The Esplanade Park is a narrow strip of greenery that runs from the Singapore River to Raffles Avenue next to the Singapore Recreation Club.
The park is one of Singapore’s oldest parks and is the site of 3 National Monuments; the Lim Bo Seng Memorial, the Cenotaph, the Tan Kim Seng Fountain. A plaque also stands on the site of the Former Indian National army Monument.
The shady park is also part of the Civic District Tree Trail. Look out for the Leopard tree which had white and brownish-red patches of bark, and the Cannonball tree, usually quite easy to spot with it’s large cannonball sized fruit and colourful pink flowers.
Access to the park is via a walkway under the Esplanade Bridge, on the side on the Esplanade Theatres. You can also access it via an underpass from the lawn outside the Asian Civilisations Museum.
The Lim Bo Seng Memorial was unveiled on 29 June 1954, 10 years after the death of Lim Bo Seng. He is considered a war hero in Singapore. Lim Bo Seng was an anti-Japanese resistance fighter who worked in Singapore and Malaya during the Second Sino-Japanese war.
After the Japanese took over Singapore in 1942, he set up a guerilla task force Force 136 which aimed to collect information on Japanese activities to aid the British take back control of Singapore. However he was captured and tortured by the Japanese. He refused to give up information on Force 136 and died in captivity on 29 June 1944. His remains were brought back to Singapore more than a year later on 7 December 1945. His funeral was held at City Hall on 13th January 1946 and he was buried at MacRitchie Reservoir.
Tracking back away from the river, and you will come to the former Indian National Army (INA) memorial. The goal of the INA was to regain India’s independence from Britain and was backed by the Japanese. The monument was proposed by Subhas Chandra Bose, co-founder of the INA, to commemorate the “Unknown Warrior”.
The memorial was erected by the Japanese a month before their surrender but was demolished by the British upon their return to Singapore. The plaque was unveiled in 1995 by the National Heritage Board to mark the location of the memorial.
The next memorial you will see is the Cenotaph, a war memorial to commemorate the men who died during World War I and World War II. It was modelled after the White Hall Cenotaph in London and was unveilled on 31 March 1922 by the Prince of Wales (who later became King Edward VIII). Originally the memorial was to commemorate the 124 British soldiers from Singapore who fought and died in WWI, but in 1950 it was extended at the base to commemorate those who died in WWII and you will see the steps on the other side inscribed with the years 1939 – 1945. The Cenotpah is 60 metres high and has a sarcophagus with bronze lion-head handles on the top. There is also a bronze medallion on the side with a laurel wreath of victory encircling a crown.
Most people tend to miss this memorial as it is at the far end of the park. Walk further along towards the end where the Singapore Recreation Club is and you will see a lovely blue and white fountain, the Tan Kim Seng Fountain. This is a memorial to Mr Tan Kim Seng, a philanthropist who donated funds to build Singapore’s first public water works. A fountain was installed in 1882 at Fullerton Square and later moved to Battery Road and finally to the Esplanade Park.