The Skylark IX Recovery Trust are celebrating after The National Lottery announced it has approved their application for a £404,000 grant to restore the Dunkirk Little Ship, which saved hundreds of lives during Operation Dynamo in World War Two.

Following years of fundraising, the grant will allow Skylark IX to become a floating museum which will sail on the Clyde from Bowling to Dumbarton Castle, with community volunteers telling the fascinating story of her role in the War.

The restoration will be undertaken by a specialist boatbuilding team working with recovering drug addicts as part of a skills development programme, run by Dumbarton-based charity, Alternatives.

Anne Dyer from the Skylark IX Recovery Trust said: “Today is a great day for us all. Skylark IX Recovery Trust is so pleased to finally commence with our mission.

"Not one day did we ever believe we could not face this huge challenge and in true Dunkirk Spirit we never gave up.

"The support from the community has been huge and our vision to continue the Skylark story will ring out for generations to come.

“When we started this venture, we never really knew the climb we had in front of us but in our hearts we had a sense that if we set out our vision and gathered like-minded people then we would get there in the end.

"Funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund has made this mission real. They have supported and encouraged us every step of the way and with them and many others we now can bring our dream to the fore."

Built as a passenger cruiser for 75 people in 1927, Skylark IX was called to the aid of the stranded Allied troops in Dunkirk in 1940 as part of Operation Dynamo, which saw a hastily assembled fleet of over 800 vessels commandeered and commanded by naval officers, civilians and anyone at hand, embark on the journey across the English channel towards France.

During the nine fateful days of this mission, which became known as the miracle of Dunkirk, Skylark IX saved the lives of over 600 cold and tired soldiers from the beaches of the French town, transporting them to larger naval ships whilst under fire.

Later, after serving in WW2, Skylark IX became a familiar sight on Loch Lomond, where Sweeney’s Cruise Company operated her for 33 years.

In June 2010, she sank on the River Leven and unfortunately deteriorated under water for two years before she was raised by the Royal Navy following a veterans’ campaign.

Since 2016, she has been located at the Scottish Maritime Museum on the harbourside in Irvine after the museum offered the Trust their support and facilities.

Anne added: “Skylark’s first mission was to save WW2 allied forces stranded on the shores at Dunkirk and today she will continue to save lives by allowing recovery clients from Alternatives, alongside a professional boatbuilding school at the Scottish Maritime Museum, to bring the Dunkirk Little ship to life again.

“Thank you so much to all who have stood shoulder to shoulder with us from day one.

"Today we are grateful to honour our history and truly humbled that we, as ordinary community members, took notice and stood up to take this task in hand and remember our fallen.

"Skylark IX’s past has been inspirational in our mission and long may she teach us about courage and hope.”

The project will include 10 paid traineeships leading to recognised qualifications in woodworking skills.

The trainees will go to Irvine twice per week to help restore her and spend three days per week working with a woodworking skills tutor based in the Scottish Maritime Museum in Dumbarton.

The benefits of the grant will, however, reach far beyond her restoration as local schools, education, arts and music programmes will explore and share the incredible history of the Little Ship to ensure that it will never be forgotten.

Lucy Casot, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, told the Reporter: “The Skylark IX is a part of Scotland’s WW2 history and we are delighted that thanks to players of the National Lottery, she will be saved to share her incredible story.

"As part of her recovery, others will recover too, learning skills that will help secure them a better future. I look forward to seeing this Little Ship’s transformation and the enjoyment and learning she will bring to very many people.”