College Commemorative Wreath Laying Ceremony, 12 March 2018 - recognising the service of the Merchant Navy

On 12 March the College hosted a wreath laying ceremony which acknowledged the service of the ­Merchant Navy in both peace and in war.

Wreaths were laid on the SS Otaki Centennial Monument, unveiled in 2017 by the Governor General. The Mayor, the Chair of Ngā Hapū o Ōtaki, the Russian Convoy Club, the Merchant Navy and the Royal New Zealand Navy were just a few of the many community and naval organisations involved. The College was also privileged to have the Deputy Head of Mission of the Federal Republic of Germany, Mr Timo Bauer-Savage and Mrs Helen Smith, the Deputy Head of Mission from the British High Commision, attend the event.

Naval personnel and ex-service men and women gathered to honour the bravery of those who lost their lives in the World Wars. Amongst them were members of the Russian Convoy Club - whose members served in the Royal Navy and Merchant Navy ships that sailed between the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union in the Second World War.

The losses on both sides were remembered. Ōtaki College Principal, Mr Andy Fraser, spoke of the SMS Moewe, the second vessel involved in the WW1 battle that resulted in the sinking of the SS Otaki. He spoke of the Moewe being the most successful German raider of the First World War, sinking 40 ships, and of how ten of Moewe’s crew were killed as a consequence of the fight with the Otaki. He described her Captain, Korvetten-Kapitan Nikolaus Graf Dohna-Schlodien, as “a gallant officer – and one of only two German officers of the First World War to receive the highest military awards of the five main German states”.

Stories of battle, honour and courage were heard by Year 7&8 students. The students themselves were involved in many aspects of the ceremony. Mr John Fraser, Executive Member of the Aeronautical and Marine Engineers Association, said afterwards “Special mention is deserved for your involved and courteous pupils who ushered, bore wreaths, and participated in the making of the day. They do you credit. You are nurturing fine citizens there.”

Later this year four College students will have the chance to place this ceremony in its historical context. They will be travelling to London and Scotland, thanks to Air New Zealand’s AirpointsTM for Schools ­Programme. In London Telesia Nelson-Latu, Josh Braddock, Ande Hakaraia and ­Tutaamure Nikora will visit the Maritime Museum, the Imperial War Museum and will view the Victoria Cross, awarded posthumously to Captain Archibald Bisset Smith, Captain of the SS Otaki. They will then travel on to Scotland and will visit Robert Gordon’s College in Aberdeen, where Captain Smith attended school over 100 years ago. For the four students this will be a journey which brings to life the various strands of the SS Ōtaki story and leaves them with a better understanding of the sacrifices made by so many during both World Wars.