David Skillen

Location: Belper, Derbyshire
About me...

David describes himself as a “consumer of history” and is an engaging, animated and entertaining professional speaker on a variety of historical subjects. David worked for 35 years in the Civil Service speaking to audiences from 5 to 500 people. Since retiring in 2012 he has travelled extensively across the UK giving fully illustrated talks to numerous groups including, Local History Societies, Probus, WI, National Trust, Car and Aviation Clubs and U3A.

Married to Lynn he lives in Belper Derbyshire, where he was a guide at the famous Belper North Mill for three years. During David’s studies of the American Civil War they travelled widely across the United States visiting battlefields from the War as well as the Alamo. David and Lynn were members of the Towton Battlefield Society in Yorkshire providing a strong interest in the Wars of the Roses. David was also a battlefield guide for the Society for 7 years.

David’s eclectic range of fully illustrated talks, all using PowerPoint, are based on meticulous research. Talks last for 45-50 minutes and David always has time for debate and discussion.

With David’s varied subjects from the Wars of the Roses to The Bentley Motor Racing Team and from Belper in the Industrial Revolution to “A famous Seaside Place called Blackpool” You can be assured of an informative, enjoyable and entertaining presentation for your organisation.

Currently David delivers his talks via Zoom which is proving very popular in the “new normal”.

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 and laptop.  All I require is access to power sockets plus a suitable screen or wall to project onto.

If your organisation would like a longer, more in depth, workshop or event on one of my topics please get in touch to discuss content and price.

I can give my talks as zoom presentations.

I am available on week days and evenings.   If you need a speaker at short notice please contact me.


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

My Contact Details:

07840 735753

Giants in the Sky 2 – Zeppelin Ship of Dreams History, Transport, Aviation

Public Speaker in Derbyshire David Skillen presents his talk  Giants in the Sky 2 – Zeppelin Ship of Dreams History, Transport, Aviation

Count Zeppelin always saw his airships as a means of transport as well as a weapon. In
this talk we look at the heyday of travel in these huge craft. We will see how the Graf
Zeppelin and the Hindenburg provided luxurious travel across the Atlantic. Learn how
Great Britain tried, and failed, to match them and how the United States built two flying
aircraft carriers. A fully illustrated talk that shows travel in a bygone age. This talk
complements Giants in the Sky (1) The Zeppelin in World War One and can be delivered
independently or as a follow on.

Starfish, Stripes, Decoys and Dummies – Camouflage and Deception from the Trojan Horse to Desert Storm History, Military, Aviation.

Public Speaker in Derbyshire, David Skillen presents his talk Starfish, Stripes, Decoys and Dummies.

Camouflage and deception has been an integral and fascinating part of military tactics from
the time of the ancient Chinese to today. From a four-eyed butterfly fish to a stealth
bomber this talk covers some successful (and some less effective) ideas for fooling your

We will see how steel trees “grew” overnight, why you can’t torpedo a ship that looks like a
Zebra and what did Abraham Lincoln say about fake news!

The Many Behind the Few – Unsung hero’s and heroines of the Battle of Britain.

Public Speaker in Derbyshire, David Skillen presents his talk 'The Many, Behind the Few - Battle of Britain'

Churchill’s famous quote about “The Few” seems to sum up the Battle of Britain. Yet without thousands of almost unknown people the system that defeated the Luftwaffe in the Summer of 1940 would not have existed.

David will take you through some of their remarkable achievements, from the “Tizzy Angle” to Miss Shillings Orifice! achievements that helped “The Few” prevail against enormous odds.

Can you hear me Mother? – The Art of the Monologue

Public Speaker in Derbyshire, David Skillen presents his talk  "Can you hear me Mother? – The Art of the Monologue"

From Shakespeare’s Hamlet to Stanley Holloway the monologue has formed part of the dramatic landscape. In this talk we will see how the monologue has developed. We will look at it’s role in 19th Century Politics and see how “stump speeches” evolved into the modern “soundbite”

Of course this will feature performance of a number of monologues and a visit to “A famous seaside place called Blackpool”

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”.

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.

Five Years in 50 minutes – An overview of the American Civil War


War is viewed as the most significant event in the countries history. But why did the United States and the Confederate States go to war? In this talk we will explore why and how the American Civil war was fought. Along the way we will visit Bull Run, Gettysburg and Antietam (illustrated with photographs I have taken on my visits to these battlefields), meet Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davies and Robert E. Lee and learn how the war produced the United States we know today.

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”.

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

Talk 7 340x226

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.

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

Talk 8

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.

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.

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.

Giants in the Sky – The Zeppelin in World War One

Public Speaker David Skillen talks about Zeppelins in his talk Giants in the Sky

In the night skies above Britain in 1915 people saw huge silver, cigar shaped objects flying across the country seemingly at will – The Zeppelin! It was the start of the first strategic bombing campaign in history. In this talk we will look at the Zeppelin, how they were built and flown and how the Royal Navy, Royal Flying Corps and later the Royal Airforce defended Britain.

With plenty of illustrations we will see how the Zeppelin developed and learn about the men who trusted their lives to these majestic yet incredibly dangerous craft.

What audiences say about my talks


“With our knowledge of this bit of history (The Alamo) mostly confined to a John Wayne/Davy Crockett film and song, it was a most entertaining and enlightening morning.”

“Your talk was excellent and my strongest critics have asked for a return visit” – Speaker Secretary

“You can almost smell the gunpowder”.

“I wish you had been my history teacher – I would have listened!”

“As a motor racing fan, I thoroughly enjoyed your talk on the Bentley Boys which you delivered via Zoom. I know from subsequent feedback our members did too. Full of content and delivered so clearly. Our first Zoom talk was a great experience for everyone. Thank you.”

David Skillen Contact Details:

07840 735753