Archibald Bisset Smith

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Archibald Bisset Smith
Captain Archibald Bisset Smith d March 7 1917.jpg
Auckland Weekly News Portrait published on 12 April 1917
Born (1878-12-19)December 19, 1878
Cults, Aberdeenshire
Died March 10, 1917(1917-03-10) (aged 38)
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Royal Naval Reserve
Civil Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Merchant Navy
Rank Master (Lieutenant)
Unit Royal Naval Reserve
Commands held SS Otaki
Battles/wars World War I
Awards Victoria Cross

Archibald Bisset Smith VC (19 December 1878 – 10 March 1917) was a Scottish recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

Smith received this award for his action as Master of the SS Otaki, a ship of the Mercantile Marine. On 10 March 1917 in the Atlantic, the SS Otaki, whose armament consisted of one 4.7-inch gun, sighted the German raider SMS Möwe, which was armed with four 5.9-inch, one 4.1-inch and two 22-pounder guns. The raider called on Otaki to stop, but Captain Smith refused to do so. A duel ensued, during which Otaki secured a number of hits and caused considerable damage, but she herself sustained much damage and was on fire. Captain Smith, therefore, ordered his crew to abandon ship, but he himself stayed on board and went down with his ship.

His citation reads:

For most conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty when in command of the S.S. "Otaki", on the 10th March 1917. "At about 2.30 p.m. on 10th March 1917, the S.S."Otaki", whose armament consisted of one 4.7 in. gun for defensive purposes sighted the disguised German raider "Möwe", which was armed with four 5.9 in., one 4.1 in. and two 22 pdr. guns, and two torpedo tubes. The "Möwe" kept the "Otaki" under observation for some time and finally called upon her to stop. This Lieutenant Smith refused to do, and a duel ensued at ranges of 1,900 - 2,000 yards and lasted for about 20 minutes. During this action the "Otaki" scored several hits on the "Möwe", causing considerable damage, and starting a fire which lasted for three days. She sustained several casualties and received much damage herself, and was heavily on fire. Lieutenant Smith, therefore, gave orders for the boats to be lowered to allow the crew to be rescued. He remained on the ship himself and went down with her when she sank with the British colours still flying, after what was described in an enemy account as "a duel as gallant as naval history can relate.[1]

As a Merchant seaman, he could not receive the VC at that time. In 1919 he was posthumously promoted a temporary lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve and was then entitled to receive the VC posthumously.

As a British Merchant seaman who has no known grave, he is commemorated on the Tower Hill Memorial.[2] On 10 March 2017, a memorial stone was laid at Schoolhill, Aberdeen, to commemorate the centenary of the award of the VC.

His VC is preserved at the P&O Heritage Collection in London.[3]



  1. ^ "No. 31354". The London Gazette (Supplement). 23 May 1919. p. 6446. 
  2. ^ Smith, Archibald Bisset
  3. ^ Stewart 2017


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