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HMS Ark Royal is Leeds' adopted ship
HMS Ark Royal
HMS Ark Royal has had a long connection with Leeds

The association between Leeds and the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal stems back to World War II and the third Ark Royal, adopted by the city in 1942.

Now the Royal Navy's flagship is to be scrapped early as part of the government's defence review.

During World War II various government campaigns encouraged people to raise money for the war effort.

One of these campaigns was a Warship Week planned for early 1942.

An extraordinary city and ship

In November 1941 Leeds, as an added incentive, decided to adopt the HMS Ark Royal, but just days later the ship was torpedoed and sunk.

Having decided to adopt the ship the fund-raising objective for Leeds' Ark Royal Week changed from a target of £3.5m, for a replacement hull and some refitting, to over £5m for a replacement ship.

HMS Ark Royal
is 211 metres long
has a maximum beam of 36m
has a draft of 8.4m
displaces 20,000 tonnes
has a full complement of 682 sailors
can carry an additional 668 aircrew and Royal Marines

To raise funds a huge march took place down the Headrow, led by the Navy and followed by military vehicles and personnel.

The various collections were so successful that the grand total raised by the citizens of Leeds was over £9m - an amazing sum.

Ceremonial occasions

Contributions included money sent by children that would buy nuts and bolts, to sums of £250,000 from local businesses to purchase Fulmar naval fighter planes, that cost £5,000 each.

In October 1973 the Ark Royal was granted The Freedom of Entry into the City, giving them the privilege of marching through the streets of Leeds on all ceremonial occasions. The last time this right was exercised was in 2003.

Councillor Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds City Council, said:

"HMS Ark Royal has a huge place in Leeds' heart- this is a devastating loss and a body-blow to the city's immense pride in what is a long-standing and very warm relationship.

"Leeds is no ordinary city and Ark Royal is no ordinary ship. Our civic life will be the poorer for its passing."

Historic ship

Fundraising for HMS Ark Royal
Crowds in the Headrow watching the 1942 march. (Pic copyright Leodis)

The first Ark Royal existed in the late 16th century, it was a wooden battleship part of Sir Francis Drake's fleet. The second Ark Royal was a seaplane carrier of 7,400 tons, in service during the 1914-18 World War. The aircraft carrier sunk in 1941 was the third vessel to bear the name.

Work on the fourth HMS Ark Royal was completed in February 1955 and the ship was decommissioned in 1976.

The current ship is the fifth Ark Royal, commissioned in 1985.

You can see pictures of Ark Royal Week in Leeds in 1942 and the 2003 march at www.leodis.org

Fact File: HMS Ark Royal
07 Jan 03 |  UK
An extraordinary city and ship
22 Nov 10 |  People & Places



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