We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more
  Violette Cordery (1900?–1983), by Roger Viollet, 1929 [right, with sister Evelyn] Violette Cordery (1900?–1983), by Roger Viollet, 1929 [right, with sister Evelyn]
Cordery [married name Hindmarsh], Violette (1900?–1983), racing driver, was said to have been born in London on 10 January 1900 (d. cert.), the daughter of Henry Cordery (m. cert.). No birth certificate or census record has been found to corroborate this. Her first name was sometimes contracted to Violet. She had at least two sisters, one of whom married the car maker Noel Macklin [see below]. Cordery was an early enthusiast for motoring, and after Macklin was wounded in the First World War he chose her as his driver.

In 1920 Violette Cordery drove a Silver Hawk, manufactured by Macklin as one of the newly popular 1500 cc ‘light cars’, in the South Harting hill climb. In April and May 1920 she took part in two British Motor Cycle Racing Club handicaps driving an Eric-Campbell, also made by Macklin. She won the ladies' race at the Junior Car Club May meeting in 1921 at a speed of 49.7 mph, probably in a Silver Hawk. When Macklin launched the new Invicta car in 1925 he used Cordery to race and break records in it to demonstrate the ease of use and robustness of the marque. She drove a 2.7 litre Invicta to win the half mile sprint at the West Kent Motor Club meeting at Brooklands in 1925, and spent the following years promoting Invictas by setting records behind the wheel of the marque's machines.

In March 1926 Cordery led a team of six drivers (five of them men) around Italy's Monza circuit to set a long distance record. Taking the wheel in turn for three-hour stints, they achieved an average speed of 56.47 mph over 10,000 miles, and continued to the 15,000 mile record at an average speed of 55.76 mph. In July 1926 she successfully carried out a high-speed reliability test, supervised by the Royal Automobile Club, of a 19.6 hp Invicta, driving 5000 miles at the Montlhéry track, Paris, day and night for over 70 hours, at an average speed of 70.7 mph. This record was acknowledged in October 1926 by the technical committee of the RAC with the award of the Dewar Trophy, awarded since 1906, for the most meritorious performance by an automobile manufacturer in certified trials. She was the first woman to receive the trophy.

In February 1927 Cordery set out from her home in Cobham, Surrey, to drive an Invicta around the world, accompanied by a nurse, a mechanic, and an RAC observer. The team covered 10,266 miles in five months, travelling at an average speed of 24.6 mph through Europe, Africa, India, Australia, the United States, and Canada. This received newspaper and newsreel attention. A reception was held in London on her return in July 1927. At Brooklands in 1928 she won the Middlesex Car Club ladies' race, and the Essex Motor Club meeting.

In 1929 Cordery and her younger sister Evelyn combined forces for another record-breaking attempt at Brooklands. Over the course of July and August, in a 4.5 litre four-seater Invicta, they covered 30,000 miles of the Brooklands circuit within 30,000 minutes, under the observation of RAC officials, to complete the feat at an average speed of 61.57 mph. This earned Cordery a second Dewar trophy, awarded in October 1929, and the Cordery sisters' feat drew the attention of the rally driver Donald Healey to the Invicta marque, which he went on to drive in his victory in the Monte Carlo rally in 1931. Rallying proved the Invicta's build quality and by 1930 Cordery had driven a 4.5-litre Invicta tourer from London to Monte Carlo, made a return journey from London to John O'Groats, and another return run between London and Edinburgh.

Cordery married on 15 September 1931, at Stoke D'Abernon parish church, John Stuart Hindmarsh [see below]. They had two daughters. At the time of her marriage she announced her intention to give up motor racing and take up aviation. She disappeared from public view after her husband's death, and died at her home 13 Broom Hall, Oxshott, Surrey, on 30 December 1983. She was cremated at Randalls Park crematorium, Leatherhead. One of her daughters married the racing driver Roy Salvadori.

Her husband John Stuart Hindmarsh (1907–1938), test pilot and racing driver, was born at St Leonards on Sea, Sussex, on 25 November 1907, the son of Donald Stuart Hindmarsh, stockbroker, and his wife, Annie Stuart, née Campbell. Educated at Sherborne School, he attended the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, before gaining a commission in the Royal Army Tank Corps. In 1930 he was seconded to the Royal Air Force and learned to fly, resigning his army commission to join the RAF. He was a noted Talbot and Lagonda driver in the 1930s, winning the Le Mans 24 hour race with Luis Fontes, in a Lagonda, in 1935. In 1935 he joined the Hawker aircraft company, based at Kingston upon Thames, as a test pilot. Having survived a crash when testing a Hawker Fury in Portugal in 1937, he was killed shortly after taking off from Brooklands aerodrome on 6 September 1938, when the Hawker Hurricane which he was flying at about 400 mph crashed on South Road, St George's Hill, near Weybridge, Surrey.

Cordery's brother-in-law, who introduced her to motor racing, Sir (Albert) Noel Campbell Macklin (1886–1946), racing motor car and warship manufacturer, was born in Western Australia on 28 October 1886, the eldest son of Charles Campbell Macklin (1866–1918), barrister, and his wife, Ada Louisa, née Lockyer (1863/4–1935). The family was resident in Wimbledon by 1891 and Macklin was educated at Eton College. He became a successful amateur jockey, represented England at ice hockey between 1908 and 1910, and raced at Brooklands in a Mercedes in 1909. He married in March 1912 Esmé Victoria (b. 1887), daughter of Hinton Stewart of Strathgarry, Perthshire. In February 1914 he led an expedition to film big game in the Sudan. Commissioned in the Royal Field Artillery in 1914, he served in France where he was badly wounded in 1915. On his transfer to the RNVR he enlisted Violette Cordery as his driver. In 1919 his marriage ended in divorce and at Chertsey register office, on 24 August 1920, he married (Lucy) Leslie Cordery (1896–1980), whose name was variously given as Leslie Lane Cordery and Leslie Cordery Lane, and identified as daughter of Henry Lane, farmer, with whom he had two daughters and a son.

After the war Macklin became involved in making fast cars, initially the Eric-Campbell and then the Silver Hawk, at Fairmile, Cobham, Surrey. Backed by his neighbours, Oliver and Philip Lyle (of the Tate and Lyle sugar family), Macklin went on to develop the Invicta, which had enormous torque (pulling power) that demanded little or no gear-changing—as requested by Mrs Eileen Lyle—and offered motorists effortless performance. Such was the flexibility of the engine that owners were expected to use just first and top gear. After the successes of Cordery and Healey, Macklin ceased to manufacture the Invicta in 1933 and went on to make Railton cars under licence at his works at Fairmile, Cobham.

In 1938 Macklin began developing a small prefabricated motor launch for anti-submarine coastal patrols. He founded the Fairmile Marine Company and developed a prototype, which he offered to the Admiralty in 1939. The shortage of small vessels to defend coastal convoys and hunt U-boats was a concern at the outbreak of war, and Macklin's scheme for prefabrication meant that the manufactured parts could be distributed to small boatbuilders around Britain, and later around the world, for rapid construction. The firm became an Admiralty supplier, and improvements were made in the design, notably the Fairmile D (Dog Boats) to counter the German E-boats. During the Second World War over 800 of Macklin's small warships were made in Britain and overseas. After the war he held an Admiralty position directing the disposal of surplus small craft.

Macklin was knighted in June 1944. He died suddenly at his home, Fairmile Cottage, Cobham, Surrey, on 10 November 1946. After cremation at Woking crematorium, his ashes were buried at Bisham, near Marlow. His son Lance Macklin (1919–2002) became a noted amateur racing driver in the early 1950s.

Jean Williams and Simon Williams

Sources  

‘Violet Cordery’, alphabetical card index of races at Brooklands, Brooklands Museum and Archive, Weybridge, Surrey · J. Bullock, Fast women (2002) · ‘The “Recordwoman”: some adventures of Mrs Gwenda Stewart’, M. H. Tiltman, Women in modern adventure (1935) · The Times (30 March 1926); (12 July 1926); (16 Oct 1926); (14 Oct 1929); (7 Sept 1938); (4 Jan 1984) · Daily Mirror (20 July 1927); (20 Aug 1929) · W. Boddy, Montlhéry: the story of the Paris autodrome, 1st edn., 1961 (2006), 27 · W. Boddy, A history of Brooklands Motor Course, 1906–1940, rev edn, 1979 (1957) · D. Venables, Brooklands: the official centenary history (2007) · G. N. Georgano, ed., The encyclopaedia of motor sport (1971) · ‘Eric-Campbell’ and ‘Silver Hawk’, G. Grant, British sports cars (1947) · D. Healey, B. Healey, and P. Garnier, My world of cars (1989) · F. K. Mason, Hawker aircraft since 1920 (1991) · The Times (12 Nov 1946); (13 Nov 1946); (22 Nov 1946) · A. Konstam, British motor gun boat, 1939–45 (2010) · Daily Mirror (5 Feb 1914) · WW (2009) · m. certs., 1921, 1931 · d. cert.

Likenesses  

photograph, 1920, PA Images, London · R. Viollet, group portrait, photograph, 1929 (with sister Evelyn), Rex Features, London [see illus.] · portrait, repro. in Daily Mirror (27 Feb 1928) · portrait, repro. in Daily Mirror (20 Aug 1929)

Wealth at death  

£25,129: probate, 29 May 1984, CGPLA Eng. & Wales · £4565 3s. 2d.—John Hindmarsh: administration, 3 Nov 1938, CGPLA Eng. & Wales · £7808 14s. 0d.—Albert Noel Campbell Macklin: probate, 16 April 1947, CGPLA Eng. & Wales