A FORMER commander of the Special Air Service Regiment has died in a Dorset nursing home at the age of 85.

Lieutenant-Colonel John 'Jock' Woodhouse was also a former director and a chairman of Blandford brewers Hall & Woodhouse until 1998.

He was born in Kensington in 1922, went to school at Malvern College and later enlisted in the Dorset Regiment early in the Second World War.

He saw active service with the East Surrey Regiment in Tunisia, Sicily and Italy and was awarded the Military Cross in 1943 for a patrol raid on German headquarters. He was a prisoner in Germany for the last year of the war.

After the war he learned Russian at Cambridge and his post-war service was spent mainly on Intelligence staff appointments.

He joined the Special Air Service Regiment in 1950 and saw active service in Malaya before returning to command the 22nd SAS Regiment in Hereford.

During his period with the SAS the then Major Woodhouse was responsible for introducing what became known as 'selection course' in 1952 which is now reputed to be one of the most demanding military training courses in the world. Before that troopers had earned their credentials in the field.

Lt-Col Woodhouse retired in 1965 after a distinguished military career to look after his family estate at Higher Melcombe, beginning in business with the family brewery company, Hall & Woodhouse in Blandford.

When he joined he was called Jock because there was a John Woodhouse working in the business and it was deemed much too confusing to have two 'Mr Johns'.

He was tasked with turning around the small loss-making Sunparlour Soft Drinks Company. He revived its fortunes and was responsible for the launch and production of the nationally successful Panda Pops.

His retirement came in 1983 but, following the early deaths of his brewery cousins, John and Edward Woodhouse, he was called back in 1988 to become chairman of Hall & Woodhouse.

Widely travelled, he took a keen interest in history and forestry and, in his younger days, was a good skier and keen glider pilot. He was chairman of Melcombe Horsey Parish Meeting from his retirement from the Army in 1965, taking an active part in local affairs until a few years before his death.

He was married to Peggy for 40 years until her death in 1997. He leaves two sons, Michael and William, and four grandchildren.

His funeral will be held tomorrow at St Andrew's Church, Bingham's Melcombe, for which family flowers only are requested.

A memorial service is planned and those wishing to make a donation should do so to the British Red Cross Society.