I was born at 4 o’clock on the morning of Thursday the 24th of June 1948 in the Hospital Británico in Buenos Aires to a twenty-year-old Irish girl from Tralee in County Kerry. She was christened Catherine Christina and her family called her Ina but that is not the name on my birth certificate. My birth certificate states that my mother is called Norah Theresa. Nora Teresa was Ina’s older sister. Note the ‘H’.
At sixteen, Ina ‘borrowed’ eighteen-year-old Nora’s documents to travel north from Tralee across the Irish border into Northern Ireland and convince the British wartime authorities into believing she was old enough to join the Auxiliary Territorial Service.
So, in 1944 as ‘Norah’ she learned to drive a 10-ton lorry around Belfast and after the war in Europe was over she was posted to Aldershot.
My father was a short, baby-faced twenty-three-year-old Anglo-Argentine called Godfrey who, on leaving St George’s College in Quilmes, and bored with life as a railway clerk in Buenos Aires, volunteered to join the British Army and fight the war in Europe.
In October 1943, just 18 years old, he boarded the SS Empire Grace in Buenos Aires and and along with volunteers from all over South America sailed the Atlantic, disembarking at Avonmouth on 14 November 1943. He soon became Trooper Cordery 349790 in a Sherman tank with 146th Regiment Royal Armoured Corps, (9th Duke of Wellington’s Regiment).
This was the same unit that Captain Tom, the Walking Frame Warrior (Captain Sir Thomas Moore) had served in whilst fighting in Burma. Their paths never crossed as Tom was back in Bovingdon Camp in Dorset by the time Godfrey was bound for India. He was selected for officer training and on 12 May 1945, 4 days after the war in Europe ended, the London Gazette announced that Cadet Cordery was now 2nd Lieutenant Cordery. He was posted to Ahmednagar, the home of the Indian Armoured Corps where he served as a Second Lieutenant with the 254th Indian Tank Brigade training for the invasion of Japan. Fortunately for Godfrey the invasion was aborted once Hiroshima and Nagasaki were A-bombed. He spent the next 2 years kicking his heels in India and Egypt, waiting to be repatriated home to Argentina. He never got over his fear and hatred of the Japanese.
Ina and Godfrey met in London in April 1947 at the Marquis of Granby, a pub in Cambridge Circus at the other end of Piccadilly from the Argentine Club in Hamilton Place. Ina was in the Granby waiting for her Anglo-Argentine girlfriend Rosa Sympson, a fellow ATS driver. Godfrey had agreed to meet up at the pub with his old school friend from St George’s College, Angus Leeson, another engineering pupil on the Buenos Ayres Great Southern Railway who had sailed with him on the Empire Grace to join the British Army. However, Angus and Rosa had already become acquainted at the Club and went off together leaving two strangers stood up at the bar. Godfrey was enjoying pre-embarkation leave prior to his repatriation to Argentina, having spent 6 months in a transit camp in Alexandria. He was suntanned, lean and handsome, blond with piercingly blue eyes, and couple of inches shorter than Ina. She had snow white skin and full generous lips, with large blue-grey eyes and masses of dark hair that fell in waves to her shoulder. It was love at first sight.
They were married three weeks and four days later at Chichester Registrar’s Office. Their witnesses were Angus Leeson and Rosa Sympson. Their short honeymoon was spent on the south coast at 21 Longford Road, Bognor Regis. Godfrey’s cousins, Doug and Joe, lived in Bognor, one renting out deckchairs on the Esplanade, the other a steward in the restaurant car on the Brighton Belle.
By getting married Ina was immediately discharged from the British Army and once her papers had been sorted and a British passport in the name of Norah Theresa Cordery issued, she returned to her native Tralee to show off her new husband. Her parents, Hannah and Patrick, still lived in Dispensary Lane where she had grown up alongside her ten siblings. Paddy was an engine driver on the Irish Great Southern Railway and Nan was a diminutive little bird of a woman with a fierce temper.
At the end of that summer Ina and Godfrey re-crossed the Irish Sea to Liverpool and on 28 July 1947 boarded the SS Rippingham Grange for South America and a new life at the other end of the world.