Operation Dynamo was a rescue operation ordered by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill that took place in late spring of 1940 on the north shores of France near Dunkirk. British soldiers together with Belgian forces and three French armies found themselves surrounded by Germans on May 21st 1940. The British commander John Vereker quickly realized that the only escape route was through the Channel. He started the evacuation procedures by moving troops to nearby Dunkirk, the closest port on French soil with access to the British coast via boats. On May 22nd Hitler, concerned about the muddy nature of the terrain in the area, issued an halt of the attack operations which allowed the British troops to prepare for evacuation. The goal was to evacuate over 300,000 British soldiers to their homeland. British troops aided by the French armies, which fought south in a defensive/delaying operation, fought in Dunkirk against the German forces for days to protect the rescue operation. The rescue of the British soldiers was done using over 800 vessels, from large ships to small boats which were used to reach the beaches and the port. The rescue operation despite being done in chaotic conditions with many vehicles abandoned along the way and soldiers waiting in shoulder deep water for hours for the rescue boats, was a success. By the end of the eight day 338,226 British soldier had been evacuated from the French soil back to England.
Skylark IX was one of the small vessels used in operation Dynamo and it saved over 600 British soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk. Skylark IX is a 50 ft long motor boat built in 1927. At the beginning of the war, it was used as a shallow water minesweeper and to place anti-invasion obstacles in the harbor. After the end of the war, it made its way north, via Morecambe and Burntisland to Loch Lomond, where it was used for short cruises. During each year commemoration of the battle of Dunkirk, veterans were given free cruises on Skylark IX. Unfortunately, it sank in the River Leven about 3 years ago and was later rescued by locals.
Skylark IX is in need or restoration. In 2013 a recovery trust was established to fund the restoration of this historical boat. The Skylark Trust has teamed up with Scottish Maritime Museum in Irvine to restore the boat in its original conditions. The trust works with the charity Alternatives which supports recovering drug addicts who are employed in the restoration of the boat leading them to learn new skills. One of the recent milestones was the restoration of the engine.
To show support for Harry Styles’ role in the movie Dunkirk, directed by Christopher Nolan and scheduled to be released in the summer of 2017, a group of One Direction fans has decided to come together and campaign for raising funds for the restoration of Skylark IX. Harry’s mom, Mrs Anne Twist publicly acknowledged and supported this effort via Twitter and has even served as a judge in an art competition on Skylark IX. The One Direction fans set up a JustGiving page with a goal of raising $4,000, which was surpassed. It has been estimated that the boat will be fully restored in 18 months. Donors of $100 or more will receive a mention in a plaque along side Harry’s name.
Once restored, Skylark IX will be moved to Dumbarton Castle and will be used for educational purposes. It will also resume its yearly cruise to commemorate the battle of Dunkirk and will once again be offering free rides to veterans.
To learn more about One Direction fans efforts to help restore Skylark IX click here.