My Dad and the Korean War

When my Aunty Betty died, my cousin Peter, who was one of her executors, gave me a file containing  part of my Grandmother Violet’s postcard collection – she was my Dad’s and Aunty Betty’s Mum.   Peter did this because almost half of them had been posted to my grandmother by my Dad.  There were also a few that were not posted, but given to her for their photographic importance, again by my Dad.   Many of the postcards were sent by my father from work locations around the British Isles and will be the subject of a later blog page.  There were seven un-posted postcards that featured Sasebo in Japan (4), Hong Kong, Singapore and Aden.  I also have one photo that was taken in Hong Kong of my father in naval uniform during this period.

Dad was one of the crew of HMS Theseus, a light aircraft carrier that was sent to support the Korean War effort in 1950, returning in 1951.  He worked as part of the crew keeping aircraft operational.  I am not sure what he worked on, but his training was in electrical work and I know at some point he worked on radio and radar, but this may not be true in the Korean operations.  This photo is embossed “Kuong Lam Studio H.K.” and I haven’t been able to find anything out about this studio in present day Hong Kong:

Dad in Hong Kong388

The carrier operated from Sasebo on the Japanese island of Kyushu during the Korean War.  Sasebo is an American Naval base and the city is the second largest in the Nagasaki prefecture.  The ship left Portsmouth on 18th August 1950, stopping at Malta, Port Said, Aden, Singapore and Hong Kong, arriving in Sasebo on 5th October.  The ship took part in aerial raids in the autumn and visited Kure in Japan on 29th December, where Christmas was celebrated by the crew.  A number of the ship’s company took the opportunity to visit nearby Hiroshima.  From 5th January 1951 until the final visit to Sasebo on 20th April, the carrier was again involved in aerial operations.  On 25th April the ship left Japanese waters on the return journey, calling in at the same ports, arriving in Portsmouth on 29th May.  It is not clear whether the photo above of my Dad and the postcards from Aden, Singapore and Hong Kong were taken on the outward or return journeys.

The first photo is the Tanks Crater in Aden and I have no idea about the purpose of this structure:

61. Aden Tanks Crater

The second photo is the civil aerodrome in Singapore:

60. Singapore Civil Aerodrome

The third photo is the Kanchai district of Hong Kong:

59. Kanchai District Hong Kong

The next four photos are of Sasebo and each is clearly captioned:

58. Sasebo 99 Island57. Sasebo Harbor56. Sasebo Station55. Sasebo Church

I never really talked to my Dad about the Korean War, other than to know that he was on HMS Theseus and I wonder at the risk taken by the crew from having been in the proximity of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, so soon after the nuclear attacks in 1945.  It seems to me that we know much more about radiation these days than back then.  I have read several books about the Korean War in recent years and know much more about it than when I was growing up.  I had no idea, even as a young adult, that there was such a deadly conflict so soon after the end of the Second World War.  Finding these postcards and researching about the role of HMS Theseus on the internet, made me realise that there were many questions I could have asked my Dad and never did.

One good piece of news happened to conclude this story. My Mum and Dad had met before he went to Korea and they exchanged letters whilst he was away.  In one of those letters he proposed that they got married on his safe return.  The wedding took place on 1st December 1951 and I was brought into this world just short of a year later.  The picture shows them by their wedding cake and from his new uniform, it looks like he had been promoted to Petty Officer from the ranks.

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