Designed based on the Cenotaph in Whitehall, London, the foundation stone of the Cenotaph was laid on the 15th of November, 1920, by Sir Lawrence Nunns Guillemard, then Governor of the Straits Settlement. The monument was completed in 1922, and unveiled on the 31st of March that year by the then Prince of Wales (who was later crowned as King Edward VIII).
The Cenotaph is one of Singapore’s first war memorials, and it was initially dedicated to the 124 British residents of Singapore who served and were killed in action in World War I. In 1950, an additional inscription was added to the other side of the memorial to honour the soldiers who lost their lives during World War II and during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore.
The monument is built from granite and stands at a height of 20 metres. If you look at the inscription on the WWI side of the memorial you will notice no names are listed, but bears the inscription “Our Glorious Dead” along with the years 1914 – 1918, both on the front and on the steps.
The reverse side, facing the Esplanade bears the words “They Died so That We May Live”, and the years 1939 – 1945 on the front and on the steps.
The monument is located in the historic Esplanade Park, which once boasted a sea view before the extensive land reclamation took place. On 28 December 2010, it was gazetted as a National Monument collectively with two other structures in Esplanade Park, the Lim Bo Seng Memorial and the Tan Kim Seng Fountain.