Reginald Victor Armstrong was born in 1887 at New Seaham, Co. Durham. His parents were Edward John Armstrong, a school teacher at New Seaham Boys School then due to failing health a clerk of the Co-operative Society, and Eliza, the headmistress of New Seaham Londonderry Girls School. Reginald Armstrong’s education progressed from New Seaham Londonderry Colliery Schools, to Bede College between 1905 and 1907, and finally to Hatfield College, Durham University, where he gained a B.A. degree in 1911. His decision to pursue a career in teaching followed not only that of his mother but also his elder siblings, Rosaline, a certified mistress assistant in 1901, and Herbert, a pupil teacher before 1901 and who went on to become President of the School Attendance Officers’ National Association (later the National Association of Social Workers in Education).
From 1907 he was Assistant Master at Bede Modern School, and on 10 September 1914 he and his wife sailed on the S.S. “Martaban” from Liverpool to Port Said, Egypt, in order for him to take up a position in Cairo as an assistant history master at Elhamish Secondary school. In early 1916 he was given a commission in the Imperial Camel Corps, attached to the Egyptian Camel Transport Corps with the rank of Second Lieutenant, his appointment as an officer perhaps due to his previous experience in the Officers’ Training Corps at Durham University. On 17 March 1917 while swimming he suffered an apparent heart attack and was accidentally drowned. He is buried in Kantara War Memorial Cemetery.
In the summer of 1912 Armstrong had married Ivy, second daughter of Mr and Mrs Robert Curry of New Seaham. Their child was two years old at the time of Armstrong’s drowning. The estate at probate was valued at £210. The family suffered a double tragedy for Reginald Armstrong’s father Edward had died only a few weeks previously.
A letter from the captain of Armstrong’s company to the Armstrong’s wife was published in a local newspaper.
I wish to tell you how dreadfully sorry all the officers of the Company are at his death. He was universally liked and one of the best officers in the Corps, always unselfish and thoughtful. He was drowned in quite shallow water on a warm, calm day. I think his heart must have failed. He was buried on the 18th March at ......., by the Church of England Chaplain and we are erecting a cross. There are the graves of other soldiers there. I cannot tell you how sorry I am for you and your son. A small grain of comfort is that he died as a real man doing his duty for his country.
Sunderland Daily Echo, 13 April 1917
Reginald Armstrong’s name is recorded on the Bede College 1914-1918 cross , plaque, and roll of honour, on a plaque in the chapel at Hatfield College, and on the organ case at Christ Church in New Seaham.