Aussie War Film ‘Armidale’ Announced

Great news. It looks as if a film is to be made about the HMAS Armidale. It seems it will cover much more than just those last few minutes (be a very short film otherwise). It certainly sounds promising.

By FilmInk Staff
May 28, 2020

Armidale will tell an extraordinary true story of WW2 bravery and desperation.

Despite Australia’s rich military history and plethora of tales of underdog battlefront spirit, our list war movies is surprisingly short, with recent flicks like Danger Close: The Battle Of Long Tan and Escape And Evasion real rarities.

They will soon be joined, however, by Armidale, which tells the extraordinary WW2 true story of the sinking of the Aussie ship HMAS Armidale, which was sunk by the Japanese in a three-minute hellfire off the coast of East Timor on December 1, 1942.

After the sinking, the ship’s 100 surviving crew members – under the astute and impassioned leadership of Captain David Richards – found themselves stranded at sea, split between a small leaking motorboat, an old whaler and a cobbled together raft.

There was a full enquiry, but the results were never made public and remained classified for over 50 years. Consequently, the story of the Armidale and the incredible bravery of its men was never acknowledged or rewarded. In total, only 46 of the 149 men aboard survived.

Armidale will be brought to the screen by veteran director Craig Monahan (who will co-write with John Cundill), who has impressed with his films The Interview, Peaches and Healing.

A major part of the film is sure to be the involvement of the Armidale’s heroic 18-year-old gun loader Edward “Teddy” Sheean who was controversially denied the Victoria Cross. “Teddy Sheehan stayed at his post during the three-minute firefight and went down with the ship, his gun still firing,” says Craig Monahan. “Sheean was extraordinary, but his actions are but one part of the fascinating and multi-layered Armidale story.”

Action, excitement, desperation, heroism and tragedy…the elements are certainly all there for a truly cinematic experience.

“This a story that needs to be told” says Craig Monahan.  “It is an extraordinary true story, with great heart and emotional depth with a political sting in the tail. There is great heroism and tragic loss which, sadly, might have been avoided. It is, above all, the story of the individuals involved and the people at home waiting for their loved ones to return.

Within the Australian Navy, the story of Armidale is legendary. The Australian Navy Patrol Boats are called Armidale Class and in 1999 a Collins-class submarine was named The Sheean. I will be very proud to bring this story to the screen.”
HMAS Armidale
HMAS Armidale

Here are some of the interesting comments on that story:

My name is Phil Reedman I’m the youngest son of Denis Reedman leading telegraphists a Survivor from HMAS Armidale. Dad and I were very close. I have some very personal stories from the Sinking that my father told me..
Would love to talk to Craig Monahan or Don Groves about these stories from my father.  Teddy Sheean helped save my fathers life.

Colin Payne
This is incredible news I am one of the sons of Keith and Flo Payne.
Over the last thirty years or so my farther Keith Payne VC has been involved in the petitioning of the Australian Government to the heroism of Teddy Sheean properly recognise which was turned down again by the Government even after a independent comity formed by the Government has recommended that Teddy Sheean should be posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his heroism on that fateful day in which Teddy Sheean made the ultimate sacrifice and in so doing saved many of his shipments lives.
I would all all Australian to contact their Federal Government members and strongly urge them to support the petition for Teddy sheean Victoria Cross

My name is Garry Ivory, nephew of Teddy Sheean, I have been trying to get my uncle the VC for 32 years

Christopher Hartley
My father John Hartley NX78025 was one of the men of the 2/2 Australian Independent Company waiting on Portuguese Timor for HMAS Armidale to arrive on 01 Dec 42 to evacuate them back to Darwin after fighting a guerilla campaign against the Japanese from 20 Feb 42 through to Dec 42.
The Independent Company waited in vain and later received a signal from Darwin that they would not be picked up as planned. They waited another two weeks for the Dutch destroyer Tjerk Hiddes to arrive and then bring them home on 16 Dec 42.
At that point, the Independent Company learned of the Armidale’s fate, and grieved for those lost…
It would be great if the film includes footage of the men waiting on Timor for the Armidale.

Can’t wait to see how the movie turns out, having spent 13 years myself in the RAN and as a gunnery Sailor always hearing about Teddy and his Valour.
With being adopted as a baby, I recently took DNA test search my biological history and I was amazed to find out my connection to the HMAS Armidale through Ordinary Seaman Freddie Fracis Smith who is my Great Uncle.
Unfortunately Freddie succumbed to wounds from that 3 minutes of action and took a couple of days to pass from the wounds inflicted. Looking forward the production. Lest We Forget.

I’m really looking forward to this !

Edward ‘Teddy’ Sheean & the fate of HMAS Armidale

Some of the Aussies on here may already be aware of Ordinary Seaman Teddy Sheean’s heroic actions and his having been mentioned in dispatches.

There has been an ongoing movement to have this revised to a Victoria Cross, quite rightly in my view.

When the Victoria Cross was created the original warrant stated that the Victoria Cross would only be awarded to officers and men who had served in the presence of the enemy and had performed some signal act of valour or devotion.

Given that this brave sailor must have known he would be sacrificing his life in the act of defending the men evacuating his sinking ship (the Armidale )  – surely that qualifies as a ‘signal act f valour or devotion’

The PM has convened an “expert panel” to again look at the issue of awarding the VC retrospectively.

Sailor’s wartime heroism to be revisited

11 June, 2020

Prime Minister, Scott Morrison has announced the establishment of an expert panel to consider the retrospective awarding of a Victoria Cross medal to Ordinary Seaman Edward ‘Teddy’ Sheean (pictured) for his actions nearly 80 years ago.

Mr Morrison said overturning the decision made at the time not to award the Victoria Cross for Mr Sheean’s heroic actions in 1942 would need to be supported by compelling reasons.

“That is why the Government’s view and clear policy is that consideration of the awarding of a retrospective Victoria Cross would only occur in light of compelling new evidence or if there was evidence of significant maladministration,” Mr Morrison said.

“Given there are different views on whether there is compelling new evidence about Sheean’s actions in 1942, I have commissioned an expert panel.”

In 1942, Ordinary Seaman Sheean’s vessel, the Armidale, while on course for Timor, was struck by Japanese bombs and torpedoes, forcing its crew and personnel to abandon ship.

Seaman Sheean – only 18 years old at the time and wounded – continued to man his gun and return fire, affording his shipmates coverage as they leapt into the water.

Seaman Sheean went down with his ship.

Mr Morrison said the expert panel would provide him with advice as to whether the 2019 review by the Defence Honours and Awards Appeal Tribunal had any significant new evidence, not available to the previous reviews, and which was compelling enough to support a recommendation by the Government that Mr Sheean’s Mention in Despatches be replaced by a Victoria Cross.

The panel is to be haired by former Minister for Defence and former Director of the Australia War Memorial, Brendan Nelson.

Other members include former Solicitor-General, David Bennett; former Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Peter Shergold; and Senior Curator and Historian at the NSW ANZAC Memorial, Brad Manera.

The panel is to report to the Prime Minister by 31 July.

This is  discussion which has been occurring for some time.

From an article dated 2018 –

His nephew, Garry Ivory, has spent the past 29 years fighting for the “appropriate recognition” for his uncle.

Every attempt has been met with a roadblock.

In 2013 the Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal would not recommend a posthumous Victoria Cross, while the UK Ministry of Defence refused to even investigate the case in early 2017.

Let’s hope we finally have an Australian seaman awarded a VC !