Tan Chong Tee



Tan Chong Tee, alias Lim Shu and Tan Tien Soong (b. 15 October 1916, Singapore–d. 24 November 2012, Singapore),1 was a member of the World War II underground resistance movement known as Force 136. He was captured and tortured by the Japanese, and imprisoned with other members of Force 136, such as the well-known resistance fighter Lim Bo Seng. Tan was also an accomplished badminton player in the late 1930s.2

Early life
Tan was born to a family staying on Shrewsbury Road. His father, Tan Kah Tek, worked in a carriage shop on Orchard Road while his mother, Lim Peng Tuan, owned a floral nursery. Tan left Singapore to further his studies in China in 1930 and returned in 1933. Upon his return, Tan helped his mother run Kheng Cheng School, which she had established in 1927.3


Badminton career
Tan was a talented badminton player in his youth and represented the well-known Mayflower and Marigold badminton parties at various local tournaments.4 In 1935, while representing Marigold Badminton Party at the Singapore Grade A Senior Tournament, he defeated the reigning champion to rise to prominence in the local badminton circuit. From 1936 to 1940, Tan was the champion of various tournaments.5 He married Lee Shao Meng, also a Marigold player, whom he met on the badminton court in 1932. The couple teamed up and won the mixed doubles title in the 1940 Singapore Badminton Championships.6 A notable opponent of Tan’s was Wong Peng Soon, a badminton great in Malaya, whom he defeated in the quarter-finals of the Malayan Open singles championship in 1939.7


Resistance during World War II
Following the Japanese invasion of China, Tan joined the anti-Japanese movement, participating in various anti-Japanese activities and becoming a member of the St John Ambulance Brigade. On 31 January 1941, he left for Chungking, China, to join the Chinese armed forces. Upon arriving in Chungking, however, he was not  allowed to join the army and was instead advised to stay in Chungking to pursue his studies.8


In 1942, Tan entered the National Arts School after graduating from the pre-university class of Si Nan Lian Da in Xuyong county, Sichuan province. While a student there, he applied to be a pilot and subsequently trained in the United States for three years. He was one of three shortlisted candidates, but was later found to be ineligible for the programme as he was over the age limit. Nevertheless, he continued to contribute to China’s war efforts, and organised an art exhibition held at the Central Library in Chungking to raise funds for overseas Chinese refugees. It was through this exhibition that he was recruited by Tan Chong Chew to join a special training camp and participate in the British counter-offensive programme that would eventually become known as Force 136.9

Force 136
Tan was sent to the British Far East Military School in India for special combat training that lasted about three months. He was later appointed deputy leader of Gustavus II, the second group of a pioneer commando team that was sent to infiltrate Malaya. The team travelled from Colombo, Sri Lanka, to Malaya via submarine, and by 2 August 1943, the submarine had infiltrated Malayan waters at Pangkor Island, off the coast of Perak. The party made a secret landing at Tanjong Hantu before meeting up with a group of guerrillas from the Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA).10


Tan was then assigned to infiltration and intelligence duties, assuming the cover of Tan Tien Soong, a rich businessman. This cover allowed him to set up and operate spy networks in Lumut and Ipoh.11 Using his art training, Tan also sketched out important information for the group’s spy network.12

As the espionage activities of Force 136 progressed, its operations became increasingly exposed, culminating eventually in the arrest of a Force 136 agent and his contact in March 1944. By then, the Japanese Kempeitai (secret police) had acquired vital information about Force 136 and its operations, and were staging a counter-espionage campaign to eradicate the organisation.13

With his identity revealed, Tan was arrested at Tong Ah Hotel in Ipoh on 26 March 1944. Although he was interrogated and tortured for information about Force 136 and his associates, he refused to betray the organisation. On 24 April, Tan and Lim Bo Seng were transferred to Batu Gajah Prison, where prisoners-of-war were ill-treated and given very little food. During the internment, Tan, Lim and a fellow agent came down with dysentery, but they were not given any treatment or proper food until Lim’s death. On 18 August, Tan and his fellow prisoners were transferred to a police lockup in Tapah.14

In February 1945, as the Japanese Occupation neared its end, Tan and his comrades planned a jail-break that did not materialise because of the announcement on 14 August that Japan had surrendered. However, their escape plans were discovered, allowing the Japanese to threaten them into accepting a pardon that would require them to leave and never return to Malaya, change their names and be officially declared dead by execution. Tan and his comrades agreed to the terms and to attempt escape as soon as they were out of prison. They managed to escape and Tan made his way to Penang before returning to Singapore.15

Return to Singapore
When Tan returned to Singapore, he discovered that his older brother had disappeared after a Sook Ching operation, and that his mother had been beaten up by the Japanese when she tried to enquire about his whereabouts. She was left bedridden and died on 6 December 1942.16


Upon establishing contact with the Singapore branch of Force 136, Tan was asked to notify Lim’s family of his death. On 3 October 1945, Tan was reunited with Colonel John Davies, a commanding officer of Force 136. Davies conferred Tan the rank of liaison officer and invited him to participate in negotiations for demobilisation. After the demobilisation process, Tan received a Force 136 service medal, a Burmese medal award certificate, a demobilisation certificate and a certificate of service by Order of the British Empire.17

Post-war years
After the war, Tan became a businessman. He retired in 1985. In 1994, he wrote a memoir in Chinese about his experiences with Force 136 that was translated into English a year later.18 In 2002, Tan published a book about the history of badminton in Singapore.19


On 19 September 1995, Tan and eight other surviving members of Force 136 were each presented with a commemorative silver ingot to honour them for their resistance efforts.20 In 2001, Tan was also part of a group selected to recite the national pledge during the National Day Parade.21

Tan passed away on 24 November 2012 at the age of 96.22

Family
Father:
Tan Kah Tek.

Mother: Lim Peng Tuan.
Brother: Tan Chong Mao.23
Wife: Lee Shao Meng.24



Author

Guay Ee Ling




References
1. Tan, C. T. (1995). Story of a WWII resistance fighter: Force 136. Singapore: Asiapac Books, unpaged. (Call no.: RSING 940.54865951 TAN-[WAR]); Obituaries: Tan Chong Tee. (2012, November 26). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Tan, C. T. (1995). Story of a WWII resistance fighter: Force 136. Singapore: Asiapac Books, p. 1. (Call no.: RSING 940.54865951 TAN-[WAR])
3. Tan, C. T. (1995). Story of a WWII resistance fighter: Force 136. Singapore: Asiapac Books, p. 1. (Call no.: RSING 940.54865951 TAN-[WAR]); Kheng Cheng School. (2016). History of Kheng Cheng School since 1927. Retrieved 2016, September 2 from Kheng Cheng School website: http://www.khengcheng.moe.edu.sg/about-us/heritage
4. Tan, C. T. (2002). Upholding the legacy: Singapore badminton. Singapore: Asiapac, p. 41. (Call no.: RSING 796.345095957 TAN)
5. Tan, C. T. (1995). Story of a WWII resistance fighter: Force 136. Singapore: Asiapac Books, p. 2. (Call no.: RSING 940.54865951 TAN-[WAR])
6. Lee, S. (2002, August 18). For the love of the gameThe Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Tan, C. T. (1995). Story of a WWII resistance fighter: Force 136. Singapore: Asiapac Books, p. 6. (Call no.: RSING 940.54865951 TAN-[WAR])
7. Wong Peng Soon beaten at Penang. (1939, April 10). The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Tan, C. T. (2002). Upholding the legacy: Singapore badminton. Singapore: Asiapac, p. 37. (Call no.: RSING 796.345095957 TAN)
8. Tan, C. T. (1995). Story of a WWII resistance fighter: Force 136. Singapore: Asiapac Books, pp. 2, 10, 22. (Call no.: RSING 940.54865951 TAN-[WAR])
9. Tan, C. T. (1995). Story of a WWII resistance fighter: Force 136. Singapore: Asiapac Books, pp. 22–26. (Call no.: RSING 940.54865951 TAN-[WAR])
10. Tan, C. T. (1995). Story of a WWII resistance fighter: Force 136. Singapore: Asiapac Books, pp. 40–42, 48–49, 52, 70, 79. (Call no.: RSING 940.54865951 TAN-[WAR])
11. Tan, C. T. (1995). Story of a WWII resistance fighter: Force 136. Singapore: Asiapac Books, pp. 106, 108–109. (Call no.: RSING 940.54865951 TAN-[WAR])
12. Lee, S. (2002, August 18). For the love of the gameThe Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Tan, C. T. (1995). Story of a WWII resistance fighter: Force 136. Singapore: Asiapac Books, pp. 218–219. (Call no.: RSING 940.54865951 TAN-[WAR])
14. Tan, C. T. (1995). Story of a WWII resistance fighter: Force 136. Singapore: Asiapac Books, pp. 222, 226–229, 242–243, 247–248, 251–253. (Call no.: RSING 940.54865951 TAN-[WAR])
15. Tan, C. T. (1995). Story of a WWII resistance fighter: Force 136. Singapore: Asiapac Books, pp. 258–262, 267–268, 270–271, 276. (Call no.: RSING 940.54865951 TAN-[WAR])
16. Tan, C. T. (1995). Story of a WWII resistance fighter: Force 136. Singapore: Asiapac Books, p. 277. (Call no.: RSING 940.54865951 TAN-[WAR])
17. Tan, C. T. (1995). Story of a WWII resistance fighter: Force 136. Singapore: Asiapac Books, pp. 279–280, 318. (Call no.: RSING 940.54865951 TAN-[WAR])
18. Lee, T. (1995, December 16). WWII resistance group member writes war memoirsThe Straits Times, p. 28. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Tan, C. T. (1995). Story of a WWII resistance fighter: Force 136. Singapore: Asiapac Books. (Call no.: RSING 940.54865951 TAN-[WAR])
19. Lee, S. (2002, August 18). For the love of the gameThe Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Tan, C. T. (2002). Upholding the legacy: Singapore badminton. Singapore: Asiapac. (Call no.: RSING 796.345095957 TAN)
20. Silver ingots for Force 136 war heroes. (1995, September 20). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. War hero among 36 to recite pledge. (2001, June 21). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Obituaries: Tan Chong Tee. (2012, November 26). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Tan, C. T. (1995). Story of a WWII resistance fighter: Force 136. Singapore: Asiapac Books, pp. 1, 277. (Call no.: RSING 940.54865951 TAN-[WAR])
24. Lee, S. (2002, August 18). For the love of the gameThe Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2014 and correct as far as we are able to 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.

 

Subject
Singapore--History--Japanese occupation, 1942-1945
Personalities>>Biographies>>War Personalities>>War Heroes
Heroes--Singapore--Biography
War personalities
Tan, Chong Tee, 1916-
History>>Asia>>Southeast Asia>>Singapore