The Cenotaph within Esplanade Park has an easily traceable history which began on 15 November 1920. Sir Lawrence Guillemard, then the Governor of the Straits Settlements, founded the site of the Cenotaph. There was a meaningful groundbreaking ceremony on the 11th of September, in which French premier George Clemenceau took part. The completed Cenotaph was finally unveiled on March 31, 1922, by the Prince Edward of Wales. Identified as a focal point for commemoration, memorials and other forms of remembrance, the Cenotaph stands today as both an ode to war heroes and an iconic piece of architecture.
Singaporeans can certainly identify with the streets named after them such as Guillemard Road, Clemenceau Avenue, and Mountbatten Road. The questions might be: what is a cenotaph, and what does the one at Esplanade Park signify?
A cenotaph is a monument that typically commemorates someone and, in most cases, the body of their remains. The Cenotaph at Esplanade Park is a war memorial. It was erected in commemoration of the soldiers who have sacrificed their lives in World War I. In 1951, an extension was added to the structure in honour of those who sacrificed during World War II.
The Cenotaph is both striking and resilient. It is made of granite to withstand wear and tear over time. Inscribed on these tablets are the names of those who lost their lives in World War I. The phrase “They died so we might live” is inscribed in English, Japanese, and Tamil.
The five steps at the base of the structure bear the years 1914 to 1918, marking World War I. The steps that tend to the World War II years between 1939 and 1945 are long. The Cenotaph at Esplanade Park is a national monument, which was jointly gazetted with the Tan Kim Seng Fountain and Lim Bo Seng Memorial in 2010.
The Cenotaph at Esplanade Park.
You may also like to read about the Tan Kim Seng Fountain, the other Esplanade Park Memorial.