go to Captain Hector "Hardover Hec" Waller, who went down with his ship, the cruiser HMAS Perth, after a valiant midnight battle against an overwhelming Japanese invasion force off Java in 1942.


The Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Russ Crane, said it was "difficult to rationalise" why no Australian sailor had won the VC.

Naval historians say the explanation lies in a quirk from Australia's colonial past. While VCs for the army and the air force could be awarded by Australian governments, until long after World War II any for the navy had to be approved by the Admiralty in London. Their lordships in Whitehall apparently never saw fit to do so.


Another likely candidate would be Ordinary Seaman Edward "Teddy" Sheean, an 18-year-old from Tasmania who strapped himself to an anti-aircraft gun on the corvette HMAS Armidale and shot down an attacking Japanese bomber as his ship took him to the bottom of the Timor Sea in December 1942.

ZUI also this article from the Morning Herald:
Senator Barnett said 117 of Britain's 1,353 VCs had gone to sailors. Of the 94 Canadians awarded the VC, four were sailors, while New Zealand's 25 VCs included one to a sailor.

Pressing the British Admiralty can be too daunting for some Australian and British officers, Senator Barnett said.

Remedies include re-opening the end of war list, which would permit re-examining acts of valour in previous conflicts, or new legislation through parliament, Senator Barnett.

His candidates for a retrospective VC include Ordinary Seaman Teddy Sheehan, lost on HMAS Armidale in December 1942, Captain Hec Waller, lost on HMAS Perth in March 1942, Lieutenant Commander Robert Rankin, lost on HMAS Yarra in March 1942 and Captain Henry Stoker, commander of the submarine AE-2 which penetrated the Dardanelles at the start of the Gallipoli campaign in 1915.

Vice Admiral Crane said these were outstanding people who had been recognised in other ways. Collins submarines have been named after Sheehan, Waller and Rankin.

Wikipedia has articles on Waller, Perth, Sheean, Armidale, Rankin, Yarra, Stoker and AE2.

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