Lim Bo Seng
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Major-General Lim Bo Seng (b. 27 April 1909, Nan Ann, Fujian, China - d. 29 June 1944, Perak, Malaya) was a prominent Hokkien businessman who undertook active leadership in anti-Japanese activities during World War II and is recognised as a local war hero in Singapore.
Lim was the 11th child but the first son of Lim Chee Gee (also known as Lim Loh). At the age of 16, he came to Singapore from China and studied at Raffles Institution. He discontinued his education at the University of Hong Kong in 1929 when, upon his father's death, he inherited the senior Lim's businesses which included biscuit and brick manufacturing. In 1930, he married Gan Choo Neo, a Straits-born Chinese, with whom he had seven children. Their's was a love marriage, unusual in those days.
Role during World War II
In the 1930s, Lim, under the alias Tan Choon Lim, participated in anti-Japanese activities in Singapore, particularly in supporting the China Relief Fund. Upon the request of Sir Shenton Thomas, then Governor, he also formed the Chinese Liaison Committee to assist in civil defence. With the fall of Kota Bahru in Malaya in 1942, Lim, as head of Labour Services of the Overseas Chinese Mobilization Council, and Tan Kah Kee organised more than 10,000 men for the British government to man essential services and to construct defences around the island. As Japanese troops descended upon Singapore, his men helped dynamite the Causeway.
Before Singapore fell to the Japanese, he escaped to India where he was joined by the British resistance group, Force 136, and was trained by the British for intelligence work. Force 136 was a special operations force formed by the British and Chinese governments in June 1942 to support resistance groups behind enemy lines and to coordinate guerilla operations in support of the eventual British invasion of Malaya. In 1943, Lim went to China to recruit men for Force 136. With a group of fellow Force 136 members, he landed in Japanese-occupied Malaya by submarine later that year and set up an intelligence network in the urban areas in Pangkor, Lumut, Tapah and Ipoh. The intelligence network - Operation Zipper - was aimed at recapturing Malaya with British support by 1945.
While on a mission in Ipoh on 27 March 1944, Lim was betrayed by the Malayan Communist Party leader Lai Teck, and was caught by the Japanese at a road checkpoint. He died in the Batu Gajah Jail, Perak, on 29 June 1944. Lim’s remains were disinterred from the jail in December 1945 and reburied in Singapore on 13 January 1946, on a hill overlooking the MacRitchie Reservoir. In February 1946, the Chinese Nationalist Government posthumously awarded him the rank of Major-General.
Lim Bo Seng Memorial (national monument)
In 1946, the Lim Bo Seng Memorial Committee, which included representatives from the Chinese Nationalist Government, was established to raise funds for erecting a public memorial dedicated to him. The government rejected the committee’s proposal to build a memorial park around his grave, but granted permission for a memorial to be built at the Esplanade. The British Commissioner-General for Southeast Asia at the time, Malcolm MacDonald, laid the foundation stone on 3 November 1953, and the completed memorial was unveiled on 29 June 1954 by Sir Charles Loewen, then Commander-in-Chief of the Far East Land Forces.
Designed by Ng Keng Siang, the memorial occupies a 100ft-by-80ft (30m-by-24m) site donated by the government. The construction cost of $50,000 was funded by donations from the Chinese community. The memorial takes the form of a 3.6m-high octagonal pagoda made of bronze, concrete and marble. A bronze three-tiered roof caps the pagoda, while four bronze lions stand guard at the base. Four bronze plaques placed around the pagoda give an account of Lim’s life in English, Chinese, Tamil and Jawi (Malay). On 28 December 2010, the Lim Bo Seng Memorial was gazetted as a national monument.
1930s : Participated in anti-Japanese activities in Singapore.
Jan 1942 : Provided Chinese labour to British government to man essential services and build defence positions.
Feb 1942 : Escaped to India before Singapore fell. Underwent British intelligence training in Kahdakvasla, near Bombay, in the latter part of 1942.
Apr 1943 : Recruited Malayan Chinese students studying in Chongqing, China, for subversive work in Malaya.
Nov 1943 : Landed in Malaya by submarine and set up an intelligence network in Pangkor, Lumut, Tapah and Ipoh.
27 Mar 1944 : Captured by the Japanese.
29 Jun 1944 : Died in Batu Gajah Jail under Japanese torture and because of severe malnutrition.
13 Jan 1946 : The British brought Lim's remains to Singapore and reburied him with full military honours at MacRitchie Reservoir.
29 Jun 1954 : Lim Bo Seng Memorial was officially unveiled at the Esplanade to remember his sacrifice.
Wong Heng & Valerie Chew
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The information in this article is valid as at 2011 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the library for further reading materials on the topic.
Personalities>>Biographies>>War Personalities>>War Heroes
Lim, Bo Seng, 1909-1944
Singapore--History--Japanese occupation, 1942-1945