Despite Australia’s rich military history and plethora of tales of underdog battlefront spirit, our list war movies is surprisingly short, with recent flicks like Danger Close: The Battle Of Long Tan and Escape And Evasion real rarities. They will soon be joined, however, by Armidale, which tells the extraordinary WW2 true story of the sinking of the Aussie ship HMAS Armidale, which was sunk by the Japanese in a three-minute hellfire off the coast of East Timor on December 1, 1942. After the sinking, the ship’s 100 surviving crew members – under the astute and impassioned leadership of Captain David Richards – found themselves stranded at sea, split between a small leaking motorboat, an old whaler and a cobbled together raft. There was a full enquiry, but the results were never made public and remained classified for over 50 years. Consequently, the story of the Armidale and the incredible bravery of its men was never acknowledged or rewarded. In total, only 46 of the 149 men aboard survived.
Armidale will be brought to the screen by veteran director Craig Monahan (who will co-write with John Cundill), who has impressed with his films The Interview, Peaches and Healing. A major part of the film is sure to be the involvement of the Armidale’s heroic 18-year-old gun loader Edward “Teddy” Sheean who was controversially denied the Victoria Cross. “Teddy Sheehan stayed at his post during the three-minute firefight and went down with the ship, his gun still firing,” says Craig Monahan. “Sheean was extraordinary, but his actions are but one part of the fascinating and multi-layered Armidale story.”
Action, excitement, desperation, heroism and tragedy…the elements are certainly all there for a truly cinematic experience. “This a story that needs to be told” says Craig Monahan. “It is an extraordinary true story, with great heart and emotional depth with a political sting in the tail. There is great heroism and tragic loss which, sadly, might have been avoided. It is, above all, the story of the individuals involved and the people at home waiting for their loved ones to return. Within the Australian Navy, the story of Armidale is legendary. The Australian Navy Patrol Boats are called Armidale Class and in 1999 a Collins-class submarine was named The Sheean. I will be very proud to bring this story to the screen.”
For more information about the HMAS Armidale, click here.