Australian War Memorial – VC Awardees Display

The following story was uncovered by Association member Mick James. Having just returned from a visit to the AWM, I totally agree that this new display is a fitting addition to the Hall of Valour. At its centre it features our most recent posthumous awardee – Ordinary Seaman Edward ‘Teddy’ Sheean VC – 78 years after his selfless act of bravery (description below).
Martin O’Sullivan
Mick takes up the story:
I’ve just come across this new AWM display of V C awardees. See photo.
While it doesn’t say so, it is the 1st occasion where the AWM  could mount a VC Display including the 3 Services. All VCs were in WW2.
We have (from left to right) John Edmondson VC, for actions at Tobruk, our own 2/31st Battalion Jimmy Gordon VC, Sir Roden Cutler VC AK KCMG KCVO CBE, Teddy Sheean VC,  Sir Hughie Edwards VC KCMG CB DSO OBE DFC, Flt Sgt Rawdon Middleton VC, and Flt Lieut William Newton VC.
The RAAF Victoria Crosses are probably less well known. This is an outline of them-
Wing Commander Sir Hughie Edwards VC Citation reads – “On 4th July 1941 over Bremen Germany: Wing Commander Edwards led a formation of bombers, in daylight, at a height of about 50 feet through telephone wires and high-tension cables to attack the heavily defended port. The bombers successfully penetrated fierce anti-aircraft fire and a dense balloon barrage. Further fire over the port itself resulted in the loss of 4 aircraft. His task completed, Wing Commander Edwards brought his remaining aircraft safely back to base although all of them had been damaged.”
The Bust in the right corner of the display is that of Sir Hughie.
Flt Sgt Middleton was awarded his VC for a raid over Turin, Italy on 28-29  November 1942.he was in command of a Stirling Bomber which was hit by anti-aircraft fire over the target. One shell burst into the cockpit destroying his right eye & wounding the co,pilot and Wireless Operator. Although there was heavy flack, he released his bombs on the target and continued his return journey over the Alps in a heavily damaged aircraft. He managed to cross the Channel and ordered his crew to bail out over land with only 5 mins fuel left. Five landed safely while 2 remained with him.
He then turned the aircraft out to sea to avoid crashing into civilians. The 2 crew parachuted into the sea but drowned. He did not survive the crash. His VC was awarded posthumously. In Feb 1943 his body was washed ashore at Dover and he was buried with full Air Force Honours.
Flt Lieut Newton was awarded his VC for completing 52 operational sorties  over the Salamana isthmus, New Guinea from May 1942 to 16 March 1943.
On 17 March 1943 he returned to the same target and at a low level successfully bombed a single building, but his aircraft burst into flames. With great difficulty, he turned the aircraft  towards the sea to give the crew a chance to survive. Two members of his crew swan to shore.
Although his cockpit didn’t open initially, he also managed to swim to shore. However he and his Flt Sgt were captured by the Japs and later executed. The brutal beheadings on 29 March 43 were described in a captured Jap Diary in October 1943. The VC Award was posthumous.
The No. 4 airfield at Nadzab New Guinea, was named in his honour. This airfield played an important part in landing the 25th Brigade (including the 2/31st Battalion) in their push down the Markham Valley to capture Lae in September 1943. It was later a major Allied Airfield for the remainder of the War.
LEST WE FORGET
Mick James
The new Display in the Hall of Valour
It is also appropriate to include the story of Teddy Sheean

Edward ‘Teddy’ Sheean was born on 28 December 1923 at Lower Barrington, Tasmania, fourteenth child of James Sheean, labourer, and his wife Mary Jane, née Broomhall. Soon afterwards the family moved to Latrobe. Teddy was educated at the local Catholic school. Five foot 8½ inches (174cm) tall and well built, he took casual work on farms between Latrobe and Merseylea. In Hobart on 21 April 1941 he enlisted in the Royal Australian Naval Reserve as an Ordinary Seaman, following in the steps of five of his brothers who had joined the armed forces (four of them were in the Army and one in the Navy). On completing his initial training, he was sent to Flinders Naval Depot, Westernport, Victoria, in February 1942 for further instruction.

In May Sheean was posted to Sydney where he was billeted at Garden Island in the requisitioned ferry Kuttabul, prior to joining his first ship as an Oerlikon anti-aircraft gun loader. Granted home leave, he was not on board Kuttabul when Japanese midget submarines raided the harbour and sank her on 31 May. Eleven days later he returned to Sydney to help commission the new corvette HMAS Armidale (I), which carried out escort duties along the eastern Australian coast and in New Guinea waters. Ordered to sail for Darwin in October, Armidale arrived there early next month.

On 29 November Armidale sailed for Japanese-occupied Timor, in company with the corvette HMAS Castlemaine, to withdraw the exhausted Australian 2/2 Independent Company, evacuate about 150 Portuguese civilians and 190 Dutch troops, and land soldiers to reinforce Dutch guerrillas on the island. Arriving off Betano before dawn on 1 December, the ships rendezvoused with the naval tender HMAS Kuru, which had already taken the civilians on board. When these people were transferred to Castlemaine, she sailed for Darwin, leaving the other two vessels to carry out the rest of the operation. From 12:28 Armidale and Kuru came under repeated attack from Japanese aircraft. Despite requests, no air cover was received.

The Loss of HMAS Armidale (I)

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.

Recognition

Sheean was mentioned in dispatches for his bravery and in 1999 HMAS Sheean, a Collins Class submarine, was named after him – the only ship in the RAN to bear the name of a sailor.

In 2020, following a sustained public campaign to have Ordinary Seaman Sheean’s selfless actions appropriately recognised, an expert panel recommended to the Australian Government that he be considered for the the award of a Victoria Cross.

On 12 August 2020 His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret’d) Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia announced that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II had approved a posthumous award of the Victoria Cross to Ordinary Seaman Sheean.

In doing so, Ordinary Seaman Sheean became the first member of the Royal Australian Navy to be awarded Australia’s highest honour for valour.

On 1 December 2020, 78 years to the day since the death of Ordinary Seaman Sheean and the loss of HMAS Armidale (I), the Governor-General presented the insignia of the Victoria Cross for Australia to Teddy Sheean’s family at a ceremony held at Government House in Canberra, ACT.

Source: http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/sheean-edward-11671.

Leiutenant George Alfred Still – MC

Member Mick James has dug up the following story containing details of one of the 1st Reinforcements for 31st Battalion:

STILL, Lieutenant George Alfred MC
Posted May 17, 2017 by Admin
Lieutenant George Alfred Still MC
31st Battalion, AIF
by Robert Simpson


George Alfred Still was born in Reigate, Surrey, England on 4th January 1883 at Montpelier Villa, London Road, Red Hill. His father was listed as a schoolmaster. He was one of eight children to George Ewers Still and Lucy Arnold. George and Lucy were married on 28th December 1880 at West Brompton. In the 1881 census George was living at Hove in Sussex with his parents and Lucy was with her parents in London. He was a graduate of St. Mark’s College. George was listed as a School Master and Lucy was a Fancy Goods Assistant, working in the fancy goods trade with her father and siblings. Their first child Sarah was born in late 1881. George Alfred was the second child. He had 3 brothers and 4 sisters.


In July 1884, the four of them departed Liverpool for Brisbane on the Nevasa, arriving there on the 8th of September. George was one of a batch of teachers brought out from England by the Queensland Government. He took up a position as headmaster of Newtown School in Maryborough (now Maryborough West State School). After arriving in Queensland the rest of the children were born from 1885 to 1901. A younger brother, Kenneth Victor, who was born in 1893, died in Maryborough and was buried in the cemetery there in 1895. In 1895, at the end of year breakup, the headmaster George Still gave a report which included “that Haidee Sunners and George Still obtained Grammar School Scholarships at the last examination, the latter not being twelve years old at the time.” In 1898 a list of passes of the Maryborough candidates for the Junior Public Examinations for the University of Sydney were published and included George, who matriculated with English A, French C, Latin C, Greek B, arithmetic B and algebra B. The youngest brother and family member, Victor, was born in Maryborough in 1897.
The 1903 Electoral Roll shows they were living at Ariadne Street in Maryborough and George Ewers was a Schoolmaster. In December 1905 the Maryborough Chronicle reported the breakup at Maryborough West State School and that that “was the twentieth and last at which Mr. Still would preside.” An address was read to him from the staff and children and he was presented with a parting gift. The family relocated to Boonah where he was a school teacher and they were still there in 1908 and by the 1913 Electoral Roll. He was head teacher of the Boonah State School and then Brassall State School.


By 1905 George Alfred Still had started working and on the 1st October, he was appointed as a Draftsman in the Survey office of the Department of Public Lands. On 26th March 1908 he married Maggie Gilles Smith Gibson in Queensland. Maggie had been born in Queensland on 20th April 1883, a daughter to Andrew Gibson and Margaret Smith. By the 1905 Electoral Roll she was living with a sister in Kelvin Grove Road Brisbane and was doing domestic duties. In the 1908 Electoral Roll they were at Simpson Road, West Paddington, Brisbane and he was listed as a surveyor. On 23rd February 1912 he was listed in the Queensland Gazette as a Professional Class IV, in the Survey Office, Department of Public Lands. The 1913 Roll has them living at Fernberg Road, West Paddington with his occupation as surveyor.

On 27th May 1915 George attested with the 31st Battalion in Brisbane. The 31st Battalion was raised at Enogerra in Brisbane as part of the 8th Brigade in August 1915. He then applied for a Commission on 20th August, as he qualified at an examination for first appointment as 2nd Lieutenant. He was appointed to the AIF on the 30th. His educational qualifications were listed as Grammar School, Public Service Examination and Sydney University Junior, Matriculation and Senior Examinations. He requested that 10 shillings per day was to go to his wife on 29th September, which Maggie signed for.

 

Group portrait of officers of the 31st Battalion, on board A62 HMAT Wandilla enroute to Egypt. From left, Front row: 2nd Lt George Alfred Still from Brisbane (later awarded MC).

On 5th November 1915, the 31st Battalion (1st Reinforcements) embarked on HMAT Bakara A41 in Melbourne. On the Nominal Roll, George was listed as a Lieutenant of 32 years old, a surveyor of address “Nowra”, Upper Fernberg Road, Ithaca, Brisbane. Oddly his wife’s address is given as Simpson’s Rd, Upper Paddington in Brisbane. His religion was listed as Presbyterian and he was a British subject. The description of his present civil employment was given as computing draftsman and surveyor at the Survey Office Lands Department. His previous military experience was noted as 2 years’ Field Artillery in Brisbane and 6 years Grammar School Cadets where he held the rank of Lieutenant. He was 5 foot 8.75 inches tall, weighed 156 pounds, had a chest measurement of 36.5 to 38.5 inches, and was of fair complexion with blue eyes and fair hair. His vision was 6/6 and 6/12 and had 2 vaccination marks on the right arm and a mole on the right shoulder. His term of service was for the duration of the war and 4 months.
They disembarked at Suez on 7th December 1915. On 2nd March 1916, he was posted to B Company at Tel-el-Kebir and was promoted to Lieutenant on the 21st.

The Battalion embarked at Alexandria to join the BEF on the Honorata on 16th June 1916 and disembarked at Marseilles on the 23rd. George was placed as Intelligence Officer under Lieutenant-Colonel Fred Toll, the Commanding Officer of the Battalion and worked closely with him. Prior to the attack, George and other observers gathered information and were praised by Toll who said the “men of this party also deserve praise for their untiring efforts and constant vigilance throughout the period 6th to 19th July.” The 31st Battalion fought its first major battle at Fromelles on 19th July 1916. The assault had been postponed from the 17th, but even then the Battalion had suffer casualties due to enemy shelling. After a 7 hour artillery bombardment, which was ineffective, the attack was mown down by the German machine-gunners with severe losses. After the first two waves were sent off and mauled, Toll, realising the futility of the attack, and George (who had been buried by an artillery shell before the attack) led the third and fourth waves. Some German trenches were taken, but were lost due to no support and fierce counter-attacks. With Lieutenant-Colonel Toll, George had much difficulty in holding the troops, who had seen another Battalion withdraw and began to go back across No-Man’s Land. In his notes on Fromelles, C. E. W. Bean writes “Toll, at 5.45, finding himself alone with Lt. Still and Cpl. Carew, both seriously wounded, strode back across No-Man’s Land, practically the last of his brigade.” Both flanks had been broken and they returned to the original front lines, with very heavy casualties. 544 men of the 31st Battalion were casualties. The 5th Division had over 5000 casualties.

Medals of Lt George Still (Military Cross, 1914-15 Star, British War and Victory Medals).

George was placed on the seconded list as evacuated sick on the 24th July. On 30th July 1916 George was sent from the 30th General Hospital at Calais to England with debility and eye strain (severe) on the HS Brighton. When Lieutenant-Colonel Toll wrote up the War Diary, he nominated twenty Officers and men for distinction in order of merit, with Lieutenant Still being the first name on the list and his name underlined for special consideration. Toll wrote “Lieut. G. A. STILL For gallantry in organising straggling troops and advancing over open country in rear of enemy’s position, also for keeping up communications with Brigade Headq. by means of pigeons, and later runners, and in German main breastworks during the night, assisted in consolidating positions won, and generally devotion to duty.” Army Form W 3121 has George listed in an immediate award list on 3rd August with the entry reading “At PETILLION on 19th/20th July 1916, displayed gallantry in organising straggling troops and advancing over open country in rear of enemies positions, also in keeping up communication with Brigade Headquarters by means of pigeons and later runners. When in the German main breastworks during the night assisted in consolidating the position won and displayed most praiseworthy devotion to duty.” It was stamped awarded M.C. on 28th August. On 31st August 1916 he was awarded the Military Cross in France. It was gazetted in the London Gazette on 26th September 1916 page 9436. The entry reads: – “For conspicuous gallantry in action. He rallied and organised straggling troops, and led them on over open country. During the night, in the enemy’s main breastwork, he ably assisted in consolidating the position won.”

He was the only Queensland officer to be awarded the Military Cross for that battle, the only other one that was awarded to the 31st Battalion was to 2nd Lieutenant L J Trounson from Maryborough Victoria. On 20th September 1916 he was discharged from Brook War Hospital at Woolwich. He was placed on the supernumerary list on 24th October. George was marched in at Weymouth on 26th January 1917, marched out for embarkation to Australia on 10th February and was struck off strength on 13th February. He returned to Australia on HT Ulysses at Plymouth on 13th February. His record originally said gunshot wound to chest and arm, which were crossed out, and then recorded as shell shock and amblyopia of the left eye. In his reference, Bean mentions that George lost sight in one eye, but that is not confirmed in his records.
George was marched in to the Number 2 Command Depot. He was discharged in Queensland on 22nd June 1917. In his statement of service form, Maggie’s original address was given as “Matea” Karella Rd Cremorne Sydney NSW, which was crossed out with the Simpson’s Road address added. He was added to the Reserve of Officers list on 1st July 1920 as a Lieutenant.

From the 1925 to 1943 Electoral Rolls they were living in Flaxton, a tiny village near Nambour and he was an orchardist; very much a change in his occupation. By 1925 his father had retired and was living in Ipswich. He was appointed a returning officer for Fassifern and Bremer electorates. He was admitted to the Ipswich General Hospital in June 1934. George Ewers Still passed away on 20th October 1934 in Queensland. An obituary stated he was head teacher at Maryborough West State School for 20 years, 11 years at Boonah and 8 at Brassall and retired in 1925. He was also a member of the Maryborough and Ipswich District Teachers’ Associations. On 6th November 1947 Lucy (his mother) passed away at Rosalie and was privately cremated. In the 1949 roll they had retired to Tugun on the Gold Coast. They shifted again and by the 1954 Electoral Roll they were living on the corner of North and Bayview Roads at number 121 North Street at Brighton, and were still there in the 1958 Roll. He was still retired. The 1963 roll finds both of them in a retirement village called Iona at Brookfield Road Kenmore, in Brisbane. Maggie passed away on 2nd December 1964 and George passed away in 1968. They had no children.

One of George’s younger brothers, Victor, also served in WW1. Victor was an engine fitter from Boonah. He enlisted as Private 2674 in the 9th Battalion on 26th May 1915, was transferred to the 49th Battalion on 2nd April 1917 in France and was wounded in 1917 with a severe gunshot wound of the back. He was admitted to hospital and died of wounds on 29th October 1917 at 5.25 am. Victor is buried in Mont Houn Military Cemetery, grave number 663B.
A sister, Lucy Elizabeth, married John Mitchell Norris in 1912. John served in WW1 as Sapper 22312 in the Field Company Engineers, but did not embark until March 1918. He returned to Australia in August 1919.


His youngest brother, Arnold born in 1901 in Maryborough, became a Police Constable there. He served in a few places in Queensland, rising to the rank of Senior Sergeant when he was in Brisbane. He passed away there in 1971. Arnold’s son, Leonard Victor Still married Helen Martin Steel, whose brother, Robert Martin Steel, served in WW1 as Sapper 5423 in the Mining and Tunnelling Company. Robert was born in Scotland, was a miner and migrated to Queensland in 1911. His son, James Robert Steel born in 1922 in Ipswich, served in WW2 as Leading Aircraftman 426006 in 114 Air Sea Rescue Flight.
LEST WE FORGET
Refer http://www.anzac-biographies.com/…/still-lieutenant…/

The Keith Payne VC Park

A park in the suburb of Stafford in Brisbane has been named in honour of Keith Payne VC. The action during the Vietnam War, in which he won the Victoria Cross was described in the citation contained in the article entitled “Honouring Two 31st Battalion Diggers” under the “Heroes” menu of this website. Other plaques in the park have been dedicated to those Australians who were awarded the VC in various other conflicts.

 

Plaque Erected in Honour of Keith Payne VC

 

 

 

 

 

LCpl William O Wilson DCM DM

 

“In discussion about the role of 31st Battalion during the Battle of Polygon Wood, where Paddy Bugden was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions in the Battle, some have suggested that another should also have been awarded a Victoria Cross.

In fact, there was another 31st Battalion digger recommended for a Victoria Cross as listed in the attached page of the Bn War Diary. He was Pte William Overend WILSON. He was subsequently awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and then the Belgium Award “The Decoration Militaire” . His Distinguished Conduct Medal citation reads – “Polygon Wood 26th-28th Sept 1917: For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in an attack. When the leading troops were subjected to heavy enfilade fire from a pillbox he led his section on his own initiative and attacked and captured it, putting the whole garrison out of action and taking 4 enemy machine guns. His courage and devotion to duty were an inspiration to his comrades.”

His Decoration Militaire citation reads – “At Polygon Wood east of Ypres during the period 25th-28th Sept 1917 this soldier displayed the greatest coolness, initiative and deliberation. When an enemy MG in the “Pill Boxes” at Jerk House commenced a murderous enfilade fire on the first and second waves, he, notwithstanding that his officer and NCOs had been killed, saw the situation at a glance, and calling on his section to follow, gallantly led the way. By his vigorous example and action, the section surrounded the Pill Box, capturing and killing all the occupants in addition to seizing four machine guns, thereby saving the right flank from entire annihilation. At all times and under all circumstances his cheerfulness and devotion to duty inspired his comrades. He acted as a guide to relieving troops and was always the first to volunteer for dangerous tasks.”

A number of people with detailed knowledge of the Battle of Polygon Wood and of conventions in awarding various Honours at that time, consider that the Aussie Commanders thought his actions were deserving of a VC but the overall Commanders (ie Birdwood & Haigh) wished to limit VCs to one per unit per action. So they arranged for a Belgian Award in addition to the DCM. It is most unusual to be awarded 2 decorations for the one action.

L/Cpl WILSON was KIA on 25th May 1918 and is buried at Adelaide Cemetery in France.

In August 2018, while no photo of L/Cpl Wilson had been found, a photo of his grave had been obtained. It had also been ascertained that a Street in West End Townsville had been named in his honour in the 1920s (not far from his  parents’ home in Flinders St West End.) It was therefore thought appropriate this little known Townsville man be recognized for his outstanding efforts at the Church Service on Sunday 19 August 2018. Apart from the special prayer for L/Cpl Wiliiam O Wilson as detailed in the Programme, we arranged for one of Pierre Seillier’s (our Honorary French Member) magnificent Tributes to be donated to the Cathedral and will be displayed in the Cathedral. The family motto has also been added to the gravestone. See photos below –

LEST WE FORGET

 

 

Unit Diary showing Honours and Awards Recommended after the Battle

 

Commemorative Service Townsville

 

Part of the service referring to LCpl William O Wilson
Tribute to LCpl William O Wilson done by Honorary Member Pierre Seillier

LCpl Angelo Barbouttis

This is a story of the action in which LCPL Angelo Barbouttis was KIA. It appeared in the Townsville Bulletin on Wed 1st May 1946. He was in the 31st Battalion, The Kennedy Regiment, prior to the war and joined the 31st Bn AMF which subsequently became the 31st/51st Bn AMF

Below is a photo of a Street in Belgian Gardens named after him and an adjacent plaque describing the significance . Above is a photo of Angelo from Bob Burla’s book “Crossed Boomerangs”

THE LATE CORPORAL ANGELO BARBOUTTIS
Corporal Angelo Barbouttis, who enlisted from Townsville,
displayed great heroism during a clash with a Japanese patrol

in Dutch New Guinea in December, 1943.

He was a member of a small reconnaissance patrol that set out in a small diesel-drlven trawler to explore the inland waterways of the swamps of southern Dutch New Guinea, then held by the Japanese. The patrol kept away from all known Japanese locations, but fate finally led them to pick one channel which led them headlong into a Japanese
patrol.

The trawler rounded a bend and came face to face, about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, with two barges of Japanese. Both parties scrambled for their guns. Barbouttis, well over six feet, was standing up in the bow jerking and spitting death from a heavy machine gun at the Japanese. Every one was pouring lead at the Japs, and they were firing back. The engine room men were trying desperately to turn the boat.

The Japs shot the machine gun out of Barbouttis’ hands. He was not dismayed, but snatched up a Bren gun and carried on the fight. Then the Bren jammed, and he was seen to throw it away and grab a bag of hand grenades, and hurl them into the Jap’s barges.

By this time the trawler had been turned and was heading down stream. The battle was over, one barge was on fire and sinking, the other stranded on the bank. Some of the Japs
had scrambled ashore and began sniping, and it was then that the brave Barbouttis was shot through the head and fell dead.

The boat was riddled from end to end and there were only three sound members of the party. They headed out to sea but the dead Barbouttis had been their sole navigator. Not knowing when help would come or when they would reach their base, it was decided to bury their hero at sea. He was consigned to a watery grave with the greatness of a great simplicity by the members of the trawler.

The clash will no doubt be among the many incidents recorded in the official history of the war.

Barbouttis was awarded a Mention In Despatches (MID).

Major George Roberts  the 31st Battalion 2IC after WW2) advocated over many years to have Angelo’s award upgraded to a Victoria Cross.

An Inquiry into unresolved recognition of past acts of valour in 2011 pointed out that when a serviceman dies in the action in which he is nominated for an award, he can only be awarded an MID or a VC. They pointed out that had the person lived he may well have received a MM, MC or DCM.

The Inquiry determined that Angelo’s MID should remain unchanged.

Major Roberts was also Deputy Mayor of Townsville and was involved in the naming of a Street in Belgian Gardens in honour of this brave soldier (see photos)

LEST WE FORGET

CplAngeloBarbouttis44756358_10155709051630598_8006273112276467712_n.jpg

cplAngeloBarbouttis44797849_10155709051560598_410608373965258752_n.jpg