Officer characteristics from the diary of Megan Spooner

Discussions on all aspects of the The United Kingdom & its Empire and Commonwealth during the Inter-War era and Second World War. Hosted by Andy H
Fatboy Coxy
Posts: 654
Joined: 26 Jul 2009 16:14
Location: Essex, UK

Officer characteristics from the diary of Megan Spooner

Post by Fatboy Coxy » 16 Sep 2020 21:18

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 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.

Fatboy Coxy

User avatar
Posts: 2581
Joined: 28 Apr 2013 17:14
Location: London

Re: Officer characteristics from the diary of Megan Spooner

Post by Sheldrake » 16 Sep 2020 22:10

She was wrong to claim they needed more men with brains. She identified four men with brains and only one with with guts. History suggests they needed more men with guts,

Return to “The United Kingdom & its Empire and Commonwealth 1919-45”