Centenaries This Week

28 June 1916 Charles Benedict Nain aged 46. Father Nain was born at Farges-les-Macon (Saône-et-Loire) in France. In September 1894 he was ordained a priest in the French Foreign Missions -- Missions Étangères de Paris (MEP). The following year he arrived in Singapore assigned to the parish of St Peter and St Paul. In 1897 he was sent to Penang, returning to Singapore in 1898. He was appointed vicar of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd in 1909. Father Nain is well remembered in Singapore as his legacy included several buildings that still survive today and are now national monuments, among them the former chapel of the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus where a neglected plaque to his memory still exists. Poor health forced him to return to France in 1913 for recuperation. He was there when war broke out and, like all French adult males, was mobilised as a reservist. In his case he was a non-combatant working as an orderly at a hospital. His ill-health rendered him very feeble and he eventually succumbed at No 53 Military Hospital, Vichy, France. His is buried with his parents in his hometown.

Somme Centenary

1 July 1916 Richard Gordon Bagnall aged 31.Son of Mr William Gordon Bagnall and Mrs Jessie Bagnall née Gibson. An engineer by profession, Richard worked as divisional superintendent from 1911 to 1915 for the Straits Trading Company at several locations, the last one at Merlimau Rubber Estate in Malacca. He returned to England in June 1915 and was gazetted second lieutenant in Royal Garrison Artillery, going to France in December that year with the 114th Heavy Battery. Richard is buried at Bouzincourt Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme, France.

1 Jul y 1916 Lionel George Coles aged 27. Son of Mr Walter George Coles and Mrs Edith Juliet Rosalie Coles née Brown. Before coming to Malaya and the Straits Settlements, Lionel was a member of the Queen’s Edinburgh Mounted Infantry then the Lothian and Border Horse, later obtaining a commission in the 3rd Border Regiment. He came East to work as a planter at Jasin Estate in Malacca and then at Third Mile Estate in Seremban, Negri Sembilan. Due to his previous military experience, he was commissioned as a captain in the 16th Battalion the Royals Scots after he left with 90 other planters in December 1914. He is buried at Gordon Dump Cemetery, Ovillers-La Boisselle, Somme, France.

1 July 1916 James Kerr aged 24. Son of Mr James Sturrock Kerr and Mrs Jeannie Kerr née Stewart. James worked for the International Banking Corporation in Calcutta, Singapore and finally in Yokohama, from where he left to join up, passing again through Singapore on his return journey to Scotland. He received a commission as second lieutenant in 4th Battalion Highland Light Infantry and was attached to the 6th Battalion when he went to France on 3 June 1916. James has no known grave and is remembered at Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France.

1 July Alexander McIntyre McNidder aged 28. Son of Mr Willim McNidder and Mrs Margaret McNidder. Alex was a ship’s draughtsman and worked for the Singapore Harbour Board. In Singapore he was known as a keen golfer, playing on the Keppel Golf Course, part of the Harbour Board's property. He returned to Scotland in November 1914 and enlisted in the 17th Battion Highland Light Infantry as a private. Alex is buried at Lonsdale Cemetery, Authuille, Somme, France.

1 July 1916 Allan Graham Niven aged 38. Son of Commander Baylis Niven and Rose G Niven; husband of Mrs Lucy Emma Niven née Bovet; father of Master M Niven. Allan’s uncle, William Niven, married Helena Boustead, only child of Edward Boustead, founder of Boustead & Co, which owned vast holdings in rubber estates. Allan was a tea planter in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and returned to England in 1900 to fight in the Boer War. Later, he was manager of Jelutong Rubber Estate in Malacca, at the same time his brother, Charles Herbert Niven, was also manager of Merlimau Estate. Their first cousin, William Edward Graham Niven, was the father of the actor David Niven. Allan was already on home leave in 1914 when war broke out and was gazetted in November as a captain in the 21st Battalion (Tyneside Scottish) Northumberland Fusiliers, promoted to major in 1915. He has no known grave and is remembered at Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France.

1 July 1916 Robert Reid aged 36. Son of Mr Francis Farquharson Reid and Mrs Wilhelmina Hamilton Reid née Somerville. Robert’s initial on the Singapore cenotaph is ‘F’ not ‘R’, one of the few errors made on the monument. For 12 years Robert travelled throughout the Straits Settlements, Malaya and Thailand representing the Straits Settlements Company Ltd so is also remembered on the Ipoh war memorial. He was on home leave when the war broke out and joined the Sportsman’s Battalion Royal Fusiliers before being gazetted second lieutenant in February 1915 in the 15th Battalion Royal Scots, later promoted to lieutenant. Although some records suggest that Robert was buried at La Boiselle, CWGC records show that he has no known grave and is remembered at Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France.

About the Singapore Cenotaph Project

Few Singaporeans are aware of their cenotaph, sitting majestically on the Esplanade facing the Padang. It is mid-way between the Singapore Cricket Club and the Singapore Recreation Club. The men whose names appear on its bronze plaques had strong links with both of these clubs, so it's an appropriate location. Read more...