Inauguration Of Lascar War Memorial - 06 Feb 1924

Little was known about who built the memorial till James Keir, son of William Ingram Keir told the story in November 2011 on his visit to Calcutta in an interview to reporter Soma Basu. It was reported that in 1920 William Ingram Keir, the architect started the construction of this historical monument on the banks of Hooghly river. He also had designed Khidderpore Bridge, the buildings of the Bengal Engineering and Science University (erstwhile Bengal Engineering College) in Shibpur, the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur and Islamia College. He had also replaced the spire of St. Pauls Cathedral damaged in an earthquake in 1934 with a tower and designed a number of mosques, temples and gurudwaras in the city and in the State of Bengal. He would never talk much about his life but he would always say, I am a foreigner in India but a stranger everywhere else. He died three months after he left India in 1967. The Lascar War Memorial earned William Ingram Keir an award of Rs.500/- a huge sum then for its design in an international contest in 1929 and it remained of special value to him as told by James Keir.

The Statesman SundayMay 9, 1920
It will be remembered that a meeting of those interested in the shipping in the port of Calcutta and in the welfare of the Lascar community, it was resolved that step be taken of commemorate those Lascars and others of the seagoing population who lost their lives during the great war through enemy action and a committee was appointed to collect subscription and to consider the nature and design of such a monument in the port of Calcutta number above 5000 were consulted in the matter and their views were in favour of a memorial column or obelisk on the banks of river Hooghly visible to all ships passing up and down the river between Calcutta and the sea on the base of which memorial it will be descried the names of all those Lascars who had lost their lives through enemy action in the great war. A prize of Rs 500 was offered for a design for such a memorial. The selected design shows a monument of Indo- Mogul style, thus giving a national character of the whole monument, while maritime concept of the monument is expressed in certain conventional orientation and details.

The total height will be approx 100ft and the aim has been to impart an imposing outline to be effective when seen from a distance and to give the quality of security and sturdiness by a wide spreading base and tapering form. The lower portion will have an inner circular dome chamber.

The choice of suitable site is now under investigation by the site selection sub-committee and a bamboo skeleton model has been erected on the reclaimed portion of the Maidan south of Princep Ghat for testing its visibility, the size being the one in the mind of architect.

During unveiling ceremony of the memorial on 06 Feb 1924 a ceremonial guard belonging to Royal Naval Ship HMS South Hampton was paraded. Many Lascars on parade were a part of this ceremony too.

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