Onboard Navy Submarine HMAS Sheean

Onboard Navy Submarine HMAS Sheean

April saw HMAS Sheean, a Navy submarine proudly named after Teddy Sheean, visit the Tamar River at Beauty Point.

We were able to gain access onboard the submarine, and speak with the crew about the work they are doing, and the legacy of Teddy Sheean onboard the Submarine.

Executive Officer, Lieutenant Commander Simon O’Hehir was kind enough to give us a tour and explain some of the onboard features of the submarine. You can watch the video of our tour onboard HMAS Sheean Below:

“This is part of the trip where we really reconnect with the Sheean family.” He said.

In 1942, during the last few years of World War II, 18-year-old Edward “Teddy” Sheean was onboard a ship called The HMAS Armidale which was out on an operation along with two other vessels to undertake a resupply and evacuation mission. Due to complications, HMAS Armidale was ordered to return to Betano the following night. Tragically, whilst waiting in enemy waters, the ship was hit by an airstrike. After being struck by torpedoes, the ship started to sink rapidly.

Despite being wounded, Teddy Sheean refused to leave the ship. Instead, he strapped himself in and began shooting the aircraft with his Oerlikon gun as the ship began to sink beneath him. Sheean remarkably shot down two planes and continued to keep shooting until the very end, all the while being dragged under the water with the sinking ship.

“I couldn’t think of a finer example to our officers and sailors, the guys are very, very proud to wear the Sheean name on their patch.”

Teddy Sheean was the first member of the Royal Australian Navy to receive a Victorian Cross (VC) for his extraordinary act of heroism and bravery, however Teddy was only awarded the VC last year.

“It’s a really big year to reconnect with the Sheean family and sort of mark that occasion.”

Award or no award, O’Hehir said Teddy is an amazing role model demonstrating the best traditions of the Navy. “Our motto is fight on and it’s a way of life on-board the ship, no matter what life throws, we always fight on.”

HMAS Sheean is a force to be reckoned with, being approximately twice the size of most other conventional submarines and packed with high explosive torpedoes. “Our torpedoes are probably the most fired in the world, we do fire a heck of a lot of practice weapons. I have a lot of confidence in our weapons and Sheean’s ability to deliver.”

There are a number of torpedoes on-board the submarine all having the ability to seek their target and destroy it without human intervention.

“We routinely operate out as far out as India, as far North as Japan, as far out to the East as Pearl Harbour/ Mainland USA so that’s a big chunk of the globe that we can cover.”

HMAS Sheean is only 20 years old and will likely service the Navy for at least another 20-30 years.

Submarines normally conduct surveillance of areas that are of interest to the Nation and have the ability to go completely undetected.

HMAS Sheean is capable of taking out other submarines and ships, something O’Hehir says they are always practicing for in case of any future war times.

“We operate a lot with the special forces so there’s a couple of our boats in particular that are specially geared towards that as a delivery platform.”

Working hand in hand with the best of the best, O’Hehir says it’s an exciting place to be.

Missions regularly last on average up to 8 months, with no phones or internet onboard the ship, communication back to families is not possible. “It’s particularly hard on the people we leave behind, we’re fine, we’re busy but it’s more the families we leave.”

“Everyone on-board is a volunteer and they’ve worked very hard to get their submarine qualifications.”

The submarine crew are like family and enjoy spending time with each other at pubs and restaurants when they aren’t out at sea.

With limited space on-board, HMAS Sheean has a small gym area which includes an exercise bike, crammed in next to it’s impressive arsenal of torpedoes, and a rowing machine where crew can maintain their fitness levels.

The submarine is estimated to have enough power generation to plug in to Hobart and charge everyone’s phone for a short period of time.

All the crew are well fed with everything from roast, to curries, parmigiana and stir fries being on the menu, all of which are prepared in a miniature galley, the menu board for which proudly displays the slogan ‘Teddy’s Tucker’.

Sheean’s legacy will never be forgotten, with plenty of memorabilia around the ship reminding crew of what an extraordinary man he was. The ship holds memorabilia showing Teddy’s original medals and the most recent Victoria Cross that he received along with a letter sent home to his mum.

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