UofG WW1 hero remembered

Issued: Mon, 09 Oct 2017 16:53:00 BST

A leading historian will give the inaugural Harry Ranken Memorial Lecture today (Tuesday 10 October 2017) at the University of Glasgow.

The Scottish Centre for War Studies lecture series is dedicated to Captain Harry Ranken, a University graduate and Glasgow’s first Victoria Cross recipient, who died in the First World War.

The first lecture will be by historian Professor Sir Hew Strachan and is entitled “The US entry to the First World War: Centennial Reflections”. It was made possible by the generous sponsorship of Dr Roddy Neilson, a consultant haematologist and honorary clinical senior lecturer at the University.

Dr Neilson graduated in 1985 in medicine and in 2008 completed a MLitt programme in War Studies at the University.

Dr Neilson said he has sponsored the lecture series as he wanted to give back to the Scottish Centre for War Studies which nurtured him as researcher.

He added: “As a graduate of the Centre, I am all too aware of the fantastic research carried out by staff there and the Harry Ranken Memorial Lecture is a great opportunity to showcase the University with fellow world-leading historians.

“The decision to name the series after Harry Ranken was an easy one. He was a Glasgow medical graduate and Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) officer, as am I, albeit not anywhere near as gallant. As the first RAMC officer to be awarded the Victoria Cross in the First World War, it felt wholly appropriate to commemorate him through the lecture series.”


Harry Ranken was a captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps. Before the Great War, he was a distinguished expert in tropical diseases. He was the first Glasgow-born man to be awarded the Victoria Cross for ‘gallantry in the face of the enemy’ during the First Battle of the Aisne in September 1914.
David Eynon, the great nephew of Captain Ranken, said: “Harry Ranken was a hero in every sense of the word. When he heard he had received his Victoria Cross, his response was, “Nonsense I am only a guy carrying out the work I was trained to do”. Amongst all the admirable words of tributes that have been written, this illumination of humility in Harry Ranken’s profile shines above all else for me.

“He died suddenly from the wounds he received carrying out this great act of valour. The world lost an outstanding doctor and tropical diseases researcher. As his family, we are delighted to see a lecture series named after him that spreads knowledge and debate helping to equip today’s students for their future careers.”

The lecture series is organised by Professor Peter Jackson, chair of Global Security, at the Scottish Centre for War Studies.

Professor Jackson said: “We are delighted that we are able to honour the heroic efforts of Captain Ranken by naming this important lecture series in his honour.

“We would like to thank Roddy for his generous donation and continued support to the Scottish Centre for War Studies. With an inspirational speaker like Sir Hew Strachan, we are sure it will be a memorable event.”

Dr Roddy Neilson is a consultant haematologist and honorary clinical senior lecturer in the University. He is a colonel in the Army Reserve and served as Commanding Officer of 205 (Scottish) Field Hospital from 2011-2014. He has deployed on operations in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. He is currently the Army's Military Medical Liaison Officer to the Scottish Government.

Professor Hew Strachan’s is one of the world’s foremost historians of war and strategy and the founding Director of the Scottish Centre for War Studies. He is at present completing a three volume history of the First World War for Oxford University Press.

Harry Ranken’s story is remembered on Glasgow’s First World War website – www.firstworldwarglasgow.co.uk.

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