Granddaughter of WW1 VC winner makes emotional return to his home town

 26 October 2017  |  


Janet Shankland Huggins flew from Canada following an appeal from South Ayrshire Council

Janet Shankland Huggins flew from Canada following an appeal from South Ayrshire Council

100 years after a Scottish soldier was awarded the Victoria Cross, a service has taken place to commemorate his bravery during the Battle of Passchendaele. Robert Shankland from Ayr was remembered as part of a national programme to mark the 628 Victoria Crosses awarded during the First World War.

Robert Shankland VC was born on 10 October 1887 at 6 Gordon Terrace, Ayr, emigrating to Canada in 1911. At the outbreak of the First World War Robert enlisted and returned to Europe as part of the 43rd Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force - Cameron Highlanders of Canada. 

Robert Shankland was awarded the VC on 26 October 1917 following acts of valour at Passchendaele. During an attack on the heavily fortified Bellevue Spur, concrete strongpoints, bristling with machine guns had repelled all previous assaults. Robert braved enemy lines to take new information back to command, before returning to and helping to capture the objective.

A commemorative stone for Robert Shankland was laid at the Rozelle Remembrance Woodland in Ayr on 26 October, 2017, exactly 100 years after the action for which his VC was awarded. The decision to locate the memorial at Rozelle represents a lasting memorial to a man who was born and raised in Ayr, and who returned to the town many times during his lifetime.

The guest of honour was Robert's youngest granddaughter, Janet Shankland-Huggins, who flew from Greater Vancouver in British Columbia after reading an online article following an international appeal from South Ayrshire Council.

Janet said that that she had been humbled to be part of the day, "We're all very much honoured and touched that my grandfather's hometown still remembers him for his courage and bravery and for being awarded the Victoria Cross.

"When we received the notice of this commemoration, all of the grandchildren of Robert were very excited about the ceremony. Unfortunately, with time restraints for travel documents and other commitments, my brother, Mark Cameron Shankland and sister, Barbara Anna Flower, could not attend.

"I feel very humbled to have been asked to take part today. My grandfather's achievements have always been a proud part of our family's heritage and to participate in this commemoration in his old hometown makes it even more heartfelt."

South Ayrshire Provost, Helen Moonie said the poignant service was a timely reminder of what people went through in WW1 to help protect future generations, "We didn't think that we'd be able to track down any of the Shankland family but we were overwhelmed by the response and deeply moved that his granddaughter, Janet, flew from Canada to take part.

"South Ayrshire Council's motto is 'ne'er forget the people' and the Rozelle Remembrance Woodland has been designed to keep our service personnel, their families, their memories and their legacies alive every day for generations to come.

"The commemorative stone has been set as a permanent reminder of the contribution that Robert Shankland made during the war. With relatively few people awarded a Victoria Cross during the First World War, he will be forever remembered in his native Ayr."

The citation for Robert Shankland's VC:

For most conspicuous bravery and resource in action under critical and adverse conditions. Having gained a position he rallied the remnant of his own platoon and men of other companies, disposed them to command the ground in front, and inflicted heavy casualties upon the retreating enemy. Later, he dispersed a counter-attack, thus enabling supporting troops to come up unmolested. He then personally communicated to Battalion Headquarters an accurate and valuable report as to the position on the Brigade frontage, and after doing so re-joined his command and carried on until relieved. His courage and splendid example inspired all ranks and coupled with his great gallantry and skill undoubtedly saved a very critical situation.