1880 – 1916

Civil Engineer

Quetta & NW Frontier, 1914

Equipped for every good work6

The deed was done.  In the stark but quiet beauty of a graveyard32 in Quetta22, a young 2nd Lieutenant was laid to rest, in ground which was no less cold than the headstone which would eventually mark his grave.  Save for the Army Chaplain53 there was no one to mourn him, not here, in the hinterland of the North West frontier of British India48; the shedding of tears would be left to those he had so confidently left behind, all those years ago40.

It was the bleakest of endings to a life which had begun on 26th December 188040 on the windswept archipelago of Orkney31, the youngest child of parents Isabella and James Donald, after whom he was named38.  His eldest brother, John Rowley, would eventually become the Vicar of Ss Simon & Jude, Cockshutt.

The untimely death of his Father2 two years later undoubtedly shattered the contented homelife young James was accustomed to; but as James the elder had always upheld his responsibilities as the financial provider3 for the family, they were able to remain in their close-knit community3 whilst adjusting to their loss.

Sustained by his loving Christian1 family, James once again settled into a happy, carefree childhood, thriving amidst the magnificent backdrop of wide open spaces, fishing boats, and ancient castles; ideal for his burgeoning curiosity about how and why things work.

All too soon, change was once again on the horizon.  By the time he was twelve the family had uprooted to the bustling city of Edinburgh4; soon after he made the journey to Yorkshire and entered Sedbergh School40 as a boarder.  Thriving in the competitive environment, excelling in Mathematics and Science, he was deservedly offered a place at the Royal Indian Engineering College47, Berkshire, where he trained as a Civil Engineer for the Indian Works Department33.

Graduating in 1903, James was appointed Assistant Conservator of Forests33 for the Central Provinces of India40.  Self-assured, he embraced this auspicious chapter in his life in the lush foothills of the Himalayas50; balancing the heavy demands for timber by the construction industry, with preservation and management of the forests54.  Successful and hardworking he quickly rose through the ranks, becoming an Instructor for the Imperial Forest School in Dehra Dun33 and Deputy Conservator of Forests, India40.  Clearly, it was a path which fate had chosen for him; but it was the need for political gain and supremacy in Europe which would eventually force him down another path.

As hostilities erupted in Europe, Indian Army Regiments were deployed overseas in support of the Allies25; defensively vulnerable8 India filled its dearth of Officers by creating a reserve force of British Army officers for the Indian Army26.  Answering the call for enlistment, James was given a temporary commission as 2nd Lieutenant in May 191546, attached to the 2nd Queen Victoria’s Own Sappers and Miners16; a skilled linguist47, he was stationed along the perilous but strategically important North West frontier43, overseeing local labour in its management of fortifications, constantly engaging with ongoing skirmishes7.

WW1 Medals, 1914 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal

It was here, in this brutal and unforgiving place, that 2nd Lieutenant J Donald suffered an aneurism11 whilst on active service16.  Admitted into hospital in Quetta he died shortly afterwards from heart failure52 on 15th October 1916.

Posthumously awarded the1914/15 Star, The British War Medal and the Victory Medal10, James’s final resting place is in Quetta Government Cemetery 242616.  He is remembered with honour on the Delhi Memorial Gate16 and The Scottish National War Memorial39.

We Will Remember Him.



2nd Lieutenant James Donald, Indian Army Reserve of Officers

Died on the North West Frontier, 15th October 1916

Buried in Quetta Government Cemetery 2426, Remembered on the Delhi Memorial Gate



The woodland trees that stand together,
They stand to him each one a friend
They gently speak in the windy weather;
They guide to valley and ridge’s end27.

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