Pupils off to Australia

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Maheno School’s link with ship to strengthen

A group of Maheno School pupils will return to Australia’s Fraser Island for next year’s Anzac Day commemorations, continuing the link between the school and the resting place of the SS Maheno. In 1935, the Maheno, an ocean liner then a World War 1 hospital ship, was hit by a cyclone while being towed to a shipbreaker. It was washed ashore on Fraser Island, where its rusted hull remains. In World War 1 the Maheno served as a hospital ship off Anzac Cove, Gallipoli from August 1915. Over the next three months, she carried casualties from Gallipoli to either Moudros, Malta or Alexandria. Maheno arrived back in New Zealand in January 1916 for a refit, then returned to Egypt in February to collect patients for transport back to New Zealand.
She then sailed to the UK, arriving at Southampton in early July 1916. Until October, she operated in the English Channel, taking large numbers of wounded troops from France to England. The ship returned to New Zealand in December and made six more voyages between New Zealand and the UK, bringing back patients, before she was returned to her owners, the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand, at the end of the war to resume her usual commercial service. In the early 1960s, the Union company donated the ship’s bell to Maheno School, where it was used as the school bell until cracks meant it could no longer be used. Maheno School was invited to attend Fraser Island’s Anzac Day commemoration in 2015 because of its links to the ship, and the school was presented with a replica of the Maheno’s bell. It is used daily, and the original bell is displayed at the school. Maheno principal Ryan Fraser said nine pupils and six adults would travel to Fraser Island in April for next year’s Anzac Day commemorations.
“We got invited back again. What they’re doing next year is putting a bit of a rock at the wreck with a bronze inlay. The guy who made the replica bell has been commissioned to make one for the ship.” He said the original plan called for rock for the monument to be sourced locally. “They are going to bring a piece of rock from New Zealand. They planned to use a bit pulled from the Maheno area, but I don’t think they could, so the last I heard it was coming from Duntroon.” The bronze plaque is set to be unveiled on Anzac Day next year. Mr Fraser said the pupils would gain a lot from the trip. “The kids grow so much in themselves and their buy-in to Anzac Day. It was such a strong and powerful trip _ it was pretty special.” The part will also spend a night at Dilli Village on the island. “They’ll learn a little bit about the culture and get that side of Australia as well. We’re going to do some activities and learning around the culture, so that’s really exciting.” He said the school had started fundraising for the trip, which was expected to cost more than $20,000.