ALMASI / Bauer-Griffin 1 / 7
ALMASI / Bauer-Griffin 1 / 7

Johnny Depp has a well-earned reputation for being a class act with his fans. It's not unusual for him to spend hours signing autographs and shaking hands. Last year, when he received a fan-created quilt for his 46th birthday, he sent a personal thank-you note tapped out on an old typewriter ("I am profoundly grateful," he said).

So, it probably shouldn't be much of a surprise that he gave some British kids the thrill of their young lives on Wednesday when he showed up at their school decked out as Capt. Jack Sparrow.

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The London Daily Mail says the actor's visit was prompted by a tongue-in-cheek letter he received from a student (and "Pirates of the Caribbean" fan) looking to stage a rebellion against the teachers at Meridian Primary School.

Read the missive: "Captain Jack Sparrow: At Meridian Primary School, we are all a bunch of budding young pirates. Normally, we're a right handful, but we're having a bit of trouble mutinying against the teachers. We'd love if you could come and help -- Beatrice Delap, aged 9, a budding pirate. P.S. We have a plentiful supply of rum."

Depp, perhaps amused by the idea of elementary kids in possession of booze (he does still have "Wino Forever" tattooed on his bicep), made the surprise pop-by while filming the fourth "Pirates of the Caribbean" flick, "On Stranger Tides," at a nearby naval base (the picture at left was taken on-set Wednesday).

The tykes were given a 10-minute warning before the A-lister rolled up in full Sparrow regalia, complete with dreads, eyeliner and buckle-swashing clothes. The reaction, says one eyewitness, was "incredible screams of joy."

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Depp grabbed some face-time and posed with Beatrice, who said she decided to write the letter after visiting the film set last week.

"It was the most exciting school day ever," she gushed to the London Evening Standard. "He pulled the letter out of his pocket and said he was going to frame it. Then he ... gave me a hug."

Anything else? "He said the pirates were going to take over the school and only eat candy and our teeth would turn black and fall out," added the excited youngster. "But he said we shouldn't mutiny against the teachers because there were police outside and we might get into trouble."

Yeah, it's OK to love him a lot for that. And just go ahead and say "awwww." We did.

The best part: The visit had a positive educational impact, with one teacher noting that it "has inspired lots of writing across the school," with the students "delighted to see that such creative writing for a real audience and purpose can lead to great things."

This isn't the first time Johnny has surprised some London tots. He's made two under-the-radar appearances as Capt. Jack at the hospital that treated his daughter, Lily, during a 2007 health crisis.

In addition to spending time and taking pictures with the young patients, the appreciative star also donated more than a million bucks to the hospital.

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