Maheno bell to ring in Australia

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A bell from a World War 1 hospital ship, Maheno which was donated to Maheno School in 1967 will be used at a special Anzac Day service at Fraser Island off the coast of Queensland next year.

The Maheno, a steam ship built in 1905, was converted into a hospital ship in 1915 and served off the coast of Gallipoli and carried hundreds of wounded Anzac soldiers back to hospitals in Egypt.

Maheno School principal Ryan Fraser said it was a huge honour for the school to take part in a service which will mark the 100th adversary of the Anzac landing at Gallipoli.

“We feel really privileged and honoured to have been asked to be part of the service.”

Mr Fraser said there were still some former pupils in the area from when the bell was first given to the school.

“I was talking to the old principal and he said he reckoned there are some pupils from back in 1967 who are still in the area.”

The bell was donated to a group of Maheno School students by the ship’s owners, the Union Ship Company of Dunedin, and was used as the school bell.

Following World War 1, the ship Maheno was converted back into a steamer and continued to commute between Australia and New Zealand, It was sold to Japanese buyers in 1935 tbut as it was sailing to Japan a storm drove it aground off Fraser Island. The rusted remains of the boat remain.

Australian Russell Postle, who has had an interest in the shipwrecked Maheno for about 30 years, contacted the school about them coming over.

“He phoned me and said they’d love the bell to come home and be rung on Anzac Day, and wanted the kids to act as custodians of the bell and ring it on the day.”

The school is taking a group of year 7-8 students to Fraser Island for about a week..

“We have sent letters out and would love any help we can get, ” said Mr Fraser. “Parents have made a commitment to go along and it’s massive for these kids. It’s historical and it’s something they will never forget.”

There is also the pssibility that a documentary could be made on the ship which is likely to include the bell and Maheno School.

A couple of coincidences make the occasion even more unique with the nearest township to where the boat came aground called Happy Valley, which is also the name of a road that leads to Maheno School and the principal Mr Fraser has the same name as the Island.

“Over the phone when Mr Postle heard about these coincidences he said it’s just meant to be.” Mr Fraser said.

As part of the ceremony they will be fed exactly what the Wolrd War 1 soldiers were fed with a menu from back then being found.

“I’m looking forward to trying some of the food.”

Two replicas of the Maheno bell are also being made with one gifted to the Maritime Museum in Australia and the other going to the Happy Valley retreat on Fraser Island. It’s likely the original bell will be sent over early next year and will return home with the pupils,

All the pupils are keen to get in the fun raising mode and have organised a car wash at the old Caltex on Thames Highway on Saturday from 11am-3pm.

By BRAYDEN LINDSAY

PHOTO: BRAYDEN LINDSAY

LUCKY PUPILS: At back, from left, DeArna Mooney, 11, Libby Robb, 12, Fenella Ballantyne, 10, Kosh Kinnaird, 11. Front, from left, Kase Robb, 10, Thomas Ballantyne, 12, and Clark Ewing, 11, with the Maheno bell. They are all heading to Fraser Island next year for a special Anzac Day service.