The Occupation of Singapore, Part 4: Memorials of Resistance

After the Battle of Singapore, came the fall of Singapore and finally the Occupation of Singapore.

That was a dark period in the history of the country three years and six months of pain, a period immortalised in a 1997 mandarin serial, The Price of Peace. It is a 32 part series, linked here is the prelude, someone has linked all 32 episodes in the about section. Check it out.

At the Esplandade Park are a number of Memorials to the resistance in the war, this article will introduce some of the persons who were showcases of the best of the human spirit.

Not everyone can be found at the Esplanade Park, and not every memorial is a memorial to the resistance.

Lim Bo Seng

Major General Lim Bo Seng was a chinese resistance fighter based in Singapore during the second world war. He was born in China, but sent to Singapore to study at the Raffles Institution before completing a business degree (then a very difficult privilege, recall that there was little to no education inflation then) at the University of Hong Kong. Lim was a father of eight. After his degree, he returned to Singapore to work in his father’s company. The strapping young man was a key player in the community and was very close to the going-ons in China.

Lim Bo SengSource

At the outset of the Sino-Japanese War, Lim became heavily involved in the anti-Japanese movements on these lands, including precipitating a boycott of Japanese products and fund raisings to support the war effort in China. Before his military action, Lim’s greatest act of resistance was to convince a group of 3,000 Chinese tin miners to stop work so as to stop supplying the Japanese with tin. This gained greater success after the Rape of Nanking in 1937.

In 1941, as the war in had spread to Malaya, Lim was put in charge of the Straits Settlement Volunteer Force, that took part in the Battle of Singapore. But the poorly equiped force could do little to resist the Japanese.

Prior to the fall of Singapore, Lim left for Sumatra to set up Force 136, a Sino-British guerrilla task force to take on the Japanese after the war had ended. After a year of preparation Lim set off on Operation Gustavus, a mission to set up an espionage network throughout Malaya. The operation failed though and Lim was captured. He died in captivity after refusing to divulge anything to the Japanese.

His is buried at the MacRitchie Reservoir, a favourtie joint of his prior to the war at his late wife’s request. But a memorial stands in his honour at the Esplanade Park.

Lim Bo Seng Memorial 3He was fighting against the Japanese as a Chinese national, but his act of resistance and bravery was adopted by Malaya and Singapore and he is considered a national hero in both these countries. Lim Bo Seng Memorial 2Elizabeth Choy

Not every resistance fighter actually fought in the resistance effort.

Elizabeth ChoySource

Elizabeth Choy was a late educator and city councilor who smuggled medicine, money and supplies to prisoners of war at the Changi Prison. A Hakka Kadazan, she was initially slated to sit for a degree at the Raffles College (which eventually became the University of Singapore), but she could not afford the fees, so she became a teacher at the St Margarets and St Andrew’s Schools, teaching English.

Choy and her husband, Choy Koon Heng, set up a canteen at the Tan Tock Seng Hospital and had used it to smuggle food to British Prisoners of War at Changi Prison. The couple also passed radio information to assist in Operation Jaywick. On 10th October (known as the Double Tenth incident), Choy’s husband was ratted on by an informant and interned as a prisoner. She went to the Kempeitai East Branch, today the YMCA building to ask about her husband but was instead denied and then lured and thrown into prison too. She was physically abused and interned in the gaol for 200 days.

After the war, Choy went to England to recruperate and to study, she returned to Singapore in 1949 and joined the Labour Party of Singapore. She stood in the West Ward of Cairnhill in the 1950 Municipal Council elections but lost in that contest. She made it into parliament as a nominated member by the British colonial government until 1955 when she stood in the Queenstown seat, she did not win and retired from politics remaining as a teacher at the St Andrew’s School. She then continued to go round Singapore tirelessly working to impress on young Singaporeans the need for a strong defence system, she continued until her death in 2006.

Sybil Kathigasu

Sybil Karthigasu nee Daly was a Eurasian nurse who helped the anti-Japanese forces in Malaya. She was a fifth child of a marriage between and Irish-Eurasian and Italian-Eurasian couple. She was trained as a nurse and married her husband Dr Andon Clement Karthigasu in Ipoh till the Japanese invasion.

Sybil KathigasuSource

Karthigasu secretly kept a shortwave radio transmitter (a very subversive crime during the war, as it allowed people to tune into other channels such as the BBC) while Malaya was under the Japanese occupation, her family supplied medical supplies, medical services and information to the resistance forces until they were captured in 1943.

She was treated horribly, including the dreaded Tokyo Wine Treament, more commonly known as Waterboarding. Karthigasu survived the tortures, and never once gave away the resistance forces. After the war she was sent to England to recruperate and her testimony was vital in the conviction of many kempetai officers. She was awarded the George Medal in 1949, months before her death.

Ivan Lyon

Lt Col Ivan Lyon was an Australian soldier and agent in the highly secret commando unit, the Z Special Unit. Before the fall of Singapore, Lyon was working to form resistance groups among the local population to fight the Japanese, he then helped to evacuate civilians out of the island until the eventual surrender of Singapore.

Ivan LyonSource

Lyon played an important part in Operation Jaywick, he led a team to raid Japanese ships in the Singapore harbour. They damaged/sank four Japanese ships amounting to 39,000 tonnes of shipping items for the Japanese soldiers, crippling the Japanese forces for a time. The video above is the first in a series from an Australia TV show heroes that catalogues this story.

The Z force, attempted a second Operation Jaywick, this one codenamed Operation Rimau. The group managed to sink three Japanese ships before they were caught. Lyon died in the cross fire, while ten of his comrades were captured, and brought back to Singapore before they were interned at the Outram Park Prison. All of them are presently buried at the Kranji War Memorial.

Mamoru Shinozaki

The greatest disservice I can do to any post is to focus on resistance forces against the Japanese and not show up the sheer complexities of the war. Not all Japanese were ready to kill, in fact not all Japanese who killed did so out of bloodlust. Many studies have shown that the atrocities committed by the Nazi’s and Japanese could be controlled by conventions and authorit7y figures. Think of Stanley Milgrim’s Obedience Experiments and Philip Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment.

Mamoru Shinozaki was a Japanese diplomat based in Singapore even before the war. As tensions between Britain and Japan increased, Shinozaki was interned at Changi Prison as a Prisoner of War. He was released after that and became a first advisor the the Japanese military administrator and Education Officer in Occupied Singapore. He however did not take revenge on the locals. He stored food at the Thomson Road home of the Little Sisters of the Poor in Singapore so they would have a ready supply of food.

Mamoru ShinozakiSource

Upon witnessing the beginning Operation Sook Ching, he risked his life and career to liberally give out good citizen cards without question to as many Chinese and Eurasian persons (those most at risk of sudden murder from soldiers) at a rate limited only by his handwriting. He personally intervened to save many people from Sook Ching, including prominent Chinese leaders, Dr Lim Boon Keng, Tan Hoon Siang, Chen Kee Sun, Dr. Hu Tsai Kuen, Wee Keng Chiang and S.Q. Wong.

To protect the Chinese and Eurasians he convinced Dr Lim Boon Keng and Dr Charles Joseph Paglar to set up the Overseas Chinese Association and Eurasian Welfare Association. The OCA was forced by the military to ‘donate’ money to the campaign, making it highly unpopular, but it’s presence saved many people.

Indian National Army

Not everyone fought against the Japanese. Some people decided to take advantage of the Japanese to fulfill their own aims. Subash Chandra Bose, a freedom fighter from India decided to work with the enemy to arm the Indians and rise up against the British.

The INA fought in a number of conflicts against the British and a memorial was built in 1945 to them at the Esplanade Park. When the British returned to Singapore, they torn down the INA memorial.

Indian National Army PlaqueAll that stands today is this plaque.

The Cenotaph

The Cenotaph were built to commemorate 124 soldiers who died in the First World War, after the Second World War, the opposite side was engraved to commemorate all who died in the war of 1939-1945.

The CenotaphHere are other persons and locations that are memorials of resistance.

Civilian War Memorial

Tay Koh Yat and the Bukit Brown Cemetery

Lt. Adnan bin Saidi (a second article here)

How to get there (Esplande Park)

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