REVIEW: Keystone of 22 SAS – The life and times of Lt Colonel JM (Jock) Woodhouse

Alan’s long overdue book on Jock Woodhouse and the formative years of the SAS portrays a man dedicated to the Regiment from day one. Written by a fellow SAS officer, Alan Hoe, this book provides extraordinary details on the life and times of Jock Woodhouse as he worked hard to ensure the SAS would have a mission and purpose after WWII. The SAS would become known worldwide as the gold standard for Special Operations units. When describing Jock Woodhouse, the author comments, “underneath this somewhat stern exterior JW had a quiet sense of humor and when off duty and in discussion, he had a sympathetic side. Every soldier mattered. “

Comprised of over 230 pages and a dozen images the author does an outstanding job of detailing the brilliance that Woodhouse brought to the Regiment through training, recruitment, and ensuring the Regiment had a future post WWII.

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When the British became heavy involved in Malaysia the future of the SAS was in doubt. Woodhouse, Calvert and other leaders were determined that the Regiment had a path forward by outlining their three main principals. Firstly, The SAS should only be used on tasks of strategic significance; secondly, they should be commanded at the very top level within the Ministry of Defense; and thirdly, they should be employed worldwide. Armed with these principals they worked selling their product to leadership at every chance available. Woodhouse was instrumental in working with other SAS veterans to ensure that they had the best in class type of selection course. This didn’t happen over night and took years to refine. Today it is considered the toughest selection course mentally and physically.

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.

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.

Woodhouse joined the SAS in 1950. The initial results for the SAS were not as successful as had been hoped. After a period of active service, Woodhouse was chosen to return to the UK to establish a selection process for the SAS. A rigorous selection system is still in place today.

He was assigned to Malaya as an SAS 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 finally chosen as the Commander for the regiment. Following the Brunei Revolt, the 22nd SAS went to Malaysia in 1963 to address the Indonesian threat. Using techniques developed in Malaya the SAS teams organized jungle tribes to gather intelligence for them.

In January 1964, Woodhouse launched one of his squadrons on Operation Claret. Their mission was 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, the 22 SAS was withdrawn.

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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.

About the author. Alan Hoe enlisted into the Royal Corps of Signals at the age of fifteen years. At the age of eighteen he joined 22 SAS Regiment. He remained with the SAS for over twenty years achieving the rank of major and taking part in five active service campaigns. After his retirement he spent many years in South America in risky security work. During his army service and after he knew John Woodhouse, as a military subordinate and latterly as a friend.

Hoe’s published works include Terrorism: Threat & Response (with Eric Morris, 1987), The Negotiator (written as James March, 1988); David Stirling: The Authorized Biography of the Creator of the SAS (1992); Re-enter with SAS (with Eric Morris, 1994), The Quiet Professional (2011), voted military Book of the Year by the Association of the US Army, and Enyway…A Jump is a Jump (2008).

This book is available on (US),  Amazon (UK) and at Pen and Sword Publishing.

Book review by Christopher (Moon) Mullins

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