Time for naval heroes to be rewarded. Robert Rankin and Ron Taylor
After 78 years of injustice, finally in December 2019 eighteen-year-old Royal Australian Navy sailor Teddy Sheean received a Victoria Cross. Strange then that two war heroes who fought just as bravely still have nothing.
Although retrospective VCs might not be in order for Robert Rankin (pictured right) and Ron Taylor, surely the government should look at Stars of Gallantry for these neglected men, who fought in HMAS Yarra to a bitter end.
Imagine today if every approval for an Australian gallantry award had to be ticked off by someone in London. What’s more, unlike Royal Navy commanders, Australian warship captains were not allowed to recommend the nature of the award. That was what our Navy had to endure in World War II. The other two forces had their awards approved in Australia. Navies take a long time to grow, and ours had been “parented” by the RN. When war arrived, there was no time for revision. Fighting for its life against Germany and Italy, and later Japan, Britain was understandably under extreme pressure.
Perhaps due to maladministration under pressure, there are at least five WWII naval personnel, and likely several more, who could have received a VC. Some received what was called a “Mention in Despatches”, not a medal, rather a badge, albeit a prestigious one. Many thousands of Aussies were awarded a MID before it was phased out in 1975.
But some of the bravest Navy personnel received no recognition whatsoever. That oversight should be rectified. This presentation outlines the last fight of HMAS Yarra against overwhelming odds; the heroism of the ship’s company, and why these two outstanding naval fighting men have still not been recognised.
Presenter: Dr Tom Lewis OAM RAN (Rtd)
Tom Lewis has combined three interesting career paths to make him one of Australia’s foremost military historians. He has integrated a 20-year RAN track, primarily as an intelligence analyst, with high school teaching, and work as an historian. His 30-year writing career followed time as a journalist, with his first publication Wrecks in Darwin Waters, which was followed by an analysis in Darwin’s Submarine of the first successful submarine RAN action of WWII, resulting in the sinking of the I-124, which still lies outside Darwin today with her 80-man ship’s company. Zero Hour in Broome analysed the second biggest air raid on Australia, and The Submarine Six presented biographies of the six who had RAN submarines named after them; while Lethality in Combat, his most controversial work, analysed the realities of battlefield combat.
Carrier Attack, an extensive technical analysis of the first Darwin raid, revealed many unknown aspects of that assault, and Teddy Sheean VC chronicled not only the fight of this naval hero but the fight to get him the Victoria Cross he deserved. Tom’s most recent publications are The Empire Strikes South, an accounting of all Japanese air raids made in Northern Australia, showing the attacks were far more widespread than first thought, and Atomic Salvation: how the atomic bombs saved the lives of 30 million. His Order of Australia medal was presented for services to naval history.
Details: Time: 11:00am. Wednesday 14th. December 2022 (Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney Time)
Meeting ID: 854 5821 3198 Passcode: 415188
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