Benjamin Jordan

Benjamin Jordan

Major Benjamin Stevens Jordan is one of 18,058 New Zealanders who died as a result of the First World War and are listed on the Roll of Honour.

Born in Rangiora in 1883, the fifth of Frederick and Ellen Jordan’s six children, Benjamin Jordan was a registered accountant and a keen rugby player. A tall man with blue eyes and brown hair, Jordan devoted much of his spare time as an adult to military service. By 1914 he had already served during the South African War, spent 10 years with the Rangiora Rifle Volunteers and been promoted to Major of the 13th (North Canterbury and Westland) Regiment of the Territorial Forces.

Jordan enlisted as a major with the Canterbury Infantry Battalion and left New Zealand with the Main Body in October 1914. He served at Gallipoli but became deaf – possibly as a result of battle – and in August 1915 was evacuated to New Zealand to undergo surgery. The surgery was successful and while recuperating at home in late 1915 Jordan married Elsie Foster. Soon he was again fit for active service and in early 1916 Jordan left his bride to join the newly formed New Zealand Division in Egypt before it embarked for the Western Front. The following year Jordan was promoted to second-in-command of the New Zealand Command Depot in Codford, England, a facility that prepared recuperating soldiers for further active service.

Jordan was an enthusiastic supporter of New Zealand men volunteering for service. In a letter to a friend in 1915 he compared war to rugby and encouraged sports lovers to join the ‘greatest of all games.’ He wrote that ‘[t]he whistle of the bullet is sweeter by far than that of the referee, and for a goal line we strive to touch down in the enemy’s trenches.’[1]

On 24 May 1918, following a sports day for recuperating troops near Codford, Jordan boarded an American aviator’s plane as a passenger on its last flight of the day. During the flight over the Wiltshire countryside a wing collapsed and the plane plummeted over 300 metres to the ground, killing Jordan and the pilot instantly on impact. Jordan was buried two days later with full military honours. When word of his death at the age of 34 was received in Rangiora, flags were flown at half-mast in his memory. Jordan is buried at Codford (St Mary) New Churchyard and is remembered on several memorials in Rangiora, including the St John’s Anglican Church memorial cross. His widow Elsie never remarried.

Further information

Auckland Museum Online Cenotaph record

Commonwealth War Graves Commission record

The Bullet’s Whistle’, Sun, 13 August 1915, p. 3 (Papers Past)

A Flying Accident’, Evening Post, 15 August 1918, p. 8 (Papers Past)

Death of Major Jordan’, Star, 29 May 1918, p. 5 (Papers Past)

Rangiora church memorial

Rangiora High School memorial

Rangiora cenotaph

[1] ‘The Bullet’s Whistle’, Sun, 13 August 1915, p. 3.

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