Introduction to the first oral history interview with Don Skevington conducted by Bob Leslie on 6th February 2020
Donald (Don) Stewart Skevington, the only child of Marshall Field Skevington and Catherine Skevington (nee Lancaster), was born at Turvey in 1926. Their family home was a cottage in Jacks Lane. The cottage, land and the King’s Arms public house had been part of the Skevington family estate since 1766. Don attended Turvey Infant School, Turvey School and Harrold School. Don remembers:
We went into the big school after we left the little school, and we had three classes in there, a young one, middle one and a top one. And for playtimes we could go out in the field, which was altered to make the bypass. We had a whole field to play in and we had a brook to play in, and we had walnut trees in the field and a lot of boys liked walnuts so we used to splash ‘em, which is old fashioned name of getting walnuts down, and they used to eat them.
When he was 11 years old Don passed the entrance exam to Bedford Modern School which meant a bus journey to Bedford each day. On his return from school in Bedford, Don and his Turvey mates played down Jacks Lane, mainly cricket, where Don honed his all-round cricketing skills:
… Oh, yes played for Turvey Cricket Club. I was Captain for a time and we played up Carlton Road, (the landowner) gave us permission to play there. We had some lovely years playing cricket up Carlton Road, opposite the cemetery, it was a lovely ground.
Due to war being declared in 1939, Don became a junior member of the Royal Observer Corps, aged 13 or 14 years old:
The Royal Observer Corps was a country wide, we had a uniform, we had binoculars, we had telephones, everything we wanted to study aircraft. We had to plot all the aircraft we could see because this time, when I was there, I was probably about thirteen, fourteen, I could identify any aircraft at all, whatever it was I could identify it. I plotted two German JU88s flying over Turvey, and I saw them before two clouds, and the Duke of Gloucester came to our post and he congratulated me on the work I’d done.
In c. 1941 Don’s first job was in Bedford, working as a Junior in the showroom of Murkett’s garage and working out the garage time keepings. Don was very busy during this period, working in Bedford and on duty at the Turvey Royal Observer Corps post during the evenings. When Don was 17 years old he volunteered for air crew in the RAF and left Turvey to undergo training. However, due to changed circumstances the need for ground crew was no longer a priority so all those in training were released and sent home. Once returned to Turvey, Don received his ‘call up’ to the Army:
Eventually, I ended up in the Royal Artillery in various parts in France, then the Lebanon. Then all round the Mediterranean, every country, Egypt the lot. Tripoli I’ve been to, we went to them all, fighting somebody or other and then eventually after five years I came home.
After his return to Turvey, Don worked in Bedford for Simplex, in charge of the production of narrow gauge locomotives. Although it was a demanding job Don enjoyed the challenges it presented. There was a demand for the diesel locomotives, for example, in South Africa as well as in the UK.
Don married Margaret Purser in Turvey Church and in due course they had a son, Graham. Eventually Don and Margaret took over the Kings Arms full time from his mother and father on their retirement as publicans. Don kept up his involvement with the Royal Observer Corp after the war for many years.
A second interview was carried out between Don Skevington and interviewer Bob Leslie on 19th February 2020 in which Don recalls, in more detail, his wartime career in North Africa.