John Drinkwater was born on June 9, 1762, in Latchford, England, and enlisted in the army in 1777, intending to aid the British cause against the rebellion in North America. His regiment, the 72nd Regiment of Foot, also known as the Royal Manchester Volunteers, went instead to Gibraltar, where they endured nearly four years of Spanish siege between 1779 and 1783. Drinkwater rose to the rank of captain in the 72nd Regiment of Foot, and purchased a commission in the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Foot, with which he served in Gibraltar, Toulon, and Corsica; he eventually rose to the rank of colonel. Following his military service, he held several political appointments, including a lengthy term as comptroller of army accounts between 1811 and 1835. Late in life, he adopted the surname Bethune after inheriting the estate of his brother-in-law, George Congalton-Bethune. He married Eleanor Congalton on June 6, 1799. Their son, John Elliot Drinkwater Bethune (1801-1851), became a Law Member of the Governor's General Council and President of the Council of Education in India, where he promoted women's education and founded a school for women in Calcutta (later called Bethune College). John Drinkwater Bethune died on January 16, 1844.