Siam & the Great War
The Great War, or World War I, was mainly a European theatre war and many Europeans, on both sides, left their work and homes in Siam, the historical name of Thailand, to enter the war. On 22nd July 1917, King Vajiravudh (Rama VI) of Siam declared war on Germany and the Austrian Hungarian Empire and sent an Expeditionary Force (also known as Siamese Volunteer Corps) to Europe under the command of Major General Phraya Pichai Charnyarit.
Thousands of men left for the war, but a small number did not return. Of those, nineteen Siamese soldiers who died are commemorated at the Volunteer Soldiers’ Monument (Anusawari Thahan Asa) in Sanam Luang in Bangkok, which was unveiled on 22nd July 1921 and twenty-five men of British descent were honoured with the British War Memorial in 1923.
The provision of a British War Memorial was organized by a committee of British people in 1919, and after funds were raised it was commissioned. Various sources differ but it seems most likely that it was designed in Siam by one Edward Healey and built in Scotland by Sir James Taggart. Edward Healey was well known for his designs of the main building at Chulalongkorn University and the Devavesm Palace (now the Bank of Thailand Museum). Sir James, Lord Provost of Aberdeen from 1914 to 1919, owned a large Granite Works in Aberdeen, his company is now part of Robertson Granite.
The monument has central portion weighting three tonnes, plus 150 other steppingstones and name stones to make it complete
The first unveiling
In 1922, the British Legation was in the process of moving from the riverside to the corner of Wireless Road and Ploenchit Road, a site purchased from local landlord Phraya Pakdi Noraseth, known as Nai Lert. The Memorial was the first completed piece of construction on the site and was originally erected inside the Ploenchit Road entrance of the Legation.
It was unveiled on 10th January 1923 at a service led by the Reverend R.J. Hitchcock, Legation Chaplin, and attended by His Britannic Majesty’s Minister Robert Greg with His Serene Highness Colonel Prince Amoradat Kritakara and Major General Phraya Pichai Charnyarit representing His Majesty King Vajiravudh of Siam.
The original unveiling on 10th January 1923.
The newly opened British Legation in 1926
The first move
The Ploenchit side of the British Embassy was sold in 2006, and the monument moved to its second home on the lawn in front of the Ambassador’s Residence. Remembrance Day Services were held there from 12th November 2006 to the Centenary service on 11th November 2018
Preparing for the Centenary Service in 2018
War Memorial’s second home 2006-2019
A New Home Needed
In 2019 the remainder of the site was sold with the British Embassy being relocated to AIA Sathorn Tower, in South Sathorn Road in July 2020. There were a number of contenders to provide a new site for the monument, but with support from H.E. Brian Davidson, the British Ambassador, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office agreed to move the Memorial to the British Club. After months of planning, the structure was moved over three days in July 2019 and reconstructed over the next 24 days.
A New Beginning
To welcome the Monument to its new home, the British Club was honoured on 29th August 2019, when Admiral Anthony Radakin, CB, ADC, the First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff unveiled the Memorial and laid a wreath in remembrance of the sacrifice the 25 men made.
Admiral Radakin was accompanied by the British Ambassador, H.E. Brian Davidson and Colonel Roger Lewis, the British Defence Attaché. Club Chairman, Jack Dunford MBE, gave a word of thanks to the First Sea Lord and to the British Ambassador for his support in our gaining the monument. Mr. Dunford mentioned, as well, a booklet containing the biographies in brief of those 25 had been prepared by the Honorary Secretary and is available at <click here>.
A Lone Piper marches the unveiling party to the Memorial
The British Ambassador, H.E. Brian Davidson, and The First Sea Lord, Admiral Anthony Radakin, cut the ribbon.
A Salute for the Fallen: The First Sea Lord with Commander Tim Davey, Naval Assistant to the First Sea Lord, and Colonel Roger Lewis, the British Defence Attaché.
The First Remembrance Day
The first hosting of the annual Remembrance Service took place on 10th November 2019 led by the British Ambassador, H.E. Brian Davidson and the British Defence Attaché, Colonel Roger Lewis, with representatives from the Royal Thai Armed Forces and Ambassadors of twenty nations, and dozens of International Schools and community groups.
The service was led by the Reverend Norman Jones, Vicar of Christ Church, the choir was from Shrewsbury School and music was provided by them and the British Club Pipe & Drum Band, led by Pipe Major Keith Walker. The service concluded when the Royal British Legion standard was marched off accompanied by two pipers from the 2nd Battalion, Royal Gurkha Rifles.
The Last Post
The first Wreaths: British Ambassador, H.E. Brian Davidson; the British Defence Attaché, Colonel Roger Lewis; and the President of the Royal British Legion, Chonburi. Mark Bowling
We will remember them.
The regulations to contain spread of the Covid-19 Coronavirus prevented any Remembrance Service to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of ‘Victory In Europe Day’ on 8th May 2020, however three wreaths were laid by Colonel Roger Lewis, the British Defence Attaché on behalf of the Ambassador, Flight Sergeant Clare McKune on behalf of the Royal British Legion and Jack Dunford MBE, Chairman, and Paul Cheesman, Honorary Secretary, on behalf of the British Club.
Those attending with masks quickly removed: Paul Cheesman, Colonel Roger Lewis, Flight Sergeant Clare McKune and Jack Dunford MBE.
Lest we forget.