Ark Royal in Leeds United salute

Leeds United fans will be able to give a farewell salute to the crew of the HMS Ark Royal aircraft carrier later this month.

Dozens of crew members from the soon-to-be decommissioned Royal Navy flagship will be attending United's home game against Bristol City on Saturday, November 13.

They will form a guard of honour for the teams ahead of kick-off before returning to the pitch at half-time to show their appreciation for the support the city of Leeds has given Ark Royal down the years.

News of the Remembrance weekend visit comes just over a fortnight after the Government announced the scrapping of the ship due to defence spending cuts.

United chief executive Shaun Harvey said today: "This is a very special weekend for us and it's an opportunity for the people of Leeds to say farewell to a ship of historical importance."

Ark Royal's commanding officer, Captain Jerry Kyd, said: "I have received many warm letters from members of the Leeds public expressing their disappointment over the ship's planned decommissioning, for which I am extremely grateful.

"I'd like to wish Leeds United every success in the game against Bristol City and in their push for a return to the Premier League after an all-too-long absence."

Ark Royal was adopted by Leeds in 1941 as part of a drive to encourage people to raise money for the Navy during the Second World War.

Days later, however, she was torpedoed by a German submarine and sunk off Gibraltar. Spurred into patriotic action, the city then collected more than 9m – close to 270m in today's money – to pay for a replacement.

That Ark Royal was decommissioned in 1976, three years after the vessel's links with Leeds were strengthened still further when she was granted the freedom of the city.

The same status applies to the present Ark Royal, which was launched by the Queen Mother in 1981.

* United's players will be wearing a one-off shirt incorporating a poppy emblem for the Bristol City game, the club confirmed today.

The shirts will be signed by the team after the match and then donated to services charities.

Volunteers from the British Legion will also be holding a Poppy Appeal collection at the game.

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