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The Lim Bo Seng Memorial at Esplanade Park commemorates a local hero who was tortured to death by the Japanese during World War II. I photograph it as part of the documentation for the AsiaExplorers self-guided walking tours.

Major General Lim Bo Seng was born in Nan-An, in Fujian Province, China, on 27 April 1909, and arrived in Singapore at the age of 16. He received his education at the Raffles Institution and then the Hong Kong University, before taking over his father's business in Malaya. He was initially a Taoist, but converted to Christianity through European influence.



Lim Bo Seng Memorial, Singapore
Copyright © Timothy Tye using this photo



From 1937, when the Second Sino-Japanese war broke out, Lim Bo Seng became involved in anti-Japanese activities, including fund raising and boycotting of Japanese goods. When Singapore fell to the Japanese, Lim Bo Seng fled to Sumatra, and then to India and Chongqing, China. He was instrumental in the recruiting and training of secret agents and the setting up of a Sino-British guerilla group called Force 136.

Force 136 agents were sent to Malaya to put together an espionage network to gather military intelligence about the Japanese. Jian Yik Jan, a Chinese provision shop in Ipoh (http://www.asiaexplorers.com/malaysia/ipoh_travel_guide.htm), was their base. Secret messages were smuggled in empty toothpaste tubes and salted fish.

On 2 November 1943, Lim Bo Seng arrived by submarine in Bagan Datoh, Perak, to join the British and Chinese guerillas. To avoid detection, Lim Bo Seng took on a different identity, as businessman Tan Choon Lim. Unfortunate for Force 136, there were traitors in their mides. Lai Teck, one of the members, was a triple agent between Force 136, the Japanese and the British. He leaked information that lead to the capture of many Force 136 members.

Lim Bo Seng was discovered and captured by the Japanese on 27 March 1944. He was taken to the Kempeitai headquarters for interrogation. Although he was subjected to all sorts of physical and mental torture, Lim refused to provide any information on Force 136.

Due to the torture, ill-treatment and the unhygienic condition of the prison, Lim became bedridden by June of 1944. In his final letter to his wife and children, he wrote: Don't grieve for me, but take pride in my sacrifice. Devote yourself to the bringing up of the children.

Lim Bo Seng died in the early hours of 29 June, 1944, at the age of 35, and was buried in the compound of the Batu Gajah Prison.

Lim Bo Seng's widow, Madam Choo Neo, was only informed of his death after the Japanese surrendered. She travelled to Batu Gajah with her eldest son, to bring her husband's remains home. On 13 January, 1946, Lim Bo Seng was given a proper funeral, with full military honour, in front of the City Hall. His coffin was taken to a hill in MacRitchie Reservoir for burial.

The Lim Bo Seng Memorial Committee erected the pagoda-like memorial in Lim's honour. The memorial was unveiled on 29 June, 1954.

Getting there


Take the East West MRT Line or North South MRT Line to either the Raffles Place MRT Station or the City Hall MRT Station, and walk from either station to Esplanade Park.