Skylark IX, the only Scottish-based vessel among the flotilla of boats that rescued 340,000 British and French troops from French beaches during the Second World War, was finally brought to the surface last night after a two-day operation.
Earlier, organisers of the bid to rescue the plucky little cruiser – which alone brought 600 men back to Britain – had a scare as she disappeared beneath the waves in Balloch, West Dunbartonshire. But last night, shortly after 6pm, Dougie McCann, vice-commodore of Leven Cruising Club which owns Skylark IX, said: "We have just got her up. This is a great day for us."
He added there was no time for champagne for the rescue team, but thanked the team of Royal Navy volunteer divers.
Using special buoyancy bags donated by Seaflex in the Isle of Wight, Navy bomb disposal experts from Faslane undertook the exhausting operation to get Skylark IX fully afloat. They had to abandon their efforts after the first day but yesterday, although she sank down below the water surface several times, the last of the water was pumped out.
The club used her as a cruise boat after she finished service but she had been underwater for more than two years. Mr McCann said: "I was on the point of giving up and having her broken up because I couldn't get any help in saving her. We put her on eBay for £1 to no avail. In desperation, I wrote to The Herald asking readers for help. After that, Boyd Tunnock of the famous teacake company rang and offered to help us.
"Luckily we've been donated the air bags and the Royal Navy have volunteered their services free, so we haven't yet needed Mr Tunnock's help. We've achieved our initial task. But the next step is to have her refurbished and to find her a permanent home."
l Spitfire hunter David Cundall, of Lincolnshire, has signed a deal with Burma for the return of 20 planes which have been buried in crates there for almost 70 years.