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HMS Theseus

Information gathered from the web site


The Fifties.

Theseus was seen on a number of occasions during the 1950s. Previously, this page only contained brief details of a visit in July 1953, and so can be considered a “new” page.



On 14th August, the ship sailed out of Portsmouth, and after embarking her aircraft, and a visit from the Commander-in-Chief, Home Fleet, Admiral Sir Philip Vian, K.C.B., K.B.E., D.S.O., set out from Spithead on 18th August. The carrier immediately embarked on an intensive flying practice.

A trip to Malta, and further exercises off the island, the ship finally entered Grand Harbour on 26th August, for a brief weekend visit, sailing out early on Monday, 28th August for Port Said on the first leg towards Singapore.

She returned from Singapore early on the 21st May, and after one night there, set off early afternoon of the 22nd on the last lap of her journey back to the UK.

Theseus again sailed from the UK on 18th August, to relieve HMS Triumph in the Far East. The carrier called at Malta briefly, date unknown, but probably on the 22nd.



On 22nd January, Theseus left Portsmouth Sound, visiting Gibraltar, then onto Malta, arriving on 4th February. That morning the aircraft of 802 and 825 Squadrons were flown ashore, and during the forenoon the personnel were disembarked in Marsaxlokk Bay. The carrier then entered Grand Harbour. She put to sea on 11th February to embark the Sea Furies of 807 Squadron, and Fireflies of 810 Squadron which had come from Ocean, engaging in manoeuvres in the Mediterranean.

The carrier returned to Malta on 19th April, where she hoisted the flag of FO2 Mediterranean, Vice Admiral R.A.B. Edwards, for an official visit to Greek ports. On 21st April, Theseus left Grand Harbour with other ships of the fleet, and set course for Piracus.

Returning during the first week of May 1952, Theseus operated from Grand Harbour, but on the 27th May, with Glory having arrived in Malta from the Far East, she was able to begin her passage back to the UK, and she left for Gibraltar. On board for the journey were the personnel and aircraft of 812 and 814 Squadrons, who had completed a tour of duty in HMS Glory.

Leaving Portsmouth on 18th August, Theseus embarked the aircraft of 804 Squadron before making her way north for exercises off Scotland. She was back in Portsmouth on 25th September. Five days later Theseus sailed for the Mediterranean once again to provide the necessary air cover, whilst Glory returned to Korean waters. She arrived in Grand Harbour on 9th October, and operated the Sea Furies and Fireflies of 898 and 807 Squadrons.

On the last day of October she left Grand Harbour for a seven-day visit to the city of Trieste. The visit was followed by flying exercises in the Adriatic.

At 18:00hrs on 11th November, a fractured arrestor unit was reported, and speed was increased to 17 knots in order to reach Malta before dark the following day.

Owing to the defective arrestor unit no flying was attempted on Wednesday 12th November until 14:00 hrs when all aircraft of Nos. 807, 810 and 898 squadrons were flown off to Hal-Far. A massed attack was carried out on H.M.S. Glasgow by the aircraft en route.

On Friday 28th November, she embarked the Duke of Edinburgh and left Grand Harbour to put on a display of dive bombing, cannon, and rocket firing, then anchored in Marsaxlokk Bay where the Duke of Edinburgh lowered his personal standard and left the carrier by launch. The display marked the end of Theseus’ second stint in the Mediterranean Fleet, and on 1st December, having embarked 802 and 825 Squadrons she left Malta to return, via Gibraltar, to Portsmouth.



In early June 1953 there was a visit to Torquay, which was followed by the Coronation Fleet Review at Spithead on the 15th June. After leaving Spithead on 16th June, Theseus steamed round to Milford Haven, and after embarking 802 and 824 Squadrons, she sailed for the Mediterranean. For this third short stint with the Mediterranean fleet, Theseus was to take the place of Ocean which had sailed east to relieve Glory off Korea.

Theseus arrived in Malta on 26th June, and 17 days later was ready to accompany the fleet on its summer cruise, returning to Malta on 6th August to carry out maintenance.

Thursday 27th August saw Theseus leave Grand Harbour to embark her aircraft and carry out flying practice in local waters. On 9th September she set sail for Phaleron Bay, Athens, arriving later the same day.

During her stay after a severe earthquake struck the western end of the island of Cyprus, which left 40 people dead, injuring hundreds more, and leaving at least 50,000 without any food, water or accommodation. Theseus was ordered to weight anchor, and sail to Paphos Bay to assist in the humanitarian effort.

With the end of the humanitarian mission, the carrier weighed anchor in the evening of 14th September to return to Malta, arriving in Grand Harbour on the 17th September.

Further exercises took place and she was back in Malta by 16th October. However, Theseus’ time with the Mediterranean Fleet, and her career as a fixed-wing aircraft carrier, were drawing to a close, and on 20th October she left Malta to return home to Portsmouth.

Thesues wouldn’t be seen until a little over two years later, in the meantime undergoing a refit and conversion for use as a training ship with the Home Fleet.



Two days later, despite the fact that the lease was not due to expire until 1968, President Nasser of Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal Company, which led the British Government to declare that Britain, as a majority shareholder should intervene. However, with British troops having left Egypt only in the previous month meant that any reoccupation was fraught with difficulty. Both Britain and France entered into diplomatic negotiations, and in collusion with Israel, prepared to invade Egypt.

Theseus was to be an important unit in the invasion plans, to make a trooping voyage to Cyprus, ferrying material and troops of the 16th Independent Parachute Regiment. On 5th August, the carrier sailed for Cyprus, arriving at Famagusta on 11th August, where all transport and troops were disembarked, and men of the 4th Commando Brigade, Royal Marines boarded the ship for passage to Malta.

Finally, on the morning of 18th August, Theseus left Malta for a fast passage home.

Theseus and Ocean would, for the first time, carry out an amphibious landing of Royal Marines by helicopter. Having embarked the 12 helicopters of 845 Squadron and more troops, Theseus left Portsmouth on 22nd October to set course for Malta, arriving on 26th October to secure alongside Parlatorio Wharf.

On 29.10.56 helicopters from 845 squadron night stopped, but how many is not known.

Seven days later on 2nd November, saw the embarkation of half of the men and transport of 45 Commando, Royal Marines. Next day, Theseus sailed from Malta bound for Port Said, arriving 3 days later. She anchored in Port Said Roads, some eight miles offshore, where preparations to land the Marines began.

For Theseus, there still remained the task of evacuating the wounded, and on 7th November, with casualties embarked, she left Port Said for Malta, arriving three days later where the casualties were disembarked, and troops of the Duke of Wellington Regiment boarded. That evening the ship sailed for Cyprus, where the troops were landed off Famagusta. The carrier then returned to Malta, arriving in Grand Harbour on 17th November, where she would remain until the first week of December.

It is probably for this reason that all of 845 squadron disembarked from HMS Theseus and operated from Ta Qali airfield from 10.11.56, to make room for the above mentioned troops. The Whirlwinds would remain at Ta’ Qali, departing back to the ship on 23.11.56.

During the forenoon of 5th December the helicopters were flown ashore, and Theseus set course for Port Said, where she arrived two days later. During the next 24 hours she embarked troops and their vehicles, landing them in Malta on 10th December before leaving for Port Said again.

The carrier left Port Said directly for the UK on the 15th.

In January 1957, HMS Theseus was decommissioned, and in March 1958 approved for disposal. On 29th May 1962, was sold to T. W. Ward, and towed to the breakers yard at Inverkeithing, Scotland, to be broken up.

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