World War II hero Teddy Sheean will receive his posthumous Victoria Cross today, exactly 78 years after his death.
Governor-General David Hurley will present Sheean’s family with the nation’s highest military award at a ceremony in Canberra on Tuesday.
Mr Sheean was 18 when he sacrificed his life defending his compatriots, after his ship HMAS Armidale was sunk by a Japanese air assault off the coast of what is now East Timor.
He helped launch multiple life rafts, before returning to fire at enemy aircraft despite orders to abandon ship. He kept firing until the Armidale sank, giving others time to escape.
He was killed during the assault.
Veterans Affairs Minister Darren Chester said the award was the culmination of a decades-long push for justice.
“It’s an extraordinary story (and an) extraordinary act of valour,” he told Sky News.
“This is a great day for Teddy’s family and for all those who served in Royal Australian Navy.
“I think it’s important that he was recognised, even though it has been a long time coming.”
The Queen agreed in August to make him the recipient of Australia’s 101st Victoria Cross. He is the first Australian navy officer to receive the award.
The announcement came after years of lobbying from his family and friends.
Governor Hurley described the decision as “momentous” for Sheean’s family and the Defence community as a whole.
“Teddy Sheean exemplifies the characteristics that our serving men and women have demonstrated in conflicts throughout history and that now define Australia: mateship, endurance, courage and sacrifice,” he said in August.
“In remembering Teddy, acknowledging his service and honouring his courage, we also preserve the legacy of the generations that have served and shaped our nation.”