Plaque recognising role of hospital ship unveiled

7:54 pm on 11 November 2018

A memorial plaque recognising the significant role of the hospital ship Maheno supporting Anzac troops during the First World War was unveiled this morning at the North Otago town of Maheno.

Armistice Day Service and unveiling ceremony for the Maheno Memorial in the town of Maheno, Otago.

Squadron Leader Carl Smith, who was born and raised in Maheno, invites residents of the town and visiting dignitaries to lay poppies at the memorial. Photo: Supplied / NZDF

HMHS Maheno, which was named after the town, was one of two passenger liners that were converted by the New Zealand government into hospital ships during World War I.

It was crewed by civilian officers, the ship's medical staff were drawn from the ranks of the New Zealand Medical Corps and its nurses from the New Zealand Nursing Service.

Maheno was a commercial vessel retrofitted into a hospital ship that was publicly funded by New Zealanders in 1914.

Armistice Day Service and unveiling ceremony for the Maheno Memorial in the town of Maheno, Otago.

A minister blesses the memorial plaque recognising the significant role of Her Majesty's Hospital Ship Maheno in supporting Anzac troops during World War I before it was unveiled this morning. Photo: Supplied / NZDF

The ship treated Anzac troops who were injured in battles at Gallipoli, Flanders and the Somme, transported them to nearby hospitals or repatriated them back to New Zealand.

It transported more than 2200 soldiers from the Gallipoli peninsula to hospitals during the fateful 1915 campaign and evacuated about 11,000 soldiers from the battlefields in France to England between August and October 1916.

The small rural town's residents turned out in full force for the commemorative ceremony, which was also attended by Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher, Queensland Member of Parliament Ted Sorensen, representatives from the Australian High Commission, and descendants of some of HMHS Maheno's crew members and New Zealand Defence Force personnel.

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Commander Kerry Tutty prepares to lay a wreath at the Cenotaph at Maheno during a commemorative service marking the centenary of the Armistice. Photo: Supplied / NZDF

Commander Kerry Tutty from NZDF's Defence Health Directorate said it was fitting on the centenary of the Armistice to celebrate the contribution of HMHS Maheno.

"We remember the generations of New Zealand servicemen and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice to secure the freedom that we enjoy today.

"Our young men and women across the NZDF continue to serve their country in much the same way, some paying the ultimate price, but all with the same sense of selfless drive," she said.

The Maheno was wrecked after running aground off Fraser Island, Queensland in 1935.