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Cenotaph War Memorial (Colombo)

Colombo Cenotaph War Memorial
Cenotaph War Memorial is a war monument located in the Colombo Public Library premises adjacent to the Viharamahadevi Park in Colombo District, Sri Lanka. It has been erected in memory of war heroes from Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) who were killed in action during World War I (1914-1918) and World War II [(1939-1945) Cornelissen & Weinrich, 2020].

Sri Lanka in World Wars
Sri Lanka in the First World War
World War I centred in Europe began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918. Sri Lanka, then known as Ceylon, as a part of the British Empire, offered the service of approximately 2000 volunteers from the Ceylon Defence Force, and 442 among them did not survive. The closest fighting to Sri Lanka took place in the Bay of Bengal, where an Australian warship sank a German cruiser.

Sri Lanka in the Second World War
World War II was begun on 1 September 1939 and lasted till 2 September 1945. The two naval bases in Colombo and Trincomalee in Sri Lanka were attacked by Japan after the fall of Singapore and the Netherlands East Indies. The port at Colombo was bombed by them on 5 April 1942 while the port at Trincomalee was attacked on 9 April the same year. The destroyer Tenedos (under refitting) and the armed merchant cruiser Hector (under repair) that were in Colombo harbour were sunk and the quays and workshops there were damaged by the attackers. Also, the carrier Hermes, the destroyer Vampire, the corvette Hollyhock, a tanker and a fleet auxiliary were sunk off the Trincomalee coast.

The Cenotaph
The cenotaph was built by the British in the 1920s at the Galle Face Green (Cornelissen & Weinrich, 2020). However, it was dismantled and moved to the present site during World War II after fears that the Japanese warships might use it as a marker to direct their artillery (Jackson, 2017). 

The memorial site comprises the towering cenotaph and memorial walls. The cenotaph contains the names of those killed in World War I, while the memorial wall behind it contains the names of those killed in World War II. 

See also

1) Cornelissen, C. and Weinrich, A. eds., 2020. Writing the Great War: The Historiography of World War I from 1918 to the Present. Berghahn Books. p.117.
2) Jackson, A. ed., 2017. The British Empire and the First World War. Taylor & Francis. p.3.

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This page was last updated on 24 March 2024

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