As an Anzac Day service beside the HMHS Maheno shipwreck on Australia’s Fraser Island draws near, excitement at one North Otago school is building.
Eight Maheno School pupils – Nathan Kennedy, Lucan Robb, Lillie Silcock, Brooke Purvis, Hayley Brown, Max Irwin, Hayley Hamilton and Danielle Ballantyne – leave New Zealand on April 19 with teacher Stella Josephs and a contingency of parents for Fraser Island, Queensland, to take part in Anzac Day commemorations at the site of the shipwreck.
The Maheno served as a hospital ship in World War 1, carrying wounded soldiers from Gallipoli and France.
In 1935 it was decommissioned and sold to Japan for scrap, but ran aground on Fraser Island off the coast of Queensland during a cyclone while being towed north from Australia.
It is the third time Maheno School pupils have travelled to Fraser Island for Anzac Day.
This year, they arrive at Easter and will be met and billeted out by the Rotary Club of Brisbane High-Rise.
Russell Postle, a member of the Rotary Club of Brisbane High-Rise, has a strong interest in the Maheno ship and made the initial connection with Maheno School, arranging for a replica of the ship’s bell to be manufactured in 2014.
The bell had been at Maheno School, used as the school’s bell for many years, but had been retired due to cracks and hung in the school’s hallway.
It was transported to the Olds Engineering foundry in Maryborough, Queensland, where replicas were cast.
One replica went to Fraser Island, another to Queensland Maritime Museum in Brisbane and one to Maheno School, to where the original was also returned.
Maheno School pupils were involved in the unveiling of the bell’s replica on Fraser Island in 2015, ringing the bell alongside the ship’s wreck at a special ceremony on Anzac Day.
Last year, the links between Maheno and Fraser Island were further strengthened with a plaque dedicated to the ship unveiled at the Maheno township cenotaph. The plaque is a reproduction of one at Fraser Island.
“We’ve kept in touch with the Brisbane High-Rise Rotary group and we’re really looking forward to going back over and fostering that relationship,” Miss Josephs said.
“They do lots of great community work, and we’re part of that work internationally.”
School pupils had learned about the history of the ship for many years and the trip was a special experience for the school’s year 7 and 8 pupils, Miss Josephs said.
“They get to represent Maheno School, which they’re all incredibly proud of and the history comes to life for them,” she said.
“Being part of the Anzac service is really important, and remembering our fallen soldiers and fostering that Anzac spirit.”
A lot of fundraising was involved – including fashion shows, forestry planting, cheese roll sales and barbecues – to make the trip possible.
“They’ve worked really hard to go and everyone has contributed to the fundraising – they’re really excited to be going,” she said.