Bob Skelt

Location: Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire
About me...

I was born in Suffolk and left school when I was fifteen to join the Royal Navy. By my 18th birthday I was in Australia and in the middle of a tour of the Far East at the taxpayers’ expense! I then spent time on Fishery Protection and other duties.
After 10 years service I had become married to Adrienne and starting our family so I “swallowed the anchor” and became a Civil Servant. I worked at GCHQ for 38 years and retired two years ago, after a career that involved eight moves of house and four tours of duty overseas.
I was given the opportunity to become a Tour Guide at Bletchley Park in 2010 and found the story so fascinating that I spent 3-4 days there each month, taking visitors around the site, which is very rewarding work. The distance became too great and I switched to giving talks locally. They have proved quite successful and I now have a repertoire of ten presentations.
Talking about subjects that fascinate you is a good way of spending your retirement. And of course I also write screenplays and novels.
I live in Tewkesbury, still married to Adrienne, and we have two adult daughters.

About my talks...

My talks last for approximately one hour, including time for questions and a demonstration where appropriate. I give talks to all age groups and organisations. All presentations are illustrated by PowerPoint projection. I travel within a 40 mile radius of Tewkesbury

Fee:

I ask a fee of £38; also I charge a fee of 30p per mile for travel, and parking charges where applicable.

My Contact Details:
Phone:

01684 294381

Talk 1: The People of Bletchley Park

1. The people of Bletchley Park

A description of the fantastic people, men, women, service and civilians, who did the important work of breaking the German Enigma and Fish codes during WWII. Includes many original photographs of the equipment and people who, it is said, shortened the war by 2-3 years. This talk also includes details of people and events elsewhere that affected the work at Bletchley, such as the Enigma spy and the Polish codebreakers. A demonstration of an Enigma coding machine and of the Morse code that was used to send it is also included.

 

Photo: The Duchess meets veteran codebreakers Peggy Huntington, Joan Joslin, Iris King and Alma Wightman during her visit to Bletchley Park in Milton Keynes. Kate’s grandmother who died in 2006 was a codebreaker at Bletchley Park.

Talk 2: Breaking the Codes

2. Bletchley

A light, non-technical approach is taken to the processes involved in breaking the Enigma and Fish codes at Bletchley Park and the impact it had on the various theatres of war. The difficulties encountered and overcome by the codebreakers, and the painstaking and intense work by the ordinary people are described. I tell the story of the stroke of luck that resulted in breaking the code that Hitler used to talk to his generals, and how it resulted in the world’s first computer being invented. A computer simulation of an Enigma coding machine and of the Morse code that was used to send it is also included.

 

Talk 3: The Zimmermann Telegram and U-Boat Captures

3. Zimmerman Telegram

Twice Britain faced starvation and defeat resulting from German blockades, and I relate both. The first is the story of the breaking of a difficult German code in World War One by the famous Room 40 in the Admiralty, and how it resulted in America entering the war after years of armed neutrality. And how some Mexican banknote forgers were partly responsible. The second part relates how the difficult task of capturing Enigma codebooks from U-Boats in WWII resulted in breaking the almost impenetrable Naval Enigma codes, and once again helped to save Britain from starvation and surrender. Many of these operations resulted in tragic loss of life and acts of great bravery, many of which go unrecognised today.

 

Talk 4: The Cyprus Troubles

4. Cyprus flag

During the 1950s Britain was involved in an armed insurrection in its colony of Cyprus, which led to the deaths of 371 British servicemen. This talk describes how the “Cyprus Troubles” developed over many years, and led to a Turkish invasion of the island in 1974. I cover the rise of modern Greece, and the demands on the island for Enosis – Union with the mother country.  The talk continues with the subsequent violence which resulted in failure to achieve union, and the later attempts to achieve a lasting, peaceful solution.

 

Talk 5: Battle of the Atlantic

5.Battle_of_the_Atlantic

Lasting from 1940 to 1945 this was perhaps the most important battle of WWII. I describe how fortunes changed throughout. Britain was almost starved into surrender in 1943. But Bletchley Park was able to break the U-Boat codes for some of the time by captures of the codebooks, and were struggling at other times, unable to produce the vital intelligence needed to win this battle. At its lowest point for Britain, half a million tons of shipping was sunk each month. Eventually the Codebreakers solved this most difficult of the Enigma codes by capturing codebooks from U-Boats and other vessels. We cover how close Britain came to starvation and defeat, and why I believe that Bletchley Park actually lengthened the war by two years!

Featured Talk - launched in 2016

Talk 6: Kim Philby – Gentleman, Spy and Traitor

6. Kim Philby

This talk explains how a typical upper-middle-class young man was captivated by communism and spent most of his life helping this cause by spying for the KGB. He became a senior officer in MI6, and, due to the laxity in security there escaped detection for many years. After his fellow spies Burgess and Maclean were exposed he still escaped retribution. Later in Beirut he continued to spy for the Soviets until, with capture and prison staring him in the face, he escaped to Moscow to join his colleagues. His life was a round of parties, women and spying, betraying those who loved and trusted him.

Talk 7: Bodyguard of Lies.

7. Bodyguard of Lies

Describes how the art of deception has been used during military operations and how it became a major weapon during World War II, saving many allied lives and shortening the war considerably. Cardboard tanks and aircraft along with spies who were ‘turned’ feature heavily in this presentation. I tell the story of how film set designers were employed on deception operations, and how Hitler was deceived into believing that the main D-Day attack would be in the Pas de Calais. And of course we will cover ‘Operation Mincemeat’, the man who never was.

Talk 8: Spies in History.

8. Mata Hari

From Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth the First’s spymaster to the heyday of spying in World War II, this talk describes what spies do and why they do it. Was Mata Hari a spy? I will detail this and other stories through the years. We learn how and why all the spies that the Nazis sent to Britain in the Second World War were apprehended, and some of the ways in which they were used to deceive Hitler and his cohorts.

Talk 9: Contemporary Spies.

A view shows the gravestone (C) of British double agent Kim Philby at a cemetery in Moscow, Russia, April 4, 2016. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

Following on from Talk 8 in this talk we concentrate on the modern-day spies. From the 1930s until the 1950s British Intelligence was penetrated by the Soviet Union’s highly efficient KGB revealing Britain and America’s atomic secrets and other extremely sensitive material. I tell the story of Burgess MacLean and Philby among others who were recruited and spied on Britain during this period. We conclude with the GCHQ spy Geoffrey Prime and the recent Devanney incident.

Featured Talk - launched in 2016

Talk 10: George Blake – The Ideological Spy

10. George Blake

This talk describes the life of George Blake, possibly the Soviet Union’s most dangerous spy. Blake went from being a religious zealot to Communist adherent in a few years, affected, he said, by the American influence and bombings in Korea, and his disappointment in the church. He revealed a great deal of secret information including the UK/US tunnel under Berlin. After capture and an horrendous 42 year sentence, he escaped from prison and now lives in Moscow.

Quiz Evening

Skelt Bob-quiz night

Adrienne and I provide a quiz evening, which is both entertaining, fun  and educational. The quiz can be themed for any occasion, and last for about 3 hours. We can vary the quiz to meet most requirements.