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John Woodhouse (British Army officer)

Lieutenant-Colonel John Michael Woodhouse MBE, MC (29 September 1922 – 15 February 2008) was a British soldier credited with helping to reform the Special Air Service.

Early years

John 'Jock' Woodhouse was born in Kensington, London, the only son of Brigadier Charles Woodhouse, a former Colonel of the Dorset Regiment. He received his education at Malvern College and commissioned into the Dorset Regiment in 1942.

World War II

Although he was not a member of the SAS during World War II, Woodhouse fought as a British soldier in Tunisia, Sicily, and Italy. While commanding with 1st Battalion, East Surrey Regiment, he led an attack on buildings occupied by tank crews which turned out to be the headquarters of the 16th Panzer Division. For this he received his Military Cross. He applied a policy of shoot-and-scoot while in command of a special patrol unit in Italy. In March 1944, a patrol he was commanding was ambushed near Cassino and he was taken prisoner. He became a Russian interpreter with the Allied Control Commission in Germany during the period 1947–49.

SAS years

Woodhouse joined the SAS in 1950. The initial results for the SAS, which was founded in 1941 and active during World War II and in the Malayan Campaign of 1948, were not as successful as had been hoped. After a period of active service, Woodhouse was chosen to return to the United Kingdom to establish a selection process for the SAS. The rigorous systems he developed over three years provided the basis of selection and training of the modern SAS.

He returned to Malaya as a squadron commander in 1955. He was appointed MBE in 1957 for his services in command of D Squadron 22nd SAS Regiment in Malaya. In 1958, he transferred from the Dorset Regiment to the Parachute Regiment and commanded a company in the 3rd battalion before being appointed second-in-command of 22 SAS in 1960. In 1962, he was chosen to command the regiment. Following the Brunei Revolt, it went to Malaysia in 1963 to address the Indonesian threat. Recalling the approach in Malaya, SAS teams organised jungle tribes to gather intelligence. In January 1964, Woodhouse launched one of his squadrons on Operation Claret with a mission to locate camps from which Indonesian incursions were launched, and to identify their routes into Sarawak. He convinced his SAS troopers that intelligence was of more long-term value than to inflict limited casualties. When Commonwealth forces brought the Indonesian incursions to an end in 1965, 22 SAS was withdrawn.

Upon retirement, Woodhouse joined the family business, Hall & Woodhouse Brewery, Blandford St Mary, Dorset, where from scratch, he created the successful children's soft drink brand, Panda Pops becoming the managing director of this division. He was involved in local forestry management and, from 1976 to 1984, he served as chairman of the SAS Association.

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