Lieutenant Eric M. Abendana
SAC 1905-1909

Lieutenant Eric Montague Abendana was born in Port Antonio, Jamaica on July 10, 1892, the son of I. M. & R. Abendana. Although raised in Jamaica, Eric was educated in Canada, first at St Andrew’s College and then at the University of Toronto. Graduating in 1914 with a B.A.SC. (Civil Engineer). He started working for the St Mary's Cement Company that year, probably as a chemist with A.G. Larsson. Although a recent graduate, Eric seems to have been fairly well off, and lived on Church Street South, very near St James’ Anglican Church where he worshipped. Prior to his arrival in St Mary's, Eric served with the 48th Highlanders Cadet Corps at St Andrew’s and the Corps of Guides (Cavalry) at the University of Toronto. 

In 1914, shortly after the outbreak of war, Eric joined the 7th Field Company, an engineer militia unit based in London and qualified as a Lieutenant on March 13, 1915. For some reason he did not join the Canadian Expeditionary Force at that time, although in August 1914, the 1st Canadian Field Artillery Brigade in Guelph rejected a Jamaican University graduate with fair skin and curly hair because he may have been black. There is no proof that this man was Eric Abendana, although the possibility exists. 

In November 1915, Eric was accepted as a lieutenant in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. His initial training may have been done at the Canadian Engineer Training Depot in Ottawa from 7 December 1915 to 26 January 1916 although family tradition suggests he was able to take leave in Jamaica at this time. In any event, Eric joined the 14th Field Company on January 26, 1916 and remained with them until May 20th, 1916 when he sailed to England. After a stint at the Canadian Engineer Reinforcement Depot at Seaford, he was seconded to the War Office on 8 August 1917 to assist with the construction of airfields for the Royal Flying Corps home defence squadrons. 

Lieutenant Abendana’s job with the War Office lasted less than a year, and on 5 April 1918, he reported back to the Canadian Engineer Depot at Seaford. The reinforcement machine worked quickly after that, and in rapid succession, Lieutenant Abendana was transferred to the Engineer Reinforcement Battalion, the Engineer Pool in France and then, on 24 July 1918 to the 2nd Battalion Canadian Engineers, then serving in France with the Canadian Corps.

As a subaltern with an engineer battalion, Lieutenant Abendana probably commanded a troop of about forty engineers, responsible for hasty bridging, maintenance of forward roads, obstacle clearance and booby-trap disposal. He served with his battalion during ‘Canada’s Hundred Days’ in August 1918, the smashing of the Hindenberg Line in September and the liberation of Cambria on 9 October 1918. On 11 October 1918 however, he was hospitalised at the 4th Canadian Casualty Clearing Station where he remained until he died of pleurisy on 16 October. He was buried in Duisans British Cemetery in France (Grave Reference: VII. B. 89.)  Although nominally an Anglican according to his service records, his headstone carries the Star of David and the epitaph chosen by his parents, “If Love Could Have Saved Thee, Thou Woulds’t Not Have Died.” (see note below).

Eric Abendana was survived by his parents, Israel and Rebecca Abendana of Port Antonio, Jamaica as well as a number of brothers and sisters, several of whom became prominent in Jamaican affairs after the war. He is commemorated, not only in St. Mary's, but also at St Andrew’s College and is included with all other Jewish war fatalities in the ‘World Book of Jewry’. 

by Richard Holt, July 2001
St Mary's Museum
  • Copy of Attestation Paper (National Archives)
  • Canadian Virtual War Memorial Page for Eric Abendana. This page includes a link to the commemoration on Page 357 of the First World War Book of Remembrance.
  • The 2nd Battalion, Canadian Engineers War Diary except show Abendana (paragraph 4) being admitted to a Field Ambulance 'sick' on October 9, 1918 and Operations Order No.113 recording his death.
Note:  Of 619,636 members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force "a small minority of 56 officers, a nursing sister, and 2,655 other ranks professed themselves to be Jews." [Desmond Morton, When Your Number's Up, by 1993, p.277]