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National appeal launched for family of WW1 VC winner to step forward

 06 October 2017  |  


Robert Shankland won his VC for actions on 26 October 1917

Robert Shankland won his VC for actions on 26 October 1917

100 years after a Scottish soldier was awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery during the Battle of Passchendaele in WW1, a national search is underway to find surviving family. A special ceremony will take place in Ayr on Thursday 26 October, to mark a hundred years to the day that the heroic acts took place

As part of the national programme to mark the centenary of the First World War, commemorative paving stones are being laid across the UK to honour the 628 Victoria Crosses awarded during the conflict.

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 (Cameron Highlanders of Canada) of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.  

On 26 October 1917, during the Battle of Passchendaele, the 43rd Battalion was among the units of the Canadian 3rd Division which attacked 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 Bellevue Spur. For his actions that day Robert Shankland was awarded the Victoria Cross, with the citation stating that his courage and his example 'undoubtedly saved a critical situation'.

Robert Shankland was 80 when he died on 20 January 1968 at Shaughnessy Hospital, Vancouver. His ashes were scattered in the city's Mountain View Cemetery. His name also appears alongside that of his Prestwick-born wife, Anna Stobo Haining, on the Haining family gravestone in Monkton and Prestwick Cemetery.

South Ayrshire Provost, Helen Moonie said that despite an extensive search no surviving family members had been found, "We're preparing a permanent memorial to mark Robert's valour in the Battle of Passchendaele, and we'd dearly love to have family members present at the ceremony, which is part of the national WW1 commemorations.

"Robert was born and raised in Ayr, while his wife Anna Stobo Haining came from Prestwick. Although he spent most of his life in Canada Robert had a lifelong connection with his hometown and was awarded the Freedom of the Burgh of Ayr in 1917.

"I'd urge anyone with a personal connection to the Shankland family to get in touch to help add a family connection as we remember a powerful story that will soon be set in stone in his home community for generations to come."

Anyone who thinks they may have a family connection are asked to contact the Civic Office at South Ayrshire Council on tel: 01292 612 474, or email: provost@south-ayrshire.gov.uk

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