Over the distance of time, the stories of the First World War become fainter and it is easy to think of it as ancient history. However, the memory of those who were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice is still alive.
Captain Archibald Bisset Smith was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery during the sinking of the SS Otaki in 1917. A film of the unveiling of the centenary memorial paving stone in Aberdeen features family descendants of Bisset Smith:
Although he died 100 years ago, there are other living connections to the story, including with Robert Gordon’s College in Aberdeen. Bisset Smith was a former pupil, the school continues to celebrate with a scholarship named in honour of the ship. A second former pupil also died on the Otaki: William Martin, Gunners Boy, was just 14-years old.
The Otaki was owned by the New Zealand Shipping Company and the story is also commemorated there. The Robert Gordon’s College Otaki scholar visits New Zealand every year. A film produced by the school exploring the story can be viewed here:
The Wellington Trust would like to thank Robert Gordon’s College for its support of the Abandon Ship! exhibition.