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Remembering Donald Williamson Rennie

By Bill Sutherland, Great War Project volunteer

11 November 2014 is the first Remembrance Day of the First World War Centenary. It is coincidentally the centenary of the death of Second-Lieutenant Donald Williamson Rennie (1st Royal Fusiliers), a member of the University Officers Training Corps. Rennie’s was the third cross placed in the University of Glasgow Garden of Remembrance.


University of Glasgow Archives Reference: CH4/4/2/2/232

Donald Williamson Rennie lived in Putney, and obtained a scholarship to City of London School in 1900. In 1904 further scholarships enabled him to study engineering at Cambridge where he twice won The Wright Prize for Engineering Science and in 1907 he graduated with a BA honours in Engineering, and a BSc in Engineering from London University.

After a short period of postgraduate study, he moved to Glasgow to work for Messrs Yarrow & Co, where he remained until the outbreak of War.  He joined the OTC at the University of Gloasgow and obtained the relevant Officer qualifications, which enabled him to be a reservist. When War was declared, he immediately returned to London and was enlisted at Hounslow.  He was commissioned into the 1st Royal Fusiliers, but in France, became attached to the 1st Royal Warwickshire Regiment.

He was hit by shrapnel from a German shell and died at 8.30 p.m. on Wednesday 11 November 1914. He was aged 29.

The University of Glasgow kept information on those on active service. Rennie’s death appears on the hand-written list of OTC casualties below:

CH 4-4-2-3-341 OTC casualty list

University of Glasgow Archives Reference: CH4/4/2/3/341

His commanding officer Major A.J.Poole wrote to inform his parents as follows:

I have to convey to you the sad news of the death of your son, and tell you how he died. He was hit by a shell while we were repelling a German attack on our trenches last night; he must have died instantaneously. He is buried here, where he fell, alongside someof the men who were killed too. He had only been with us a short time, but long enough for us all to appreciate his worth, and we all feel his loss terribly. The hardest part is that he, who is not a professional soldier, shouls have been the the one officer to be killed; but it may be some slight consolation to you to know that he died doing his job as well, if not better, than any professional soldier of my acquaintance. You have my deepest sympathy in the loss of your son.

His company commander, and another officer who had been a schoolmate, also wrote to the parents, and friends had a small pamphlet prepared with his letters from the front.


University of Glasgow Archives Reference: CH4/4/2/3/622


The University of Glasgow Garden of Remembrance, where a cross will be placed on the centenary of the death of each individual on the Roll of Honour.

See the WWI Commemoration Group events page for more information about WWI events at the University of Glasgow, and explore more stories like that of Donald Williamson Rennie on the online Roll of Honour.

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