Glasgow & West Scotland

Appeal for relatives of WW1 Victoria Cross hero from Ayr

Robert Shankland VC
Image caption Robert Shankland enlisted as a private in the 43rd Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force following the outbreak of the war

Relatives of a World War One hero born in Ayr are being sought ahead of a commemoration event in his honour.

Robert Shankland, who emigrated to Canada when he was 24, was a sergeant major in the 43rd Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

He was awarded a Victoria Cross for the courage he showed on 26 October 1917 during the Battle of Passchendaele.

One hundred years on, a paving stone in Mr Shankland's honour is to be unveiled in Ayr's Rozelle Park.

The ceremony on Thursday 26 October is part of the government-backed programme of recognition for World War One VC recipients in their home communities across the country.

Mr Shankland received his VC from King George V at Sandringham on 7 October 1918, with the citation stating that his courage and his example "undoubtedly saved a critical situation".

'Under fire'

Losses were heavy during the Battle of Passchendaele, and it appeared that the attack to capture an area called Bellevue Spur had failed.

Crossing ground under fire, Mr Shankland made his way to the rear to organise reinforcements and he was able to point out weaknesses in the German defences.

A fresh attack was launched using Mr Shankland's suggestions and Bellevue Spur was finally secured in a move that was seen as the last obstacle to the capture of the Belgian village of Passchendaele.

Image copyright South Ayrshire Council
Image caption The memorial stone is due to be officially unveiled at Rozelle Remembrance Woodland

Mr Shankland, who ended the war with the rank of captain, was wounded on 11 November 1917 and sent back to Britain for treatment and recuperation.

On a visit home, he was presented with the Freedom of the Burgh of Ayr in a packed town hall on 31 December 1917.

Mr Shankland was born on 10 October 1887 at 6 Gordon Terrace in Ayr.

He went to Smith's Institution in Holmston Road (now Holmston Primary School) and ended his school life as dux.

He worked in a variety of jobs in Ayr before emigrating to Canada in 1911 with his friend George Ritchie.

Family gravestone

Mr Shankland married Anna Stobo Haining, a daughter of the stationmaster at Prestwick Railway Station.

His name appears alongside that of his wife on the Haining family gravestone in Monkton and Prestwick Cemetery.

In Winnipeg, Mr Shankland had lived in Pine Street. Unusually, two other residents on the street had also been awarded the VC during the war, though neither had survived the conflict.

To commemorate this, the street was renamed Valour Road in 1925.

He was 80 when he died on 20 January 1968 at Shaughnessy Hospital, Vancouver. His ashes were scattered in the city's Mountain View Cemetery.

South Ayrshire Provost Helen Moonie said that despite an extensive search no surviving family members had been found.

"We'd dearly love to have family members present at the ceremony", she said.

"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."

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