National Army Museum, Waiouru, New Zealand : Military History & Army War Museum

From Gunner to Mayor

Gilbert Murray Rennie, Palmerston North Mayor 1959-1968, Source Palmerston North City Libraries

Gilbert Murray Rennie was born in Shannon on 28 December 1895 to parents John George and Emily Hannah Rennie, who had emigrated from Britain to start a new life in New Zealand.

Young Gilbert Rennie had belonged to School and Senior Cadets in Palmerston North and was working as a Compositor for the printing company Watson & Eyre (Palmerston North) at the outbreak of World War One.

Gilbert was 20 when he enlisted on 14 December 1915 and after a period of training at Featherston & Trentham Camp with the New Zealand Field Artillery, 2/3076 Gunner Gilbert Rennie embarked from Wellington on 2 April 1916 aboard the Tahiti bound for Egypt, and then sailed from Alexandria to Marseilles, France, aboard the Manitou.

Gilbert trained in artillery in both England and France before seeing active service on the Western Front, especially in the final push to victory in 1918. When war finally ceased on 11 November 1918, Gilbert was back in England attending “Gas School” in preparation for further action. He returned to New Zealand aboard the Prinzessin on 16 May 1919 and was discharged from the Army on 28 July 1919.

During World War Two, Sergeant Gilbert Rennie served in the Home Guard at both Blenheim and Palmerston North until 12 August 1942, when he was discharged aged 46.

Back in civilian life, Gilbert married and became a Master Printer and owner of the company Watson & Eyre in George Street, Palmerston North. He was a City Councillor from 1956 – 1959 and Mayor of Palmerston North from 1959 – 1968. He was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1965 and was Chairman of the St John Ambulance Association (Manawatu Centre) from 1971 – 1975.

After excellent service to both the war years and the community, Gilbert Rennie died on 4 March 1983, aged 87 and is buried in Kelvin Grove Cemetery, Palmerston North.

Gilbert Rennie’s medals are on display at the National Army Museum in Waiouru.

Gilbert Murray Rennie, Palmerston North Mayor 1959-1968, Source Palmerston North City Libraries