The Cenotaph, located at Esplanade Park along Connaught Drive, is a war memorial which commemorates the sacrifice of the men who perished during World War I and World War II. It was unveiled on 31 March 1922 by the Prince of Wales. On 28 December 2010, it was gazetted as a national monument together with two other structures in Esplanade Park, the Lim Bo Seng Memorial and the Tan Kim Seng Fountain.

The Cenotaph was first erected as a memorial in honour of the 124 men from Singapore who died in action during World War I. It was designed by architect Denis Santry of Swan & Maclaren and modelled after the Whitehall Cenotaph in London, England. The foundation stone was laid on 15 November 1920 by Sir Lawrence Nunns Guillemard, Governor of the Straits Settlements, in the presence of M. Georges Clemenceau, Premier of France, as well as Major-General Sir D.H. Ridout, the General Officer Commanding the Troops, Straits Settlements. The memorial was unveiled on 31 March 1922 in a solemn ceremony by the Prince of Wales (later Duke of Windsor and King Edward VIII) during his tour of Malaya, India, Australia and New Zealand.

In 1950, the government approved an extension to the base of the structure to commemorate those who died during World War II. The extension was completed in 1951.

The Cenotaph is made of local granite and is nearly 60 ft high. Bronze tablets on the Cenotaph bear the names of the men who perished in World War I. The original five steps that lead up to the monument bear the dates 1914, 1915, 1916, 1917 and 1918, marking the war years. Crowning the structure is a sarcophagus with bronze lion's-head handles, while a bronze medallion consisting of a laurel wreath of victory enclosing a crown. It symbolises the crown to which these men had rallied and is also a reflection of the Crown Colony. Lower down is the inscription "The Glorious Dead" and below the inscription are the dates 1914-1918. On the reverse side, though no names are listed to commemorate the World War II casualties, the phrase "They died so we might live" is inscribed in the four official languages, English, Malay, Chinese and Tamil. The extended steps that were added in 1951 bear the war years 1939 to 1945 in succession. There are 14 pylons on both sides of the stone structure showing the names of famous battles, with each battle surmounted by a laurel wreath. Overall, it is a simple granite structure wrought with just a hammer and a chisel.

Zubaidah Mohamed & Valerie Chew

Arrival of the Prince. (1922, March 31). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved January 12, 2011, from NewspaperSG database.

Cenotaph plan approved. (1950, July 21). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved January 12, 2011, from NewspaperSG database.

Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988).
Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places (p. 374). Singapore: Times Books International.
(Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA])

Esplanade Park Memorials. (2010). Retrieved January 12, 2011, from Preservation of Monuments Board website:

Samuel, D. S. (1991). Singapore's heritage: Through places of historical interest (p. 310). Singapore: Elixir Consultancy Service.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 SAM-[HIS])

Singapore's war memorial to the glorious dead. (1920, November 11). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved January 12, 2011, from NewspaperSG database.

Work completed on cenotaph. (1951, April 29). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved January 12, 2011, from NewspaperSG database.

Further readings
Extension to cenotaph: Work starts. (1950, August 4). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved January 12, 2011, from NewspaperSG database.

Wan, M. H. (2009).
Heritage places of Singapore (pp. 63-65). Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 WAN)

The information in this article is valid as at 2011 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

War memorials--Singapore
Architecture and Landscape>>Building Types>>Monuments
Arts>>Architecture>>Architectural structure
National monuments

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