Leadership

The Highest Honour #41 | Clifford Sadlier | Teddy Sheean | Bill Kibby

By The Cove October 24, 2021


Lieutenant Clifford William King Sadlier VC (1892 - 1964, 71yo)

Clifford Sadlier was born on 11 June 1892 in Camberwell, Victoria. At the completion of his schooling he moved to Perth where he was employed as commercial traveller. He enlisted into the Australian Imperial Force in May 1915 where he was posted to the 1st Australian General Hospital.

He embarked for Egypt in June 1915 but returned to Australia in March 1916 to conduct nursing duties. In November he returned for active service, this time with the 7th Reinforcements for the 51st Battalion. In May 1917 he was promoted to Corporal, was commissioned a Second Lieutenant on 14 July 1917 and promoted to Lieutenant on 01 Apr 1918.

During the 2nd battle of Villers-Bretonneux on 24-25 April 1918 the Germans had re-taken the town in a dawn attack on 24 April 1918. Allied counter-attacks carried on all day without success, but towards evening hurried orders were given for another counter-attack using the 13th Brigade on the south and the 15th Brigade on the north. The 51st and 52nd Battalions were allotted for the 13th Brigade's advance and they set out at 2210h, in darkness and under enemy artillery fire. Beforehand; they had been told to ignore any noise in a wood to their left as British troops were clearing out small enemy parties there. Hardly had the advance begun when several machine-guns opened up on the Australians. Most of the company adjoining Sadlier's were killed but Sadlier led his men forward, only to be halted again by machine-guns. He organised a bombing attack and, having located the nearest machine-gun post, led a Lewis-gunner and a bombing party against it. Before the Germans had recovered, the Australians were in among the trees, fighting wildly in the dark. Hurling bombs as they ran, they silenced one machine-gun post and although Sadlier was shot in the thigh they went on to destroy two more. Sadlier was then shot again, this time in the arm, and was forced to the rear but his few remaining men continued the job and the threat to the 13th Brigade's advance was removed. Although running an hour late it got through and linked up with the 15th. By dawn Villers-Bretonneux was again in allied hands. For his actions Sadlier was awarded the Victoria Cross.

Sadlier returned to Australia on 24 October 1918 where he was discharged from the AIF. He held numerous jobs after the war and in the mid 1950s developed emphysematic bronchitis which lead to his death on 28 April 1964.

Ordinary Seaman Edward (Teddy) Sheean VC (1923 - 1942, 19yo)

Teddy Sheean was born at Lower Barrington, Tasmania, on 28 December 1923. At the completion of his education he worked on farms in the area where he grew up. He enlisted into the the Royal Australian Navy Reserve in April 1941.

In February 1942 he was sent to Westernpoint in Victoria to continue his training, and then posted to Sydney in May where he was billeted on the former ferry Kuttabul, which was sunk during the Japanese midget submarine attack on Sydney Harbour. Fortunately, he was in Tasmania on leave at the time. On his return to Sydney he began his service as an Oerlikon anti-aircraft gunner on the newly commissioned corvette, HMAS Armidale, which spent its early months conducting convoy escort duties along Australia's eastern and northern coasts. In November the Armidale embarked on a resupply and evacuation mission to Timor, which was then under Japanese occupation. On 01 December 1942, about 100 kilometres off Timor’s Betano Bay, the ship was hit by an assault from Japanese aircraft and began to sink rapidly. Sheean was wounded during the attack, but rather than attempting to evacuate, he strapped himself to his anti-aircraft cannon and opened fire at the Japanese aircraft even as the ship sunk beneath him. He shot down two planes, and crew mates recall seeing tracer rising from beneath the surface as he was dragged under the water, firing until the end. He died on 01 December 1942.

For his courageous action Teddy Sheean was posthumously mentioned in Dispatches; this award was upgraded to the Victoria Cross for Australia in 2020. In 1999 a Collins Class submarine was named after him - the only vessel in the Royal Australian Navy to be named after an ordinary seaman. Sheean’s remarkable acts have been recreated in a painting at the Australian War Memorial

Sergeant William Henry Kibby VC (1903 - 1942, 39yo)

Bill Kibby was born on15 April 1903 at Winlaton, England. In 1914 his family migrated to Australia and at the completion of his schooling he was employed as a plasterer. In 1936 he joined the 48th Field Battery and on 29 June 1940 he enlisted in the AIF.

Posted to the 2nd/48th Battalion he was promoted to Sergeant on 17 November 1940. On arrival in Palestine, Kibby had an accident which resulted in a broken leg and was removed from his unit for over a year to rehabilitate. Upon re-joining his unit he was involved in the battles of Tel el Eisa and El Alamein.

At El Alamein Kibby showed extraordinary, persistent courage. On the night of 23 October 1942 his platoon was ordered to destroy a nest of machine-guns and mortars on Miteiriya Ridge. Calling 'Follow me!', Kibby charged it with a Tommy-gun, killing three enemy soldiers, capturing twelve, and clearing the post. On the night of the 25 October 1942 he repaired his platoon's signal wires at least five times in the face of heavy fire. His company commander Captain Peter Robbins intended to recommend him for the Distinguished Conduct Medal, but was killed. On the night of the 26 October 1942, while under heavy artillery fire and repeated tank and infantry attack at Trig 29, Kibby moved boldly into the open, directing his men's fire and coordinating and inspiring their defence. Before dawn on the 31 October 1942, Kibby's platoon fought through the German lines at Ring Contour 25, then came under intense machine-gun and mortar fire as it attempted to reach the coast. Most of the platoon were killed or wounded. After reorganising the survivors, Kibby charged forward and attacked a number of machine-guns which were firing directly at him from a few yards away. For his actions Kibby was awarded the Victoria Cross.

The position he died to win was given up, and the Germans buried Kibby and other platoon dead in a common grave. After retaking the ground and searching for ten days, his mates found the grave and reburied their comrades in line. 'We couldn't say much,' one recalled early in 1943, 'but I guess we all knew ... that if it hadn't been for Bill Kibby we might have been lying there with them.' In January 1944 Kibby's remains were reinterred in El Alamein war cemetery.


Portrait

Biography

The Cove

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.



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