If you pass by the roundabout at Jalan Padungan, you will see a clock tower behind the arch. Have you ever wondered about the story behind it?
For most, it is just a simple clock tower, but it is actually Sarawak’s first war memorial.
The memorial clock tower at Jalan Padungan was declared open in November 1952 to commemorate all Sarawak residents who lost their lives in World War II.
The idea of building a memorial clock tower initially came from former Chief Secretary of Sarawak, J.B. Archer.
He spent years as a civil internee at the Batu Lintang Camp.
To commemorate those who lost their lives during the war, he suggested something simple like a clock tower would be fitting.
He also suggested that a public donation should be collected to built it.
However, there were mixed reactions to this idea as people were still recovering from the effects of war, psychologically, politically and economically.
People did not have much money at the time and thought that any funds collected should be spent on an agricultural institution for the youth.
It was not until 1950 when the idea resurfaced.
At that time, there was an announcement of a design competition for a memorial clock tower at Jalan Padungan to be erected.
It was won by Egbert Christopher Dhing, a draughtsman in the Public Works Department.
Like many others, Egbert had been personally affected by the war; his brother Hubert Dhing had been captured and executed by Japanese forces.
Remembrance Day, 11th November 1951
The memorial clock tower at Jalan Padungan was unveiled by then governor Sir Anthony Abell on Remembrance Day, 11th November 1951.
By 9.15 am, a large crowd of official guests and spectators had gathered by the memorial clock tower at Jalan Padungan.
According to The Sarawak Tribune in an article published on November 12, Union Jacks and Sarawak Flags were the only decoration around the Memorial Clock Tower which was surrounded by guards of honour formed by the Sarawak Constabulary, Boy Scouts and Sea Scouts; officials, invited guests and a large congregation made up of members of the public.
Abell, accompanied by A.D.C. Abang Othman arrived at 9.30 am and proceeded to the base of the mkmorial where the former took the Royal Salute where he was quoted as saying:
“This clock tower which I am about to unveil commemorates the men and women of every race and of every creed who gave their lives for Sarawak in the war against the Japanese. We who were spared, in humility and gratitude pay this tribute to their fortitude and sacrifice and dedicate this memorial to their undying memory. On us falls the heavy responsibility to make sure, as far as lies within our power, that their sacrifice was not in vain. We pray that future generations of Sarawak citizens will pass this place in peace and security, and staying a while to read the inscriptions hereon, may feel something of our pride and gratitude for the heavy price that was paid for their freedom and happiness.”
The memorial clock tower was used for the annual Remembrance Day service held on 11th November.
The clock tower remained as the official war memorial until 1961 when a new one was built at the Central Padang.
This was because the authorities thought that the space was too cramped for parades.
Apart from that, the space was also too crowded as it was too close to the market space.
Around 1960, the authorities began thinking of building another war memorial somewhere more spacious, and Central Padang was chosen.
While the new site may appear to be perfect, it however has problems.
During special occasions, the new site is usually blocked by temporary structures such as grandstands or stages, so, the memorial services would usually be held at the Brooke Memorial in front of the Courthouse building in Main Bazaar.