In 1957 Cordingley was selected to form and command 47th Guided Weapons Regiment RA. This was the Army’s first surface-to-surface missile regiment, equipped with American Corporal free-flight, nuclear-armed missiles, a tactical nuclear delivery system for the battlefield.
Nato was heavily reliant on a nuclear capability at this stage of the Cold War and, in 1959, the regiment was deployed from Crookham to Dortmund in Germany. The journey there was eventful, with roads blanketed in thick fog. Heading to Gravesend, the regimental convoy got lost on the North Circular and found itself rolling through a housing estate in north London before eventually getting back on track.
In Germany the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament was at its height, and the arrival of the missile erectors during the night was regarded as particularly sinister by the local press.
The rockets could deliver a 20-kiloton nuclear warhead over a range of 50 to 80 miles, but the guidance system proved so unreliable that practice firings were restricted to exercises using dummy warheads on annual visits to the Hebrides.
John Edward Cordingley, the son of Air Vice-Marshal Sir John Cordingley, was born on September 1 1916 at Blandford, Dorset, and educated at Sherborne and RMA Woolwich. He was commissioned into the RA in 1936 and joined 18 Field Brigade .
In 1939 he went to France with the British Expeditionary Force and was evacuated through Dunkirk in May 1940. He spent the rest of the war in Britain and the Far East in a variety of staff and training jobs, ending the conflict in India, training for combined operations against the Japanese.
After the war he served as the Brigade Major of 2 Infantry Division in India before moving to Sandhurst as an instructor. He was next appointed battery commander of A Battery (the Chestnut Troop) RHA with which he served in the Middle East and Germany. This led, in 1953, to an appointment as DAA&QMG at HQ RA 6 Armoured Division in Germany .
On his promotion to brigadier, Cordingley commanded 1 Artillery Brigade, providing nuclear support for Northern Army Group. After attending the Imperial Defence College in London, in 1967 he became Deputy Director Royal Artillery at Woolwich and subsequently Major General Royal Artillery at HQ BAOR.
Retiring from the Army in 1971, Cordingley returned to Sherborne School for three years as bursar. In 1973 he was appointed Colonel Commandant RA and, two years later, Regimental Comptroller with responsibilities as Controller of the RA Institution and chairman of the Board of Management of the RA Charitable Fund and the RA Association.
He was Honorary Colonel of 47 Regiment RA from 1984 to 1990.
Cordingley was appointed OBE in 1959.
John Cordingley married first (dissolved), in 1940, Ruth Boddam-Whetham. He married, secondly, in 1961, Audrey Beaumont-Nesbitt. She predeceased him, and he is survived by two stepdaughters and the two sons of his first marriage – one of whom, Major-General Patrick Cordingley, commanded 7th Armoured Brigade in the First Gulf War.
Born September 1, 1916, died October 14, 2011
© Telegraph 7th December 2011