As a Home Fleet training ship, Theseus would
take all seamen of the Navy, except boy entrants, to carry out their Part 1 and
Part 2 training which would include basic disciplinary, seamanship, gunnery, and
On 17th September, with a full complement of trainees, Theseus put to sea for the first time as a training ship, making trips to Gibraltar and Tangier before retuning to Portland on 1st December. Nine days later on the 10th December, there was a change of command, when Captain A.C.C. Miers, VC, DSO, RN. took over from Captain Brown. Captain Miers won his VC whilst in command of the Submarine Torbay
In late January 1955 Theseus visited Brest, and then she sailed for Gibraltar on the 7th March, returning to Portland on the 1st April. Later that month, Rear Admiral H.W. Biggs took over as Flag Officer Training. Exercises and training continued with the ship calling at Liverpool where the open-hearted hospitality of the city was enjoyed, including dances, and a Civic Ball given by the authorities. From Liverpool, Theseus made a short stop at Portree, then, steaming round Invergordon, she went on to Bergen, passing the picturesque fjords. From Bergen it was back to Rosythe, where she stayed for seven days until 14th July when she left for Portland via the seaside resort of Scarborough, where she stayed for a six day visit.
From Scarborough Theseus returned to Portland
on 21st July for a rather quieter life, interrupted only by Navy Days when on
1st August nearly 4,500 visitors toured the ship. In mid-August, she sailed for
her annual docking and maintenance period, most of which was spent in the
floating dry dock in Portsmouth Harbour. By 20th September she was back at
Portland, but in October she was ordered to Portsmouth to prepare for a trouping
voyage to Cyprus where, following an escalation of the AOAK terrorist campaign,
she was required to carry troops and army transport to the island.
After loading army trucks and stores Theseus sailed for Famagusta on 27th October. She anchored in Famagusta’s outer harbour where the ‘Men under Training’ helped to unload all the trucks. When the task was completed, she steamed to Malta where she met Ocean, and on the 8th November the two ships left for Gibraltar and Tangier before returning to Portland on 1st December. Later that month there was a final change of command for Theseus when Captain E.F. Pizey. DSO. RN. took over from Captain Miers for the final 12 months of Theseus’ operational career.
On 20th January 1956, Captain Pizey took Theseus to sea to take part in Home Fleet exercises, after which she paid a six day visit to the Spanish naval base at El Ferrol on Spain’s northern Atlantic coast, returning to Portsmouth 2nd February. Ahead lay a four month refit, during which she would be adapted to operate a limited number of Whirlwind helicopters.
On 4th May 1956, Rear-Admiral G.B. Sayers took over as Flag Officer Training Squadron, and hoisted his flag in Theseus, and on 11th June she sailed for Invergordon. For the next ten days, together with Ocean, she operated the Whirlwind helicopters of 845 Squadron, with four being allocated to each ship. This was followed by a trip to Kristiansand, leaving Norway on 3rd July. Further exercises took place, and a visit to Tynemouth, finally arriving at Portland on 24th July.
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; the forward bases were to be Malta and Cyprus. With all long
leave being cancelled, preparations went ahead for Theseus to make a trooping
voyage to Cyprus, and the task of embarking ammunition, stores, transport and
troops of the 16th Independent Parachute Regiment began. After five days of hard
work and with the embarkation complete, on Sunday 5th August Theseus sailed for
Cyprus. She arrived 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, and during the evening of 22nd August she secured alongside Portsmouth’s South Railway Jetty. During the whole of September Theseus remained at Portsmouth whilst her ship’s company took the summer leave which had been cancelled a few weeks earlier. Then on Monday 1st October she left harbour for Spithead and the Channel where she carried out 12 days of intensive training with the Whirlwind helicopters of 845 Squadron.
Although it was not generally known at the time, this was the training for the Suez landings when both 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. Seven days later on 2nd November, saw the embarkation of half of the men and transport of 45 Commando, Royal Marines. That evening the Royal Marines were allowed shore leave, and in the words of one Commando, “We had a last boisterous night in Valletta, with the Maltese police quite unable to withstand the onslaught as we ravaged the ‘Gut’’. (The Gut being Valletta’s infamous Red Light area.) 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.
At 08.15 that morning, the first wave of four helicopters, carrying marines, took off, and thereafter a shuttle service between ship and shore continued until the operation was completed at 10.02. The helicopters then began evacuating casualties. That afternoon, Theseus received orders to enter Port Said Harbour, and by 18.00 she was secured to 8a buoy, close to Ocean. Sadly that evening, at 20.15 a Royal Marine Commando died on board as a result of wounds received in the assault. Forty five minutes later, under intense diplomatic and economic pressure, the British Government ordered a ceasefire from midnight, and agreed to a complete withdrawal from Egypt.
It became clear that British Governments no
longer had the power to carry out such invasions, and in future any such
interventions would require American support, or be American led.
For Theseus, there still remained the task of evacuating the wounded, and on 7th November, with casualties embarked, she left Port Said, arriving in Malta 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. Theseus then returned to Malta, arriving in Grand Harbour on 17th November, where she would remain until the first week of December.
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.
Theseus entered Port Said Harbour to undertake her last embarkation of troops, equipment, and transport. Over the next 24 hours, 84 officers and 1.069 other ranks of the RAOC, RASC, REME, and Royal Engineers, together with 100 3-ton lorries were embarked, and on Saturday 15th December she left Egypt for home. During the passage home, Theseus steamed the 3,000 miles from Port Said to the Isle of Wight in six days, and anchored at Spithead on 21st December 1956. Later that day she weighed anchor and in less than half an hour was secured alongside South Railway Jetty, having completed her final voyage.
On Saturday 22nd December, Captain Pizey made his farewell address to the ship’s company, and two days later he relinquished his command, and left the ship for a well-earned retirement. He was followed by the main body of the ship’s company who left for leave and for fresh drafts.
In January 1957 Theseus was decommissioned, and for over four years she lay in Portsmouth Harbour.
In March 1958 she was approved for disposal, and handed over to the British Steel Corporation. Then, on 29th May 1962. Theseus was sold to T.W. Ward, and towed to the breakers yard, Inverkeithing, Scotland, to be broken up. A very sad end indeed, to a truly magnificent ship.