During 1947, as part of the re-organisation of the Naval Commands, it was decided to withdraw the Aircraft Carriers from Eastern Waters and to put the Naval Air Bases in Ceylon and Singapore into a state of care and maintenance. By the end of 1947 therefore, Theseus was back in Home Waters and in January 1948, after having disembarked all the aircraft, she started a refit at Rosyth.
In May, 1948, the Ship's Company was brought up to full peacetime strength with Sea Furies of 807 Squadron, and Fireflies of 810 Squadron, the 17th C.A.G. and the ship was brought forward for service as Flagship of the 3rd Aircraft Carrier Squadron, Home Fleet, commanded by Captain J. P. Wright, D.S.O., R N, and wearing the flag of Rear-Admiral M. J. Mansergh, C.B. C.B.E.
In October 1949, the flag was transferred to H.M.S.Vengeance and Theseus began a refit in Portsmouth Dockyard. It was at this time that Captain A.S. Bolt. D.S.O. D.S.C., took over command. In the spring of 1950, after engine trials in the Firth of Clyde, the ship rejoined the Home Fleet. A squadron of Vampire jet aircraft was embarked for the Summer Cruise in addition to the Sea Furies and Fireflies. Theseus returned early to Portsmouth to prepare for the cruise to the Far East.
When the Admiralty announced that Theseus would go to the Far East for a period of six-nine months, to relieve H.M.S. Triumph the Korean war had not yet started and most people on board looked forward to a pleasant winter away from England, with possible visits to Australia, New Zealand and other places few had visited. The outlook was changed when on 25th June the North Koreans invaded South Korea and the United Nations intervened. A note of urgency then crept into preparations for the Far East cruise.
On 14th August, 1950, the ship cast off from the South Railway Jetty at 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. Life immediately became busy on board as intensive flying practice became the order of the day.
A non-stop run was made to Malta, where, after further exercises off the island, the ship entered Grand Harbour on 26th August, for a brief weekend. She sailed again early on Monday, 28th August, and reaching Port Said on the evening of the 30th, went straight into the Suez Canal and was steaming south down the Red Sea by p.m. on the following day. Many of the ship's company had not previously been through the Suez Canal and much interest was displayed in those who came to cheer them on their way.
The Red Sea is always warm, but at this time of the year hotter than at any other. When Aden was reached on 4th September, most people agreed that there was much to be said for the moderate climate of England, despite its drawbacks. Two days were spent in Aden, when the ship was replenished and each watch given an opportunity to go ashore and see the sights - such as they are! Then followed the longest sea-passage of the voyage, with only a glimpse of Ceylon where mail was landed by aircraft. Singapore was reached on 16th September, and as it was urgent that Theseus should get to the scene of operations as rapidly as possible, the stay was cut down to the minimum time required to re-store, re-fuel, etc. The next stop was Hong Kong, where she arrived in a violent tropical rainstorm. During the week's stay in Hong Kong the air group was busy rehearsing the technique of operating with the army. H.M.S.Triumph arrived to turn over on 29th September, and three days later Theseus left with news of a typhoon in the area she must go through on the way north. A typhoon was a new experience for most people on board, and it demonstrated the excellent sea qualities of the ship.
Passing through the Formosa Straits Theseus experienced her first alarm when an unknown aircraft was spotted by radar and all hands went to action stations. The 'plane circled the ship and passed over, disappearing in low cloud.
The ship arrived at the Japanese base, Sasebo, on Thursday, 5th October, and there followed two intensive days when final preparations were made for the first operational period.
On Sunday morning 8th October, the Flag Officer, 2nd in Command. Rear-Admiral W.G. Andrewes, boarded Theseus and she set out for the Yellow Sea. Not very many hours later she was off the west coast of Korea and her aircraft were in action. The following day was the first taste of the price of war, when one of the pilots, Lieut. Stanley Leonard, R.N., was shot down in enemy territory. An American helicopter was called up and carried out a most gallant rescue. Lieut. Stanley was flown to safety and within a day or two was in hospital in Tokyo being treated for his injuries.
There followed a period of intensive operations with only two brief intervals oiling at anchor at Inchon, which had by this time been occupied by United Nations' troops. Allied troops were also driving north in Korea and it appeared as if the war was drawing to an end. After a brief stay at the base in Japan, Theseus returned for another spell of duty in the operational area, returning to base ten days later.
All the indications at this time were that the mission was about over, and the Japanese shops were raided for "rabbits" (gifts for the folks at home.) A day or two after returning to base Theseus was off for Hong Kong, and even a following typhoon did nothing to dampen the ardour of the ship's company. Alas! little more than a fortnight had elapsed before Admiral Andrewes had embarked, having returned to Hong Kong, and Theseus was on her way back to resume operations.
Arriving back into a Korean winter, thoughts were often on the land forces ashore, battling not only a human enemy but also extremes of cold and discomfort. On board, those whose work lay in the open were equipped with warm clothing as protection against the bitter weather, but there is no more exposed place than a flight deck and even the thickest of clothing could do little more than alleviate the discomfort. Thus, if there were occasional "moans" they were more than justified - and for the most part inarticulate - and they never even delayed the work of keeping the ship in a high state of efficiency.
For weeks members of the ship's company had been speculating where they would spend Christmas, and it was hoped that at least they would be in port for the festivities, but it was not to be. On 29th December, however, they went to Kure for the first time, and on the 31st held their "official" Christmas, the ship decorated in the traditional manner and all hands eating enormous quantities of food.
As the ship was alongside in Kure it was possible for many to get ashore and continue the festivities in the British Commonwealth Service Clubs. The visit to Kure also gave many an opportunity to visit Horishima, where the first atom bomb was dropped, and the sacred island of Mayijima.
The rest period ended on 5th January 1951, and Theseus set off once more, through the Inland Sea, on her way to resume operations. One period followed another, with brief spells replenishing in port. All of these periods were spent in the Yellow Sea, off the west coast of Korea, except for one week during the last period, which was spent operating with the United States carrier "Bataan" off the east coast. Mission completed, she returned to Sasebo for the last time, on Friday, 20th April.
On 23rd April her relief, H.M.S. Glory arrived in port and all who could make their way on deck, gave her a most warm, if silent, welcome. At 0845 on Wednesday, 25th April, Theseus bid farewell to Japan and set off for the open sea, the Royal Marine Band playing lively airs in keeping with the feelings of all on board. She steamed past H.M.S.Unicorn, a carrier that had supported her with replenishments of aircraft and supplies. There were cheers not unmingled with a measure of sympathy, for Theseus was on her way home, and they must remain and carry on their important work. Then, passing H.M.S. Glory, cheers were again exchanged, and Theseus drew away wishing her successors "Good fortune and safe landings."
Hong Kong was reached on the morning of Saturday, 28th April, and there followed two intensive days of "topping-up" with "rabbits." (It is strange how money can somehow be found, even by the hardest up, when it is needed for presents for the folk at home!) The ship was by this time back into warm weather, the pleasure of sunshine and the comfort of scanty clothing. Sporting activities were organised, and each evening the flight deck became the scene of animated games of deck-hockey, fencing, parallel bars and box-horse work, and a modest little group tucked away behind a parked aircraft developing their muscles by chucking around enormous weights. Volleyball was played in the lift-wells, and the Royal Marine band frequently regaled the ship’s company with music.
The night of the 4th May was spent at Singapore, then off on the longest "haul" of the passage home. Reaching Aden early on 14th May and, after re-fuelling, Theseus was off again at 1800 hrs. She arrived at Suez - and what a welcome relief it was after the heat of the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea - early on the 18th, and was soon on her way through the Canal, and by the evening, had past Port Said and into the Mediterranean.
She arrived at Malta early on the 21st May, and after one night there, set off early in the afternoon of the 22nd on the last lap of her journey home. Fine weather, except for a moderate swell, accompanied her to Falmouth, where she anchored earlier than expected, on the evening of the 27th May. How good to see the coast of England again! Next morning Customs Officers swarmed on board, and the ship’s company found them the most delightful people they had met for a long time. Then followed "the gentlemen of the Press," complete with notebooks and cameras of every size and description. In the afternoon of the 28th Theseus hove up anchor and set off for her home port, Portsmouth.
Not everybody was happy about early rising, but there were no laggards on the morning of Tuesday, 29th May, and when the pipe went "Hands fall-in for entering Harbour," there was a rush for places on the flight deck, despite a chilly breeze, and a drizzle of rain. Theseus came up-harbour in great style, although it seemed long and drawn out to those on deck, and then she was alongside the South Railway Jetty, from whence she had sailed 285 long days before. Several thousand loved ones and friends were waiting, and when "Hands fall-out" went there was a rush to try and spot those they knew. As soon as the brows were in position the guests swarmed aboard; a veil must be drawn over what happened then!
Later in the forenoon the ship's company went to Divisions on the flight deck, for inspection by the 1st Sea Lord, Admiral of the Fleet, Lord Fraser, G.C.B., K.B.E. Other Admirals had come to greet the arrival - Admiral Sir Arthur J. Power. G.C.B.,G.B.E., C.V.O., Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth; Vice-Admiral Sir William Andrewes, who had been Flag Officer in Korean waters; Vice-Admiral Charles Lambe, C.B., C.V.O., who had been Admiral Commanding 3rd Carrier Squadron in the Home Fleet.
Following Divisions came the climax of the ceremony, when the 1st Sea Lord presented the well-earned ‘Boyd Trophy’, awarded for the most outstanding air feat of the year, to the 17th Carrier Air Group. Then, after much cheering, the ship’s company relaxed, and went off to entertain their friends. Even in such activity - they hoped - maintaining the Theseus motto – "ACTION ALWAYS."
The Boyd Trophy