Introduction to second oral history interview with Don Skevington conducted by Bob Leslie on 19th February 2020
Don was born at Jack’s Lane, Turvey in 1926 to Marshall Field Skevington and Catherine Skevington (nee Lancaster). Don recalls some of his memories as a young boy living in Turvey and attending Turvey Infants School. Don remembers playing in the High Street:
we were out whipping our tops, we didn’t know which way they went, they went the way they went and if they broke a window that was it. There was little ones, they had a top on about four inches round and the bottom was just a spindle like that and we could whip them with that, and we’d whip so they went a long way, and we used to call them ‘Window Breakers’, and they used to break windows occasionally.
Don was keen to join the RAF as soon as he was 17 years old, as he was an outstanding member of the junior Royal Observer Corp operating at the Observation Post in Turvey from the age of 13/14 years of age. Don recalls some of his activities once he was enlisted into the Royal Artillery, at one time he was enlisted into the Royal Horse Artillery. However, Don completed his war service in the Royal Artillery. An early memory of the war for Don was the time when band leader, Glenn Miller, was lost, flying over the Channel on his way to Paris:
As far as I know we knew the day, the times that the Noorduyn Norseman took off from Twinwoods, to fly from here to Paris. So they would have to cross the Channel and they crossed the Channel round about the same time as the Lancasters were coming back from their attempted raid on Mannheim, because they turned them all back and told ‘em to drop their bombs, this is fact, not anything else. So, within reason the radio was never switched off in the Noorduyn, it just stopped transmitting in a split second. So I believe, but not all everybody else does believe, that erm the Noorduyn was hit by one of the bombs.
After 6 weeks initial training and skill assessments in Scotland Don was attached to the 6th Field Brigade, Royal Artillery and sent off to the Lebanon, on the Mediterranean Sea. They were equipped with Priest tanks:
I was the man behind the scenes who was given a map and various points on it which we were going to fire on and which we were not. And I had to give the gunners who were on the guns what shells to load and charge to fire and the angle of sight to get it round and everything. I had to work all that out. Luckily, I had the brains to do it
Once the Lebanon had gained Independence from France in November 1943, the 6th Field Brigade moved, with the Priest tanks, to Cairo and onto Tel-el-Kebir, a big army camp and store for vehicles. They returned to Cairo by train. After a time they travelled on to Tripoli.
So then we had to stop in Tripoli because we had to look after some things there that belonged to the Army. We had a load of vehicles, I had a motor cycle, a jeep and I think 3 tonne lorries. I used to ride a motor cycle down to the hospital in Tripoli to collect all the post for all the boys. I liked that because I love motor cycles.
Don and others were shipped back from Tripoli to the UK when hostilities ceased, much to the relief of the troops and their relations. Don settled back into his normal routine in Turvey, working at Simplex in Bedford, continuing to play football and cricket for the Turvey teams and later running the Kings Head public house with his wife, Margaret. Don lived at Tod’s Brook, Jacks Lane in Turvey for the rest of his active life.