Ken and Geof Armstrong – January 2008


Thanks to Pat Graysmark for putting together this ‘life story’. Our subjects this time are : Ken and Geof Armstrong


Ken and Geof Armstrong: our identical twins. Two true British gents (something this country is starting to lack) even though they used their very “look alike” features to their full potential as youngsters and caused havoc at every opportunity.

Born in Brighton in 1923 just 20 minutes apart, Ken being the older. The boys were  born at home, a common practice in those days and delivered by a Dr Simpson. Their mum Phyllis and father Ernest with elder brother John, made up their family of which they both have deep respect and love for – even though both parents and brother have past on. All their family have lived to ripe old age including 11 on Dad’s side and 13 on Mum’s. Uncle Harry lived to receive the famous Queen’s telegram.

Ken and Geof were named in an unusual manner. A very good friend of the family had lost two boys in World War 1 and asked Ernest if he would name the twin boys after his boys, Ernest agreed willingly so Ken‘s second name is Roland and Geoff‘s is Maurice.2006 Tour Ilfracombe (37)

On to school. At the age of five both were put in the same class. This is where they did most damage as look a likes, always telling the teacher “no not me it was Ken” and vice versa. This ended up with Ken getting the strap and the pair being moved up a year to try and quell their mischief.

Both played cricket and football. Ken liking cricket more and Geof football. They moved from Ditchling Road School to Varndean Grammar School for Boys to finish their education. Again Ken playing cricket for the first eleven and football for second. Geof in reverse. They were very grateful to their father for pushing them hard at school, which paid off with five major exam passed each with exactly the same marks.

Now it was time for work in 1939. Again their Father playing a big part with advice. Having foresight of war looming telling them to get jobs that will be there when and if the war ended. Ken went straight into Banking, Geoff into Insurance with companies based in Brighton. Both very shrewd taking as many exams in each respective profession in a two-year period. This did them justice after the war.


1941-1942 – Call up time. Father was adamant they, including older brother John went to different sections of the armed forces. John – Royal Navy, Geoff – Air Force and Ken – Royal Marines. Geof was trained in telecommunications at Blackpool, learning Morse code to start with. When training finished along came the order to Gourock, Scotland – where he boarded MV Brittanica (a 15,000 tonne liner converted to a troop carrier. This set sail on 13/12//42 with a convoy of 50 ships with cruisers and destroyer as escort. No mention of destination. He was amazed, after several days at sea to see the Cape of Good Hope and went onto Durban. Two weeks later straight across Indian Ocean and ending up in Bombay (Mumbai). He stayed in India for 4 years, always on the move setting up wireless stations mainly on coastal areas with Sri Lanka playing a big part – receiving and sending important messages to keep Japanese at bay. Even though coastal work was the main – he did have a short time in Quetta on Afghanistan/Pakistan border. This period of their life was the only time they have spent any distance apart because they were in different parts of the armed forces. Ken having gone into the Royal Marines continued his extensive training in Scotland and around the area of Loch Fyne. This was over a two-year period, including commando training in Devon, the group he trained with went on to North Africa, but Ken volunteered for Special Sea Service and went to the Far East having been promoted to officer rank (Lieutenant). At the end of the war he had a whole Japanese contingent surrender to him and the officer in charge handing over his sword in surrender.

These two boys were certainly having a full life. Ken married Sheila during the war, after meeting Sheila whilst training in Scotland. It was love at first sight – 6 weeks from looking into each other’s eyes to being engaged. At Ken’s wedding in July 1946, Geof met his wife Alison – who was Sheila’s cousin and bridesmaid. This romance took a littler longer because of the war efforts. Geof finally tying the knot July 1948.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Both felt great guilt as being the ones to make it home safe and sound from the war (as well as brother John) and this is still deep in their thoughts knowing a good friend of the family had one son that never returned to these shores. Both suffered illness during the war, Geof contracted Dengue fever (mosquito related) and Ken having amoebic dysentery.

Geof and Ken returned to their jobs in Insurance and Banking at Junior status, but having taken their exams before the war broke out they were soon climbing their respective ladders in their chosen profession. During the long hall to the top along came the children. Geof and Alison having two girls and one boy – Valerie in 1950, David in 1953 and Lesley in 1959 – also giving them six grand children. Ken and Sheila having one of each. Joy in 1948 and Paul in 1951 – another 4 grand children. As you could imagine these very proud men show great love and fondness and of course very proud of their children and grand children alike.

Geof retired in 1981 as Local Branch Manager and Fellow of Chartered Insurance Institute of London. Ken finished work in 1979 as a Bank Manager for Midland Bank. While still in banking in 1968

Ken took up bowls and joined Horsham, then moved to Burgess Hill where he had become Manager of the branch there. He later joined Worthing Pavilion and West Sussex Tourists and is now at Maltravers. Whilst at Worthing Pavilion he got his Sussex Badge (Indoor and Outdoor). He also ran the West Sussex Tourists for several years before having the good fortune to obtain the services of our current Tour Manager and Secretary, Chris Rolph. Geof took up bowls much later (at Worthing Pavilion) always telling Ken that it was an old man’s game. Both brothers are proud to represent Sussex playing for Sussex Past Presidents.

Geof was also heavily involved in the Littlehampton Rotary Club and Worthing and West Sussex Insurance Institute (also becoming President of these organisations).

I think that you will find that these two have put back a lot more into bowls than having taken out.

Stewart1 088.1In 1993 the twins children and grand children gave them a surprise 70th Birthday present, which to their amazement and great joy turned our to be tickets for a 3.5 hour flight on Concorde from London Heathrow. Travelling at Mach 2, Capt Morris was the pilot and Capt Trubshaw (the original test pilot) provided a commentary throughout the flight.

Many of their family have, including themselves celebrated 50th Wedding Anniversaries. Geof coming up to 60 years this year.

Ken and Geof both had knee replacements in 2006, both in the same week and to their left legs.

This interview was great fun to do, listening to these boys just bouncing back and forth off one another, but always coming across as proud with immense love of life and living it to the full. Keep going boys – you are two gentlemen this club respect and love.