Donald, who was two years younger than Jane, was also extremely tall—6 ft 5 in. He went to Cheltenham College, then joined the Royal Artillery in 1884. He was the tallest man in the Royal Artillery and there’s a photograph of him with the shortest man. In 1886 he was stationed at Dover and walked past a photographer’s shop where he spotted a portrait of a young lady, and decided this was the woman he was going to marry! She turned out to be Mary Rose Holden and they formed a close friendship.
That year he requested a transfer to the Royal Horse Artillery which was accepted. In 1890 he was seconded to the Egyptian army and celebrated his 21st birthday in Malta on his way out there. It’s clear he was highly valued, because he became so sick that in July 1891 that he returned to England to recuperate and became engaged to Mary Rose. Unfortunately the Egyptian Army didn’t allow its officers to be married, and he wrote to his CO, a man called Rundle, who tried his hardest to persuade the Sirdar to make an exception in his case, but it wasn’t to be.
There’s a wonderful set of correspondence he kept from his time there, an example of which appears below. In many of them, he’s addressed as Mr Bimbashi Bremner. Initially I thought this was a nickname, but I suspect it may have been a job title, reading letters from others.
The letters are in a mixture of French and English, generally one or the other, but occasionally both; for example ‘Votre très humble serviteur’.
His successor Monckton asks him to return the £8 included in the letter to his saddler. Donald had obviously recommended the saddler to Monckton, but Monckton clearly thought the price was too steep!
As a result, in 1892 he was posted as Adjutant to the Volunteer Artillery in Morpeth, Northumberland and married Mary Rose in June. It was a double ceremony with her sister Betty Eveleigh.
The story doesn’t stop there, but it’s better continued in the next chapter, while we look at the rest of his siblings.