As war memorials go, Sydney’s Cenotaph is small and rather plain though perhaps this has as much to do with its location, exposed in the centre of Martin Place in the midst of rather large and ornate buildings, rather than the actual Cenotaph itself.
This central location was carefully chosen for the memorial as Martin Place was Sydney’s primary place for enlistment during World War I (WWI) and the General Post Office (now the Westin Sydney Hotel) was Sydney’s main conduit for news and messages during the war. Many people see the facade of the GPO as being an integral part of the Cenotaph.
Of course, this key position in the centre of Sydney’s central business district also provides a constant reminder of sacrifices made, to the thousands of local people and visitors who pass it on a daily basis.
In 1926 Sir Bertram Mackennal was commissioned to design and erect a Cenotaph (empty tomb), to be completed by 25th April (Anzac Day), 1929. A Cenotaph was deemed an appropriate form of monument given that the war-dead of Australia had been interred overseas.
The completed product comprises a monolithic Moruya granite block in the shape of a sepulchre, on a granite base, and two bronze statues, a soldier and a sailor, one on guard at either end of the cenotaph.
The granite block is simply inscribed on either long side with “To Our Glorious Dead” and “Lest We Forget”.
The bronze statues, cast in Milan, are modeled on two real life service personnel – Private William Piggot Darby of the 15th Infantry Batallion and 4th Field Ambulance AIF and Leading Seaman John William Varco, who served on HMAS Pioneer 1914 – 1916 and on HMAS Parramatta 1917 – 1919. These two servicemen represent the 300,000 plus Australians who saw overseas service during WWI.
Address: Martin Place