Tragic story of Aberdeen lad in Battle of Jutland

To mark the centenary of the Battle of Jutland a small display of letters telling the tragic, real-life story of Aberdonian George MacDonald Rennie, has gone on show at Aberdeen Maritime Museum, Shiprow, today (31 May 2016).

The Battle of Jutland took place on 31 May 1916, when the Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet fought the Imperial German Navy’s High Seas Fleet off the cost of Denmark’s Jutland Peninsula. It was the greatest surface naval action of the First World War.

HMS Warspite took part in the early hours of the battle, which began about 2pm on 31 May. In the midst of the battle, Warspite’s helm jammed and she was stuck turning to “starboard” or to the right. Unable to correct course, the order was given to go full speed ahead and continue turning under heavy enemy fire.

At this time, a fire broke out in the starboard 6 inch gun battery. Many men were burnt, including George MacDonald Rennie. By the time the crew brought the ship back under control and escaped the bombardment, Warspite had taken 13 heavy shell hits and was severely damaged. She was ordered back to port at Rosyth, near Edinburgh, arriving around 3.15pm the following day. On her way she narrowly avoided two submarine attacks.

Born on 13 June 1898, George MacDonald Rennie was just 17 years old when he died on 2 June 1916, after Warspite’s return to port. In total, 14 men were killed and a further 17 were wounded.

Over 6,000 British lives and 2,500 German lives were lost at the Battle of Jutland.

The Germans inflicted greater damage and early newspapers reports presented the battle as a major loss but the Battle of Jutland is now seen as a strategic British victory.

Aberdeen City Council’s Deputy Leader Councillor Marie Boulton said: “It is fitting to mark the centenary of the Battle of Jutland in this intimate display. The telling of local George MacDonald Rennie’s story is a poignant reminder of the impact of wars to ordinary families here in Aberdeen.”

Jenny Brown, lead curator (history), at Aberdeen Maritime Museum, said: “The personal letters in this display are full of life, giving us a glimpse of Rennie’s personality, a life tragically cut short by war. This moving local story really brings home the personal cost of the Battle of Jutland.”

The exhibition runs until Saturday 18 September 2016.

Opening hours

Monday – Saturday 10am-5pm

Sunday 12pm-3pm

Admission free

Tel 01224 337700

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