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Major “Jock” Foulis – Obituary

1 January 2017


Major “Jock” Foulis

Borderer who led his platoon in vicious fighting against Communists in Korea

MAJOR “JOCK” FOULIS, who has died aged 87, was awarded an MC in the Korean War.

Jock served in Korea with the 1st Battalion The King’s Own Scottish Borderers and commanded a platoon from April 1951 to June 1952. On the night of April 5 1952, he and his platoon was dug in on an isolated feature left of the main company position.

The attack by the Chinese Communists was preceded by an intense and sustained bombardment during which some 900 shells fell on his platoon alone. Showing complete disregard for his own safety, he visited his Jocks constantly, encouraging them and making sure that they were ready for the assault that was sure to follow. When this came, the main weight was directed against his small force. The Chinese reached the Borderers’ defences very quickly and in overwhelming strength. Phosphorus grenades were needed to halt them as they attempted to get through the barbed wire. He radioed back precise information enabling defensive fire to be brought down with such deadly accuracy that only one Chinese platoon reached his position. Hand-to-hand fighting ensued, he dashed from section to section, directing the fire of his men and hurling grenades where the enemy threatened to break through. He was awarded an MC. The citation stated that his courage, calmness and cheerfulness inspired his men and that his shrewd assessment of the battle was responsible for the disruption of the enemy’s attack and the infliction of heavy casualties upon them.

John Alastair Foulis was born at Blackpool on November 6 1929. His father, an officer serving with the London Scottish, had fought in the Battle of the Somme in 1916. After going to Repton, young Jock tried to join the Royal Navy but failed the medical because he was short-sighted. It seemed certain that the Army would also fail him but, by sheer chance, he met one of the pioneers of contact lenses who fixed him up with these. The Army eye specialists made no mention of the lenses and he sailed through the examination.

After attending Sandhurst, in 1949 he was commissioned into the KOSB and posted to the 1st Bn in Hong Kong. On his first morning, his CO accused him, unjustly, of being 10 minutes late for a briefing and he was confined to a tented camp in the paddy fields for a month.

In April 1951, he landed with the Bn at Inchon, Korea, just in time for the Chinese spring offensive. His brigade commander took a gloomy view of the Borderers’ chances of survival. One morning, he drove up in his jeep and said: “Gather round me chaps. Tonight the Chinese will attack this hill. You will defend it to the last man and the last bullet and you will die. I am here to say goodbye.”

In November that year, the Borderers were attacked by a large force of Chinese. They called down defensive fire but some of the shells fell short and Foulis was hit by shrapnel in the shoulder and lungs.

He spent some time in an American Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. On Thanksgiving Day a US sergeant toured the beds issuing Purple Heart medals, along with the medicine. Foulis was pleased to receive one but his delight was short-lived for the man returned with the words “Sorry man, you’re a limey” and took it back.

He was subsequently airlifted to the British Commonwealth Military General Hospital, Kure, Japan, returning to the Bn in January 1952. Celebrating his return, he had placed an unopened bottle of Scotch on the edge of his trench when a shell came over, burst close by and smashed it to pieces. He claimed a replacement from the New Zealanders, who duly paid up. During his service in Korea, he was also Mentioned in Dispatches.

In 1953, he accompanied 1 KOSB to Northern Ireland. The three-year tour was followed by a spell in Malaya during the Emergency and then as adjutant at the regimental depot, Berwick. He then volunteered for service in Africa and was seconded to the 4th Bn The King’s African Rifles (The Uganda Rifles). Idi Amin, later President of Uganda, was one of his platoon commanders. He was at HQ Allied Forces Central Europe, Fontainebleau, from 1964 to 1966, then transferred to the Royal Army Pay Corps, serving  in British Honduras (now Belize), Plymouth, Harrogate and York. After retiring from the Army in 1988, he settled near York. He was an enthusiastic restorer of antique furniture and a voracious reader of military history.

Jock Foulis married first (dissolved), in 1958, Ann West. He married secondly, in 1966, Joan (Priscilla) Thornton, who survives him with two daughters by his first marriage and two daughters by his second.

Major Jock Foulis, born November 6 1929, died November 16 2016

“Always a Borderer”

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