Madras War Cemetery

Weather :

Timings : Monday - Saturday: 8:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Closed on Sunday and Public Holidays

Time Required : 1-2 hours

Entry Fee : No entry fee

Madras War Cemetery, Chennai Overview

The Madras War Cemetery, right in the heart of the city of Chennai, is a recognition of the glory as well as horrors of the war our ancestors have fought to make this world a more peaceful place. In short, it houses the last remains of around 855 martyrs who laid down their precious lives at the battlefronts in the devastating Second World War and also a Memorial stone for 1000 more who died fighting in the Great War before that. In 1952, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the Indian Government together established this cemetery to commemorate those who died to save our lives. Among the tombstones, there are three non-World War martyrs and a small memorial for a sea merchant as well. It must be remembered that the headstones are not only of soldiers who fought but of doctors, nurses and other support staffs as well.

Top class maintenance by the authorities has kept the cemetery in great shape. Even though it has its roots in a sad and bloody past, the cemetery lawn feels like a serene and peaceful place for the dead to rest. It hosts the Armistice Day homage every year on November 11 with wreath offerings and Guard of Honours. Anybody interested in war-time history or wants to pay their respect to the martyrs should visit the Madras War Cemetery. It is not only a remembrance but a tangible proof of the cost of war.

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Madras War Cemetery
Madras War Cemetery

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History of Madras War Cemetery

The Madras War Cemetery is home to the remains of 855 martyrs who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty during the World War II. The graves are of the soldiers who mainly belonged to the cantonments in the south and south-eastern part of the country and were sent all across the world to fight. However, there are burials of 14 Australians and 5 New Zealanders as well.

In 1952, one year after India became an independent Republic, the Madras War Cemetery was established by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC). The cemetery remembers those members of the Indo-British army who fought and died for the Allied forces in the Second World War at various parts of the world. There is also a War Memorial, which commemorates more than 1000 departed soldiers of the Great War of 1914-1918. For the current generation, this is a great as well as a sad remembrance of the past. The primly maintained place pays due respect to those who laid down their lives for the civilians.

Things To Do at Madras War Cemetery

The Madras War Cemetery is not a place to do a lot of things, but to take a walk down the tragic lane of history. The site, however, is impeccably maintained. So it is a great spot to spend an afternoon relaxing and also paying some respect to those whose graves lie here. If you are interested in the World War era, then this place will be a great treat for you. Otherwise, the silence and quietude make for an ideal retreat from the noise and crowd of the outside. The greenery of the lawn and the ivy-wrapped pillars also offer enticing backgrounds for photoshoots. However, whatever you do, do not cause harm to any property or untidy the place.

Architecture of Madras War Cemetery

You have probably seen many such war cemeteries in English movies or TV shows. That is because all the CWGC war cemeteries or memorials look the same, just with different names. The cemetery welcomes you with the Stone of Remembrance made of stark white marble says the words 'Their Name Liveth Forevermore' - meaning to say that all those who have fallen for their country shall be remembered forever through generations. Right in the middle of the ground, amidst a trimmed patch of lawn, stands the Cross of the Sacrifice, which is a looming white Cross set up high on an octagonal platform. The cross bears a bronze sword along the shaft. This is a typical monument in all the large CWGC cemeteries around the Commonwealth countries.

Around the Stone of Remembrance and the Cross, the burials of the martyrs of World War II are arranged in a disciplined manner, just like they used to stand during their services in the armed forces. The rear end of the cemetery is reserved for the memorial stone of World War I soldiers. No actual remains are buried here, but just the names of those who are buried elsewhere in the country but their graves cannot be appropriately maintained forever are etched on the memorial. About 855 martyrs of the World War II have their names written down in the grave markers in this cemetery, and 1039 plaques more in the memorial for the British martyrs of World War I. All the tombstones are made of white marble.

The name of the deceased, their Date of Death and the age at which they passed away is carved on the stones, along with their designation, the regiment they served, and the logo of the Force above all the words. Each stone also has an epitaph dedicated to the person at the bottom. The place is maintained in a Lawn Cemetery style. The grass is trimmed and mowed, short and soft as a green carpet. There are two sets of pillars on both sides of the cross, forming a beautiful shadowy and cavernous corridor. The posts are covered with lovely Ivies, and you can even see flowers blooming on some of them.

Armistice Day at Madras War Cemetery

Every year on November 11, the Armistice Day is celebrated here in memory of the war and the blood it shed. November 11 is the day on which the Armistice between the Allies and Germany brought about an end to the World War I, in 1919. In the Madras War Cemetery, a formal event is held each year, and a prominent personality is invited to attend the occasion as a chief guest. Wreaths of flowers are laid at the Stone of Remembrance, the Cross of Sacrifice and the Memorial of the First World War. Once the wreaths are laid, and the bugle is sounded, the attendees do their salutes, the Guard of Honour reverse arms and two minutes of silence is observed for the soul of those departed. In the end, the present crowd pays their homage to the dead.

How To Reach Madras War Cemetery

The restricted area of Madras War Cemetery is located within 5 kilometres of the Chennai airport, right near the trade centre. Being at the heart of the city's hustle and bustle, any public bus will ferry you to the cemetery on Mount Poonamalle Road. You could also hire a cab or a private vehicle for the convenience of the ride.

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