Penang Cenotaph

The Cenotaph at The Esplanade, George Town

The Cenotaph, within The Esplanade in the heart of George Town's UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a war memorial dedicated to the fallen Allied soldiers of World War 1. The Cenotaph, which was completed in 1929, is one of the several cenotaphs built in British colonies worldwide. Like most of the cenotaphs, the Cenotaph in George Town closely resembles The Cenotaph at Whitehall, London.

The Cenotaph was destroyed by Allied bombers during the Second World War. After the war, it was rebuilt using the remaining original granite blocks and bronze plaques. To this day, the Cenotaph serves as an important venue for the annual Remembrance Day commemorations on 11 November, which marked the day World War 1 ended.

The Penang Veterans Association (PVA) also erected a smaller monument beside the Cenotaph to commemorate the victims of World War 2, the Malayan Emergency (1948-1989) and the Confrontation against Indonesia (1963-1966).


The Cenotaph, Whitehall, London

The Cenotaph at Whitehall, London. Like most cenotaphs in the former British colonies worldwide, the Cenotaph in George Town closely resembles the one in London.

The Cenotaph, which was designed by architects Swan and Maclaren, was unveiled by the Prince of Wales on Remembrance Day (11 November) 1929. The memorial was built to commemorate the Allied servicemen who lost their lives in World War 1. It cost $12,000 (Straits dollar) to complete and its design closely mirrors that of The Cenotaph at Whitehall, London. Indeed, the design of The Cenotaph in London was reproduced elsewhere in the British Empire; many of the cenotaphs built since then in the other British colonies closely resembles The Cenotaph in London.

The Cenotaph (old), George Town, Penang

The unveiling of the Cenotaph at The Esplanade, George Town on 11 November 1929

Towards the end of World War 2, the British Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Force began bombing raids on targets throughout Southeast Asia, including George Town, to weaken the Japanese military based in the region. The Cenotaph was destroyed during one of the Allied bombing raids of George Town.

Cenotaph, Esplanade, George Town, Penang

A view of the Cenotaph, with the Penang City Hall at the background

After the war, the Cenotaph was rebuilt at the cost of $3,500 (Malayan dolalr), using the remaining granite blocks and bronze plaques of the original Cenotaph. Architects led by Charles Geoffrey Boutcher assisted with the reconstruction of the Cenotaph free of charge. The new Cenotaph was unveiled on Remembrance Day (11 November) 1948. It looks slightly different from the original Cenotaph destroyed in World War 2.

The Penang Veterans Association (PVA) also erected a smaller memorial next to the Cenotaph. Unlike the Cenotaph, the memorial commemorates the victims of World War 2, the Malayan Emergency (1948-1989) and the Malaysian Confrontation against Indonesia (1963-1966).

Every November 11, a small Remembrance Day ceremony, attended by military officers, ambassadors, High Commissioners, Penang state government representatives and war veterans, will be held at the Cenotaph.


  1. Langdon, M. A Guide to George Town's Historic Commercial and Civic Precints. Penang : George Town World Heritage Incorporated.

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