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Sir Rufane Shaw Donkin GCH KCB (1773 – 1 May 1841), British soldier, came of a military family. His father, who died a full general in 1841, served with almost all British commanders from Wolfe to Gage.

Rufane Donkin was the eldest child, and received his first commission at the age of five in his father's regiment; he joined, at fourteen, with eight years seniority as a lieutenant. Becoming a captain in 1793, he was on active service in the West Indies in 1794, and (as major) in 1796. At the age of twenty-five he became lieutenant-colonel, and in 1798 led a light battalion with distinction in the Ostend expedition. He served with Cathcart in Denmark in 1807, and two years later was given a brigade in the army in Portugal, which he led at Oporto and Talavera. He was soon transferred, as quartermaster-general, to the Mediterranean command, in which he served from 1810 to 1813, taking part in the Catalonian expeditions. Sir John Murray's failure at Tarragona did not involve Donkin, whose advice was proved to be uniformly ignored by the British commander.

In July 1815 Major-General Donkin went out to India, and distinguished himself as a divisional commander in Hasting's operations against the Mahrattas (1817–1818), receiving the KCB as his reward. The death of his young wife seriously affected him, and he went to the Cape of Good Hope on sick leave. From 1820 to 1821 he administered the colony with success, and named the rising seaport of Algoa Bay Port Elizabeth in memory of his wife. In 1821 he became lieutenant-general and GCH.

The rest of his life was spent in literary and political work. He was one of the original fellows of the Royal Geographical Society, and was a member of the Royal Society and of many other learned bodies. His theories as to the course of the River Niger, published under the title Dissertation on the Course and Probable Termination of the Niger (London, 1829), involved him in a good deal of controversy. From 1832 to 1837 he sat in the House of Commons as Member of Parliament (MP) for Berwick-upon-Tweed, and in 1835 was made Surveyor-General of the Ordnance. He was elected as MP for Sandwich in 1839, and held that seat until he committed suicide at Southampton on 1 May 1841. He was then a general, and colonel of the 11th Regiment of Foot.

Rufane Donkin was a cousin of Charles Collier Michell, surveyor-general of the Cape Colony.


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Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Marcus Beresford
Sir Francis Blake
Member of Parliament for Berwick-upon-Tweed
With: Sir Francis Blake to 1835
James Bradshaw from 1835
Succeeded by
Richard Hodgson
William Holmes
Military offices
Preceded by
Lord Edward Somerset
Surveyor-General of the Ordnance
Succeeded by
Charles Richard Fox


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