David Skillen

Location: Belper, Derbyshire
About me...

I have spent a number of years studying and visiting the battlefields of the Eastern Theatre of the American Civil War.  What fascinates me about this period of history is that many of the participants, both senior officers and the rank and file, left details accounts of what they saw and did.  This gives me a wealth of personal stories to tell fully illustrated with vivid pen pictures of some of the great characters such as Robert E. Lee, Abraham Lincoln, Stonewall Jackson and Ulysses Grant.

I also have an exciting new talk based on my research and visits to the Alamo in San Antonio that looks at the events there in 1836, we have all heard of Jim Bowie, Davy Crockett and William Travis – but what did they do that has made the Alamo such an important part of Texas and US history?

I offer a talk on the Wars of the Roses battle that took place at Towton on Palm Sunday 1461. With my experience as a battlefield guide with the Towton Battlefield Society I bring the battle to life and can offer insights into the story of this little heard of battle.

My latest talk covers some new ground, the role of the Royal Observer Corps in the defence of the United Kingdom based on my 10 years’ service with the Corps.

About my talks...

My talks, lasting up to an hour, can be customised to the audience and are fully illustrated with photos and maps using PowerPoint.  I have a projector, laptop and screen available.  All I require is access to power sockets.

I am expanding my geographical coverage to include both North and South of the UK.



I am expanding my geographical coverage to include both North and South of the UK.

I charge £60 within 30 miles of Belper Derbyshire and £70 for over 30 miles – I do not charge any additional expenses.

I am available on week days and evenings but not weekends, I may also available at short notice – give me a call.

My Contact Details:

07840 735753

Talk 1: Seeing the Elephant – The First Battle of Bull Run July 1861

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In July 1861 the armies of the United States and the Confederate States met on the banks of a small stream in Virginia. Both were confident of easy victory and that the war would be over by Christmas.
But things did not go to plan. In this talk we explore how and why the battle turned out as it did, learn about some of the people who fought there. You will also learn how Stonewall Jackson got his nickname!

Talk 2: A few appropriate remarks – Lincoln at Gettysburg


On a November day in 1863, just outside a small Pennsylvania town called Gettysburg, President Abraham Lincoln gave a short speech at the dedication of a cemetery for soldiers killed there in July. What did Lincoln say and why has the Gettysburg address become so well known?
In this talk I look at the battle that was fought there, its significance in the war and the commemorative event that led to those “few appropriate remarks”.

Talk 3: Cyclones in Calico – Women in the American Civil War

Talk by Public Speaker David Skillen - Cyclones in Calico – Women in the American Civil War

From spies to nurses to songwriters women performed many roles in the Civil War, roles that hitherto had not been considered “lady like”. Some were former slaves like Harriet Tubman. Others like Clara Barton went on to form the American Red Cross.
In this talk we will encounter some of these formidable ladies. We’ll meet Mother Bickerdyke, learn how Sally Tompkins ran the hospital that had the fewest deaths in the Confederacy and see what a real Scarlett O’Hara looked like.

Talk 4 – Men, Monuments and Myths- Tales from the American Civil War

American Civil War talk by David Skillen

Let us visit what Abraham Lincoln called “this hallowed ground.” Statues a plenty that just beg to tell you stories of Great Fields and Great Deeds.

We will stand where Jackson stood “like a stonewall”, visit Chancellorsville to see the site of Robert E. Lee’s greatest victory and walk with the men making Pickett’s Charge.

Along the way we will meet many larger than life characters and a little dog called Sallie!

Talk 5:Ten Thousand Places – Ten Thousand Destinies– An overview of the American Civil War in the East


It is said that the American Civil War was fought in ten thousand places. The vast majority were in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. This talk gives an overview of the struggle between Union and Confederate soldiers and looks at some of the famous battles and the men who fought them.
Visit the Cornfield at Antietam, watch the Confederate artillery in action at Hazel Grove and see where “Uncle” John Sedgwick made an unfortunate prediction.

Talk 6: Britain’s Bloodiest Day – The Battle of Towton 1461


Ask people to name famous battles in Britain and you get Hastings, Bosworth and occasionally Waterloo!
Yet few have heard of Towton, one of the most decisive battles of the Wars of the Roses and, possibly, the bloodiest battle on British soil.
On a bitterly cold day in March 1461 the Houses of York and Lancaster struggled for the Crown on a snow covered plateau in Yorkshire. Here fought Kings, Dukes, Lords and ordinary men. And here they died.
In this talk you will learn about the two kings who fought, walk the Bloody Meadow and cross the Bridge of Bodies and see how one Yorkist Lord had “a cunning plan”.

Talk 7: A Line in the Sand – The fall of the Alamo and the rise of Texas.

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In 1836 a small group of Texans were besieged and then wiped out by a much larger Mexican army at a mission station in San Antonio Texas. For many Americans the Alamo has assumed a near mythical status in their history and the John Wayne film of the 1960s tells it all.
But what did happen there in those 13 days? Let’s meet William Travis, Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett and see how the defeat at the Alamo led to the state of Texas being formed.

Talk 8 – Forewarned is Forearmed – The Royal Observer Corps in Peace and War

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New talk for 2016

From the Zeppelin to Nuclear Missiles the Royal Observer Corps was in the frontline of Britain’s defences. Famous for its role in the Battle of Britain the Corps played a number of key roles that are less well known. In this talk, based on my 10 years’ service with the Corps, we will see how the Corps captured Rudolf Hess; learn of its vital role on D-Day and the long years of the Cold War.

Talk 9 – The Bentley Boys – The Playboy Racers

David Skillen Public Speaker talks about The Bentley Boys

In 1919 Walter Owen Bentley built his first motor car. It was the beginning of one of the most charismatic marques in motor racing.

But equally fascinating are the men-about-town who drove these magnificent cars, Woolf Barnato, Tim Birkin, Glenn Kidston, Dudley Benjafield and others. Their exploits, on and off the track, led to their name “The Bentley Boys”. They summed up the devil may care attitude of the Roaring Twenties. In this talk we will look at how the Bentley Boys came to dominate racing, especially Le Mans – illustrated with photographs of the men and their wonderful machines.

Talk 10 - Knitters, Nailers and Traitors – Belper in the Industrial Revolution

Public Speaker David Skillen mentions East Mill, Belper Derbyshire in his talk  'Knitters, Nailers and Traitors – Belper in the Industrial Revolution'

How did a small town in Derbyshire help to change the world?

In this fully illustrated talk we explore the way in which one family, the Strutts, helped to change the way we work forever. We see how they built a thriving community that continues to this day.

We will go inside the world’s first skyscraper and meet the man who betrayed Belper’s secrets to the rest of the world.