lim bo seng memorial

It’s easy to overlook the Japanese Occupation-era Singapore when the country is so peaceful and stable these days. During World War II, Japan captured Malaya and held it from 1942 until 1945. Lim Bo Seng, one of Singapore’s most notable war heroes, was among the many resistance fighters who fought against the Japanese.

Lim Bo Seng is honoured in local history books and television series such as The Prince of Peace, but the fact that there is a monument to him at Esplanade Park goes largely unnoticed.

Lim Bo Seng: War Hero: Bukit Brown: World Monuments Watch 2014. Image Source (Bukit Brown)
This is one of the four bronze lion statues guarding the Lim Bo Seng Memorial in Singapore. The memorial was built in memory of the great World War II freedom fighter and martyr, Lim Bo Seng. Image Source (iStock)

The Lim Bo Seng Memorial is a 3.5m tall octagonal pagoda constructed of bronze, concrete, and marble. A golden-domed, four-tier edifice stands as a pavilion in the lotus position. The base is guarded by four bronze lions, and a bronze roof caps it. Lim’s death is also recounted in four bronze plaques with English, Chinese, Tami, and Jawi inscriptions that briefly commemorate his brief but illustrious existence.

On November 3, 1953, Malcolm MacDonald, Commissioner General for Southeast Asia, laid the cornerstone for the memorial. The memorial was unveiled on 29 June 1953, the tenth anniversary of Lim’s death, by Sir Charles Loewen, the Commander-in-Chief of the Far East Land Forces. The Lim Bo Seng Memorial is the only surviving building dedicated to a person’s efforts in World War II in Singapore.

Singapore #WWII — Force 136 member Lim Bo Seng’s funeral service at Macritchie Reservoir. Mrs Lim (Nee Gan Choo Neo) is right in black. Pall bearers include Force 136 members Tan Chong Tee (with back to the camera) and Tham Sien Yen on his right. Yi Tian Song carefully laying down the coffin. Image Source (Pinterest)
The funeral of Lim Bo Seng in Singapore that followed the war was held at the Municipal Building. Image Source (New Straits Times)

 “In 1942, a group of British officers began gearing up men for Force 136. There were also men drawn from the Malayan and Chinese refugees in India and China, in addition to British officers. Among the individuals recruited was Lim Bo Seng, a Singapore Chinese who had fled from the island just ahead of the surrender.” (Syonan: Singapore under the Japanese, 1942-1945, Lee Geok Boi)

The British government formed the Malayan Resistance Association (MRA) on January 19, 1950, to advance guerilla warfare against the Japanese Empire in Malaya. This ship was captained by John Davies and Richard Broome. Lim recruited around 100 agents, both Malayan Chinese and Kuomintang supporters. In November 1943, Lim Bo Seng returned to Malaya and rallied support and funds for the resistance.

The Lim Bo Seng Memorial. Image Source (Still.Life.)
Major-General Lim Bo Seng’s widow and family together with Colonel J L B Davis (who fought alongside Major-General Lim Bo Seng) at the ceremony where General Sir Charles Loewen, Commander-in-Chief, Far Eastern Land Forces (FARELF) Unveiled a 12-Foot concrete and marble pagoda. The pagoda is dedicated to the memory of Major-General Lim Bo Seng. Image Source (Archives Online)
A portrait of war hero, Lim Bo Seng. Photo Credit: Lim Leong Geok Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore

However, in March 1944, Lim was arrested and tortured in jail. He eventually died at 35 years of age in the Batu Gajah prison in Perak on 29 June 1944. Following the Japanese surrender, Lim’s remains were exhumed and taken to Singapore. He was laid to rest in the grounds of MacRitchie Reservoir, where a military-style funeral service occurred and he was dressed in full battle regalia. He was posthumously promoted to the rank of Major-General. The Lim Bo Seng Memorial was erected to commemorate his wartime exploits.

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