25 May 2009

( select to enlarge )

Medal entitlement of Lieutenant Colonel Robert Shankland,
43rd Bn ( Cameron Highlanders of Canada ), CEF

  • Victoria Cross
  • Distinguished Conduct Medal ( DCM )
  • British War Medal ( 1914-20 )
  • Victory Medal ( 1914-19 )
  • Defence Medal ( 1939-45 )
  • Canadian Volunteer Service Medal ( 1939-45 )+ Overseas clasp
  • War Medal ( 1939-45 )
  • King George VI Coronation Medal ( 1937 )
  • Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal ( 1953 )
Today, the 25th May 2009, the Victoria Cross and campaign medals awarded to Lieutenant Colonel Robert Shankland have been sold at auctioned by Bonhams of Toronto. The group achieved a hammer price of CAN$ 240,000 ( £135,000 ) and was purchased by the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.

By mid October 1917 the Bellevue Spur faced the Allies with a cordon of pillboxes, varying in shape and size and protected by thickets of barbed wire, that straddled a slight rise, less than 1,500 yards from the outskirts of Passchendaele. Twice in the space of three days these German defences had dealt crushing blows to British hopes. Haig turned to the Canadian Corps to salvage something of the wreckage of his plans. The talk was no longer of a breakthrough but of securing a defensible winter position and diverting attention away from new plans for an armoured strike at Cambrai.

[ London Gazette, 18 December 1917 ], Passchendaele, Belgium, 26 October 1917, Lieutenant Robert Shankland DCM, 43rd Bn, Manitoba Regiment, Canadian Expeditionary Force.

For most conspicuous bravery and resource in action under critical and adverse conditions ( Passchendaele, Belgium ). 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 support 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 rejoined 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.

Robert Shankland was invested with his Victoria Cross by King George V at Sandringham on the 7th October 1918.

[ London Gazette, 19 August 1916 ], for the award of the Distinguished Conduct Medal ( DCM ), 420933 Company Sergeant Major Robert Shankland, Canadian Infantry

For conspicuous gallantry for volunteering to lead a party of stretcher-bearers, under very heavy shell fire, and bringing in some wounded and partially buried men. His courage and devotion were most marked.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, Shankland, then 51, re-enlisted in the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada. Promoted Major in 1940, he was subsequently appointed camp commandant of the Canadian HQ in England with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

Robert Shankland died on 20 January 1968 in Shaughnessy Hospital, Vancouver. His body was cremated and his ashes scattered in the grounds of Mountain View cemetery.

Two further Victoria Crosses were earned by Canadians at Passchendaele on this day, 26 October 1917:

  • Private Thomas Holmes, 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles, CEF
  • Captain Christopher O'Kelly, 52nd Bn, ( New Ontario ), Lake Superior Regiment, CEF


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Iain Stewart, 26 May 2009