Unveiling Ceremony of the British North Borneo War Memorial of Jesselton in 1923

The British North Borneo War Memorial in Jesselton was unveiled in 1935. It was an important day for Jesselton and the rest of the country.


The war memorial arrived Jesselton in August 1922 but it was not until the following year that it was unveiled. Government officials named it officially as the “British North Borneo War Memorial” to commemorate those who perished during World War I.

It takes a form of an obelisk of roughly dressed granite, measuring 18 feet 6 inches from the top of the plinth (the platform just underneath the memorial).

The design on the face of the memorial shows a laurel wreath in raised work with the inscription:

“To the Glorious Dead, 1914 – 1918”

directly underneath, and below this the roll of honour inscribed on a brass plate.


The unveiling ceremony took place in Jesselton at 10 o’clock on the morning of Tuesday, May 8 of 1923. Some reported that it was rather hot and dry during that month. Judging from the photo above, it seems that it was a hot and sunny and no clouds were visible in the sky. This photo was taken moments before it was unveiled, as the Union Jack was still covering the obelisk.

Major General Sir Neill Malcolm who was the General Officer Commanding Troops of Malaya officially unveiled it. Rt. Rev the Bishop of Labuan and Sarawak was also there to give short address and blessing. OKK Haji Mohammed Arsat represented the Muslim community of Jesselton during the ceremony (dressed in a white rob shown in the photos here).

Major Malcolm gave tribute to the 79 men from Borneo who participated the War, and 13 who fell during the fight.


The Guards of Honour were made up of the Royal Navy, Ex-service men who stood on the left of the memorial and on the right were the British North Borneo Armed Constabulary.

Here’s the full view of the British North Borneo War Memorial.


The ‘cannon’ that you see in front of it was a German Trench Mortar, similar to the one shown above (courtesy gwpda.org). Nobody knows for sure what happened to it, but very likely it was destroyed during the Japanese occupation of North Borneo, approximately 18 years after the memorial was unveiled.

Images via National Archives, UK

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Richard Ker

I love the history of North Borneo (Sabah) and strive to digitally archive any related information on this website. I'm also the author of LifeinMy.com and CyberjayaCity.com. Follow me on Twitter @richardker.

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