Otaki Shield

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Reference WMO245693

Address:

Robert Gordon's College

Schoolhill

Aberdeen

AB10 1JQ

Scotland

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Status: On original site
Type: Non freestanding
Location: Internal
Setting: Inside a building - public/private
Description: Board/Plaque/ Tablet
Materials:
  • Metal Metal (any)
  • Timber Timber (any)
Lettering: Unknown
Conflicts:
  • First World War (1914-1918)
About the memorial: The Otaki Shield is awarded every year to the School Captain. It commemorates a sea battle involving a former pupil during the First World War. Archibald Bisset Smith was born in Cults on 19 December 1878, the second youngest in a family of three sons and two daughters. His father was an accountant and later a wholesale tea and dry goods merchant who could trace his ancestry back to Bold Peter Smith, a Jacobite killed at Culloden. Archie Smith spent two terms at Robert Gordon's College from August to December 1893 before joining the Merchant Navy. He gained his Master's ticket in 1903 while serving with the New Zealand Shipping Company. In March 1917 Captain Smith was in command of the SS 'Otaki' sailing from London to New York, when his ship was attacked by the German raider 'Moewe'. Although armed with only a small 4.7 inch gun, the 'Otaki' returned fire and fought bravely. But when the 'Otaki' was badly damaged and four of his men had been killed, the Captain gave the order to abandon ship. He himself stayed on board as his ship sank. After the war, Archibald Bisset Smith was awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery and devotion to duty. In 1937 his family presented a Shield to the College as a memorial and this is presented every year to the School Captain who is judged 'pre-eminent in character, in leadership and in athletics'. The New Zealand Shipping Company, later P & O, offered a free passage on one of their ships to New Zealand for the winner of the Otaki Shield and the New Zealand government organised transport and accommodation for the School Captain during there travels there. (Please also search for William Esson Martin.) A commemorative stone has been unveiled to mark the 100th anniversary of Aberdeen-born Captain Archibald Bisset Smith, who received the Victoria Cross posthumously for his gallantry and devotion to duty when in command of the SS Otaki, on March 10 1917. The Lord Provost of Aberdeen George Adam was joined at the ceremony on Schoolhill by relatives of Captain Bisset Smith; pupils and staff from Robert Gordon’s College – Bisset Smith was a former pupil, and former employees of the New Zealand Shipping Company – the company which owned the SS Otaki. Sir Neil McIntosh CBE, Honorary Consul of the New Zealand High Commission, Aberdeen City Councillors and the Leader of the Council Councillor Jenny Laing were also in attendance.
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