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Search is on for relatives as proud town prepares to honour Victoria Cross hero

By Lucinda Cameron

A search has been launched for relatives of a soldier awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery during the Battle of Passchendaele in the First World War.

Officials hope to have family members present at a ceremony to honour Robert Shankland, which will take place in Ayr on October 26, 100 years after his heroic acts.

Mr Shankland was born on October 10, 1887 at 6 Gordon Terrace in the South Ayrshire town but emigrated to Canada in 1911.

At the outbreak of the First World War he returned to Europe with the 43rd Battalion (Cameron Highlanders of Canada) of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

On October 26, 1917, in the Battle of Passchendaele, the 43rd Battalion attacked Bellevue Spur, where concrete strongpoints bristling with machine guns had repelled all previous assaults.

Lieutenant Shankland braved enemy lines to take new information back to command, before returning and helping to capture Bellevue Spur.

For his actions that day he was awarded the Victoria Cross, with the citation stating that his courage and example "undoubtedly saved a critical situation".

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

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

She said: "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.

"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."

The stone will be laid at the First World War Rozelle Remembrance Woodland at Rozelle House and will be set in a tree trunk to help it blend in with other sculptures which are already there.

After the war Mr Shankland married Anna Stobo Haining, a daughter of the stationmaster at Prestwick Railway Station, and the couple emigrated to Canada.

His last visit to Ayr was in 1964 when local press coverage noted that in addition to two sons he now had a grandson.

Mr Shankland held managerial posts with several Winnipeg firms, and died at the age of 80 on January 20, 1968, in Vancouver.

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

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