Major General Robert Rennie, CB, CMG, DSO, MVO, VD was born on December 15, 1863 in York Co, Ontario. He died on December 17, 1949 in Toronto. In civilian life he was a “seed merchant” – he had risen to become President of the firm started by his father: The William Rennie Seed Company.
Rennie joined the militia in July 1880 as a Rifleman and in his early years he was a well known marksman, representing Canada on the Bisley Team on three occasions and receiving several medals and prizes for his marksmanship. He became a 2nd Lieutenant (Provisional) April 7, 1887; gazetted 2nd Lieutenant August 13, 1887; Lieutenant November 16, 1888; Captain April 22, 1892; Brevet Major 24 Oct 1904; Major 10 Apr 1906; Lieutenant Colonel 11 April 1911.
As a Major in 1910 he participated in the trip to England and during a visit to Balmoral, was awarded the Royal Victorian Order, 4th Class by King George V.
By 1914 he was a Lieutenant Colonel. He was the original commanding officer of the 3rd Battalion CEF and led them at the Second Battle of Ypres, Festubert and Givenchy.
He was promoted to Brigadier November 17, 1915 and given command of the 4th Brigade, 2nd Canadian Division. In 1917 he was Vimy Ridge. On September 25, 1917 Rennie, when proceeding to the forward area, was accidentally thrown from his horse, suffering a broken collar-bone. He resumed command on January 28, 1918 and was with the Brigade at the Battle of Amiens. Rennie was awarded the CB in the June 1918 Birthday List.
He was promoted to Major General on September 16, 1921.
After retirement from Rennie Seeds in 1925, Robert and and his brother John Rennie were committed golfers and curlers and remained connected to the civic life of Toronto. Robert continued to be involved in military activities and was a prominent advocate of veterans’ interests. He was Honorary Lieutenant Colonel of the Queens Own Rifles from December 1936 to March 1939, and from then to his death he was Honorary Colonel.
Robert fell on hard times after the stock market crash of 1929 and embarked on a new career as an occasional stamp dealer (Hayter, 1988). A long time expert philatelist, he slowly sold off a massive accumulation of envelopes that had contained correspondence received by Rennie Seeds primarily from the era 1895-1905. These envelopes are widely held in collections of Canadian postal history and are actively bought and sold.
In 1891 Rennie had married Marian A. Ross and they had one son Gordon Cameron Rennie who also served late in the First World War and is also buried at Mt Pleasant Cemetery.
In Swansea, west of High Park, there is a Rennie Terrace and Rennie Park, named in honour of the Rennie family home and business that was located here for many years.