Wing Commander Bill Foulsham

Posted on April 2, 2012 by

Wing Commander Bill Foulsham, who has died aged 97, was a junior RAF officer in Palestine when he was awarded an MC for gallantry in 1936.

Bill Foulsham
6:17PM BST 27 Mar 2012

Foulsham was serving with “B” Section of the RAF’s No 2 Armoured Car Company (ACC) when, in April that year, Arab rebels began a campaign of resistance to colonial rule and mass Jewish immigration. The company’s primary role was to work closely with British infantry regiments and to mount day and night patrols to keep open the roads which passed through rebel-held areas.
These patrols were often ambushed, and by September the rebels had become increasingly sophisticated in their selection of firing positions. Foulsham’s section was heavily engaged over the next few weeks as they patrolled the Jerusalem-to-Hebron road, and during the early hours of October 9, near Yatta, a party of Scottish Riflemen was ambushed and came under intense fire from some 50 snipers. Foulsham’s cars were deployed to the scene, and the Army patrol was able to withdraw. Two nights later he was in action near Hebron, where his cars encountered a roadblock and six snipers were silenced. In December Foulsham was awarded an MC .
The son of an oriental rug importer, William Foulsham was born on June 25 1914 at Streatham, south London, and educated locally at King Alfred’s School. With his brother, James, he signed up with the RAF at the end of 1934, but his poor eyesight prevented him joining his brother for pilot training (James was later killed in action, having been awarded an AFC and a DFC). Bill was commissioned and joined No 2 ACC in Palestine.
During his time in Palestine, Foulsham completed a parachute course, but then decided to join the Colonial Service. He resigned his commission in 1937 to obtain the necessary degree, but before he had completed his studies at the London School of Economics, war broke out and he was recalled by the RAF.
Foulsham was briefly with the British Air Forces in France, and served as an operations officer at various fighter airfields, including during the Battle of Britain. On promotion to wing commander in August 1942, he became a sector controller at No 9 Fighter Group before moving to No 10 Group, responsible for fighter operations in south-west England. For his services in Fighter Command he was mentioned in despatches.
In September 1944 he joined the Second Tactical Air Force in France as an operations officer and remained with the headquarters until the end of the war in Europe. He was then posted to the military administration in Malaya, and on being demobilised in August 1946 was allowed to join the Malayan civil service — the degree requirement was waived because of his senior rank.
From 1949 to 1952 Foulsham was district officer in Kuala Pilah and Bahau. This was the time of the Malayan Emergency; the Governor, Sir Henry Gurney, was killed in an ambush and several of Foulsham’s fellow civil service officers were also murdered. This did not stop him making frequent visits to the outlying parts of his district. For his work during the Emergency he was appointed OBE in 1953 .
Foulsham then served as British Adviser to the Sultan of Perlis and as State Secretary in Penang. He retired when Malaya gained independence in 1957 and joined the BBC, spending the rest of his working life in the administration department.
In 1961 he was elected to Rickmansworth Urban District Council, of which he served as chairman in 1966-67.
Bill Foulsham married, in 1940, Lilian Munro, whom he had met at the LSE. She died in 2001, and he is survived by their three sons.