Officer characteristics from the diary of Megan Spooner

From the Washington Naval Treaty to the end of the Second World War.
Fatboy Coxy
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Officer characteristics from the diary of Megan Spooner

Post by Fatboy Coxy » Wed Sep 16, 2020 9:28 pm

Hi all, how seriously can we take observations about people’s characters from personal diaries. I came across a passage from Megan Spooner’s diary referring to the senior officers in Singapore in 1941. Megan Spooner, nee Foster, a famous soprano, was the wife of Rear Admiral ‘Jackie’ Spooner, who arrived in Singapore in August 1941, as Rear Admiral Malaya and commander of the Naval Dockyard.

Her diary records
8 September 1941. Dined with Governor – Sir Shelton Thomas – a nice man but not a leader of men. I should say rather a rigid insensitive brain.

Another entry
29 November 1941. We want more brains in Singapore. B.P (Brooke Popham, the C.in.C) is unusual but he has a first class mind – Percival (Army) may have brains but certainly is short of guts and decision. Layton has plenty of guts but no first class grey matter. Pulford (RAF) is good – brain keen and subtle, and character firm and steady. Keith Simmons (Army) – steady brain, great tact, considerable charm and judgement but lacking in drive and not a first class brain. Governor seems a poor reed. Col. Sec. (Colonial Secretary Stanley Wilson Jones) reputed to be a bottleneck and obstructor and also to be revengeful – certainly unbalanced – I think he has ophthalmic goitre.

I have no doubt she may well have met all these men, mostly at formal or informal dinners or high teas etc, so could legitimately make observations, but…
How she determines that Shelton Thomas is ‘not a leader of men’ over an evening dinner, or that he seems to be a ‘poor reed’ seem to me a little far fetched, surely she must have digested opinions of others to conclude that. She may well be right but, is this to be taken as a fair and accurate assessment of someone.

Of others she often mentions their ‘brain’ which I take to refer to their intellect. To some degree this could be observed during a dinner conversation, and certainly some of the observations of Keith Simmons, ‘great tact, considerable charm’ could most likely be made over dinner. Nevertheless, I’m inclined to think many of ‘her’ observations may well have been repeated from those made by her husband Rear Admiral Spooner, who would have had far more opportunity in formal military meetings or private ones within that elite military circle.

Regards
Fatboy Coxy
Regards
Fatboy Coxy

HMSVF
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Posts: 245
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Re: Officer characteristics from the diary of Megan Spooner

Post by HMSVF » Thu Sep 17, 2020 7:19 pm

Fatboy Coxy wrote:
Wed Sep 16, 2020 9:28 pm
Hi all, how seriously can we take observations about people’s characters from personal diaries. I came across a passage from Megan Spooner’s diary referring to the senior officers in Singapore in 1941. Megan Spooner, nee Foster, a famous soprano, was the wife of Rear Admiral ‘Jackie’ Spooner, who arrived in Singapore in August 1941, as Rear Admiral Malaya and commander of the Naval Dockyard.

Her diary records
8 September 1941. Dined with Governor – Sir Shelton Thomas – a nice man but not a leader of men. I should say rather a rigid insensitive brain.

Another entry
29 November 1941. We want more brains in Singapore. B.P (Brooke Popham, the C.in.C) is unusual but he has a first class mind – Percival (Army) may have brains but certainly is short of guts and decision. Layton has plenty of guts but no first class grey matter. Pulford (RAF) is good – brain keen and subtle, and character firm and steady. Keith Simmons (Army) – steady brain, great tact, considerable charm and judgement but lacking in drive and not a first class brain. Governor seems a poor reed. Col. Sec. (Colonial Secretary Stanley Wilson Jones) reputed to be a bottleneck and obstructor and also to be revengeful – certainly unbalanced – I think he has ophthalmic goitre.

I have no doubt she may well have met all these men, mostly at formal or informal dinners or high teas etc, so could legitimately make observations, but…
How she determines that Shelton Thomas is ‘not a leader of men’ over an evening dinner, or that he seems to be a ‘poor reed’ seem to me a little far fetched, surely she must have digested opinions of others to conclude that. She may well be right but, is this to be taken as a fair and accurate assessment of someone.

Of others she often mentions their ‘brain’ which I take to refer to their intellect. To some degree this could be observed during a dinner conversation, and certainly some of the observations of Keith Simmons, ‘great tact, considerable charm’ could most likely be made over dinner. Nevertheless, I’m inclined to think many of ‘her’ observations may well have been repeated from those made by her husband Rear Admiral Spooner, who would have had far more opportunity in formal military meetings or private ones within that elite military circle.

Regards
Fatboy Coxy

Was it Spooner who died on a desert island?

Fatboy Coxy
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Posts: 34
Joined: Thu Jul 19, 2018 5:18 am

Re: Officer characteristics from the diary of Megan Spooner

Post by Fatboy Coxy » Fri Sep 18, 2020 8:51 pm

Yes, along with the RAF commander, Pulford, when their heavily overcrowded launch ML 310 was beached in a sinking condition.
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Fatboy Coxy

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wadinga
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Re: Officer characteristics from the diary of Megan Spooner

Post by wadinga » Mon Sep 21, 2020 4:42 pm

Hello Fatboy Coxy,

I can imagine Singapore seemed an unreal preserved pre-war world when Mrs Spooner and hubby turned up from war-torn London. As a backwater it got precious little of anything and despite some of the the senior personnel there realising the developing Japanese threat they were probably "burned out" after fruitlessly demanding vital military resources for months from London, which had nothing to give.

The second rate Brewster Buffaloes which did arrive were allocated because they were too obsolete to fight in Europe or North Africa and were certainly no match for Zeroes. There had been no decent fighters to save Crete from airborne invasion in May 1941 despite the pleadings of Sir Arthur Longmore after his limited strength had been dissipated in the disastrous Greek campaign. As the "last stop down the line" Singapore only got the dregs if anything. The European and Australian troops were often 2nd line units of limited experience and they and the Indian forces lacked equipment to stop a Japanese assault which included both tank thrusts and jungle infiltration. Japanese troops had been fighting a savage war since 1931, were fanatically motivated by a militaristic regime and were thus battle-hardened and protected by both air and sea domination.

There was undoubtedly a vast amount of gossip about these leading lights of the colony, at both work and play, and this is surely where Mrs Spooner picked up her "evaluations". This site https://singaporeevacuation1942.blogspo ... ooner.html details the melancholy story of the 41 people attempting to escape aboard the ML during the tragedy.

People's characters are moulded not only by background and experience but what is happening to them at the time. Mrs Spooner's opinions may be harsh but did she see the whole picture?

All the best

wadinga
"There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today!"

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