The Resilient War Hero
In the face of extreme hardships during the Japanese Occupation, Lim Bo Seng went against the Japanese as part of Singapore’s famous resistance army, Force 136. Undeterred by the enemy’s strength, he sought to weaken their influence time and again until he was captured in Ipoh in 1944, which led to his death at the young age of 35.
Lim’s tireless resistance work started even before the war. In the 1930s, he donated money to the Chinese Relief Fund and joined the boycott against Japanese goods. His involvement soon intensified after Governor Shenton Thomas requested that he form the Chinese Liaison Committee to assist the British in civil defence.
Resourceful and determined, Lim organised more than 10,000 men to erect defences around Singapore after the fall of Kota Bharu. As the Japanese travelled towards Singapore from Johor, he and his team blew up the causeway, effectively slowing the enemy’s advance.
Advised by the Governor to leave Singapore before its fall, he left his wife and seven children behind for their safety. Even then, this was not the end of his activism. Together with the British resistance group Force 136, he went through intelligence field training in India.
Despite the imminent dangers, Lim later travelled by submarine to Pangkor, Lumut, Tapah and Ipoh in 1943 to establish an intelligence network that was meant to support a planned British invasion. In an unfortunate turn of events, Lim’s whereabouts were betrayed by one of Force 136’s own members, leading to his capture while he was fleeing Ipoh.
After years spent working towards liberating Singapore, Lim Bo Seng died on 29 June 1944, three months following his capture and torture by the Japanese, in Batu Gajah Jail, Perak.
On 13 January 1946, Lim’s remains were buried in MacRitchie Reservoir. Today, the Lim Bo Seng Memorial in Esplanade Park commemorates his efforts and courage in World War II.
The Unwavering Patriot
A celebrated war hero, Lieutenant Adnan Saidi led his men in one of the fiercest battles of World War II, the Battle of Opium Hill (Bukit Candu). Despite being heavily outnumbered, his platoon never surrendered, choosing to engage in hand-to-hand combat with the Japanese, even when their ammunition ran out. His acts of valour were inspired by his conviction expressed in the Malay motto: “biar putih tulang, jangan putih mata”, or “death before dishonour”.
Lt Adnan was an outstanding soldier who joined the army at the young age of 18. He then rose quickly to become 2nd Lieutenant and leader of the 7th Platoon, ‘C’ Company of the Malay Regiment.
On 14 February 1942, Lt Adnan led a platoon of men to bravely defend the British stronghold of Pasir Panjang Ridge against the Japanese onslaught. This was where ammunition and supplies, a military hospital, as well as other key installations were located.
The platoon fought valiantly against Japanese gunfire and aerial bombs, slowing the invaders’ advancement. Although his battalion was undersupplied and outnumbered, Lt Adnan’s courage and leadership inspired his soldiers to continue fighting with all their might. Eventually, however, they were overpowered, and yielded the ridge.
However, even after their retreat to the top of Opium Hill, with only sandbags to defend them, Lt Adnan and his men refused to give up. The Japanese reinforcements of bomber aircrafts and thousands of soldiers exhausted Lt Adnan’s ammunition and manpower, yet he and his men stood steadfast and engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the enemy.
After many of his men perished, the few survivors and a wounded Lt Adnan were ordered to remove their uniforms and surrender to the Japanese, but they adamantly refused. As punishment, they were hung upside down from a tree and stabbed to death with bayonets.
Their lionhearted bravery, fiery spirit and relentless determination to defend Singapore to their last breath is commemorated today in a war memorial plaque in Kent Ridge Park.
Steadfast Prisoner of War
The only known local woman imprisoned by the Japanese for an extended period of time, Elizabeth Choy is hailed as a remarkable war heroine who secretly aided British prisoners of war and resolutely refused to betray them, even under torture and starvation.
Born in Kudat, North Borneo (now known as Sabah), Choy came to Singapore to further her education in December 1929. Due to the Great Depression and her mother’s death in 1931, the responsibility of raising her six siblings fell on her. To support their education, Choy sacrificed her college education in order to work and earn a living.
Choy ran a canteen with her husband at Miyako Hospital, a mental hospital during the Japanese Occupation. Despite the dangers, Choy and her husband risked their lives to deliver food, medicine, letters, as well as radios to British prisoners of war.
Their clandestine activity was discovered and Choy was arrested by the Japanese on 15 November 1943. Even after harsh interrogation by the Kempeitai and repeated torture, Choy was determined not to reveal the names of the people she had helped. Finally, after 200 days during which she was starved, Choy was released.
Going beyond her status as a war heroine, Choy also worked ceaselessly to effect political change in Singapore from 1949. In addition to the many ways she contributed to society, Choy became the first and only female member of the Legislative Council.
The Resolute War Spy
Halford Boudewyn, a long-serving police officer in Singapore , is remembered for risking his life to acquire and pass on classified war documents during World War II. He bravely hid documents in vegetables and smuggled them to safety, taking advantage of his job as supplier of food to Indian army camps. Most significantly, he passed on information of Japan’s planned invasion of India via Burma.
Through an ingenious but dangerous plan, Boudewyn sought to collect evidence that prisoners of war were being ill-treated by the Japanese-backed Indian National Army. At this time, in 1943, Boudewyn regularly supplied foods to Indian army camps. He would meet with an inside source daily, who, under the guise of ordering vegetables, would hide secret documents in rotten vegetables. Boudewyn would then conceal these vegetables in his bicycle carrier, and smuggle them past the Japanese sentry guarding the Indian National Army’s headquarters.
Boudewyn persisted in smuggling documents, until he had all the evidence he needed. In the documents, it was also revealed that Japan planned to invade India via Burma, and this key piece of intelligence was conveyed to the Pacific Allied command through a different spy channel.
His espionage continued when he re-joined the police force, which was then under Japanese control. After confiscating radios, he fearlessly hid one of them in the police station. He listened to news from the Allies and conveyed it to his inside source at the Indian National Army. As a result of his efforts, the interned prisoners of war were kept abreast of news, which gave them hope.
After the war, Boudewyn’s selfless service as part of the police force earned him the Colonial Police Medal for meritorious service from Governor Franklin Gimson in 1948. He continued serving in the police force for another two decades. In 1968, he was awarded the Pingat Bakti Setia (Long Service Medal) from the Singapore government.