Lim Bo Seng



Lim Bo Seng (Major-General) (b. 27 April 1909, Nan’an, 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. He is recognised as a local war hero in Singapore.1

Early life
Lim was the 11th child and the first son of Lim Chee Gee (also known as Lim Loh).2 Lim came to Singapore from China at the age of 16 and studied at Raffles Institution.3 He later enrolled in the University of Hong Kong, but discontinued his education there in 1929. This was because he had inherited his father’s businesses, which included biscuit and brick manufacturing, upon the latter’s death.4 In 1930, he married Gan Choo Neo, a Straits-born Chinese, with whom he had seven children.5


Role during World War II
In the 1930s, Lim, under the alias Tan Choon Lim, participated in anti-Japanese activities in Singapore,6 particularly in supporting the China Relief Fund.7 Upon the request of the then governor of Singapore, Shenton Thomas, Lim formed the Chinese Liaison Committee to assist in civil defence.8 After the fall of Kota Bharu in northern Malaya in December 1941,9 Lim, as head of Labour Services of the Overseas Chinese Mobilisation Council, organised more than 10,000 men for the British government to man essential services and to construct defences around the island.10 As Japanese troops began to approach Singapore from Johor, Lim and his team helped to blow up the Causeway to impede the Japanese advance.11


Before Singapore fell to the Japanese, Lim escaped to India where he was joined by the British resistance group, Force 136, and was trained by the British for intelligence work.12 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 guerrilla operations in support of the planned British invasion of Malaya.13 In 1943, Lim went to China to recruit men for Force 136.14 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 of Pangkor, Lumut, Tapah and Ipoh.15 The intelligence network, known as Operation Zipper, was aimed at recapturing Malaya with British support by 1945.16

While in Ipoh, Lim’s whereabouts and espionage involvement were betrayed to the Japanese. On 27 March 1944, he was caught by the Japanese while fleeing.17 Lim died in Batu Gajah Jail, Perak, on 29 June 1944.18 After the war, Lim’s remains were disinterred from the jail in December 1945 and reburied in Singapore on 13 January 1946, on a hill overlooking MacRitchie Reservoir.19 In February 1946, the Chinese Nationalist government posthumously awarded him the rank of major-general.20

Lim Bo Seng Memorial
In 1946, the Lim Bo Seng Memorial Committee, which included representatives from the Chinese Nationalist government, was established to raise funds for the construction of a public memorial dedicated to Lim.21 The colonial 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.22 The British Commissioner-General for Southeast Asia at the time, Malcolm MacDonald, laid the foundation stone for the structure on 3 November 1953.23 The completed memorial was unveiled on 29 June 1954 by Charles Loewen, then commander-in-chief of the Far East Land Forces.24


Designed by Ng Keng Siang, the memorial occupies a site measuring 100 ft by 80 ft (30 m by 24 m), which was donated by the government.25 The construction cost of $50,000 was funded by donations from the Chinese community.26 The memorial takes the form of a 3.6-metre-high octagonal pagoda made of bronze, concrete and marble.27 A bronze three-tier 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).28 On 28 December 2010, the Lim Bo Seng Memorial was gazetted as a national monument.29

Timeline
1930s: Participates in anti-Japanese activities in Singapore.
Jan 1942: Provides Chinese labour to British government to man essential services and build defence positions.30
Feb 1942: Escapes to India before the fall of Singapore. Undergoes British intelligence training in Kahdakvasla, near Bombay, in the latter part of 1942.
Apr 1943: Recruits Malayan Chinese students studying in Chongqing, China, for subversive work in Malaya.31
Nov 1943: Lands in Malaya by submarine and sets up an intelligence network in Pangkor, Lumut, Tapah and Ipoh.32
27 Mar 1944: Captured by the Japanese.33
29 Jun 1944: Dies in Batu Gajah Jail under Japanese torture and due to severe malnutrition.34
13 Jan 1946: The British bring Lim’s remains to Singapore and rebury him with full military honours at MacRitchie Reservoir.35
29 Jun 1954: Lim Bo Seng Memorial is officially unveiled at the Esplanade to remember his sacrifice.36



Authors

Wong Heng & Valerie Chew



References
1. The life of Lim Bo Seng. (1992, February 16). The Straits Times, p. 2; Lim Bo Seng: A hero’s death, 50 years on. (1994, June 28). The Straits Times, p. 21; In memoriam: From family man to fighter. (1994, June 30). The Straits Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Brazil, D. (1991). Street smart: Singapore. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 54. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BRA-[HIS])
2. The life of Lim Bo Seng. (1992, February 16). The Straits Times, p. 2; General: The Lim Bo Seng story. (1971, May 24). New Nation, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; National Heritage Board. (2016). Esplanade Park Memorials. Retrieved from National Heritage Board website: https://roots.sg/Content/Places/national-monuments/esplanade-park-memorials; Brazil, D. (1991). Street smart: Singapore. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 54. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BRA-[HIS])
3. Lim Bo Seng: A hero’s death, 50 years on. (1994, June 28). The Straits Times, p. 21; In memoriam: From family man to fighter. (1994, June 30). The Straits Times, p. 24; General: The Lim Bo Seng story. (1971, May 24). New Nation, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Brazil, D. (1991). Street smart: Singapore. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 54. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BRA-[HIS])
4. Papa the hero. (1992, February 16). The Straits Times, p. 2; The life of Lim Bo Seng. (1992, February 16). The Straits Times, p. 2; General: The Lim Bo Seng story. (1971, May 24). New Nation, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Brazil, D. (1991). Street smart: Singapore. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 54. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BRA-[HIS]); Low, N. I. (1995). When Singapore was Syonan-to. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 37. (Call no.: RSING 959.57023 LOW-[HIS])
5. Papa the hero. (1992, February 16). The Straits Times, p. 2; General: The Lim Bo Seng story. (1971, May 24). New Nation, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Bose, R. (2005, September 11). A traitor unmasked. The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Singapore monuments. (1988, February 14). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Brazil, D. (1991). Street smart: Singapore. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 56. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BRA-[HIS])
8. Low, N. I. (1995). When Singapore was Syonan-to. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 41. (Call no.: RSING 959.57023 LOW-[HIS])
9. Turnbull, C. M. (1989). A history of Singapore 1819–1988. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 165–166. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
10. The life of Lim Bo Seng. (1992, February 16). The Straits Times, p. 2; General: The Lim Bo Seng story. (1971, May 24). New Nation, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Brazil, D. (1991). Street smart: Singapore. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 56. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BRA-[HIS]); Low, N. I. (1995). When Singapore was Syonan-to. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 41. (Call no.: RSING 959.57023 LOW-[HIS]); Mulliner, K., & Mulliner, L. T. (1991). Historical dictionary of Singapore. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, p. 90. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 MUL-[HIS])
11. Singapore monuments. (1988, February 14). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Brazil, D. (1991). Street smart: Singapore. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 56. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BRA-[HIS])
12. Memorial planned for Lim Bo Seng. (1951, January 4). The Straits Times, p. 5; Papa the hero. (1992, February 16). The Straits Times, p. 2; The life of Lim Bo Seng. (1992, February 16). The Straits Times, p. 2; In memoriam: From family man to fighter. (1994, June 30). The Straits Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Lim Bo Seng: A hero’s death, 50 years on. (1994, June 28). The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Brazil, D. (1991). Street smart: Singapore. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 57. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BRA-[HIS]); Singh, D., & Arasu, V. T. (Eds.). (1984). Singapore: An illustrated history, 1941–1984. Singapore: Information Division, Ministry of Culture, p. 39. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
14. The life of Lim Bo Seng. (1992, February 16). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Singapore monuments. (1988, February 14). The Straits Times, p. 8; General: The Lim Bo Seng story Part Three. (1971, May 26). New Nation, p. 9; Bose, R. (2005, September 11). A traitor unmasked. The Straits Times, p. 26; Kaur, K. (2001, December 1). War-time fighters, lunch-time buddies. The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. The life of Lim Bo Seng. (1992, February 16). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Bose, R. (2005, September 11). A traitor unmasked. The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Papa the hero. (1992, February 16). The Straits Times, p. 2; The life of Lim Bo Seng. (1992, February 16). The Straits Times, p. 2; Lim Bo Seng: A hero’s death, 50 years on. (1994, June 28). The Straits Times, p. 21; In memoriam: From family man to fighter. (1994, June 30). The Straits Times, p. 24; Bose, R. (2005, September 11). A traitor unmasked. The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Remains of Mr. Lim Bo Seng. (1945, December 4). The Straits Times, p. 3; Remains of Col. Lim Bo Seng laid to rest. (1946, January 14). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Brazil, D. (1991). Street smart: Singapore. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 54. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BRA-[HIS])
20. Col. Lim promoted posthumously. (1946, February 15). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. National Heritage Board. (2010, December 27). Two new national monuments celebrate Singapore’s post-independence years and contributions of notable individuals. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
22. Memorial planned for Lim Bo Seng. (1951, January 4). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Lim Bo Seng – ‘He died for Malaya’. (1953, November 4). The Straits Times, p. 7; Memorial to start at last. (1953, November 3). The Straits Times, p. 1; War hero’s memorial. (1953, November 3). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Brazil, D. (1991). Street smart: Singapore. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 58. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BRA-[HIS])
24. National Heritage Board. (2016, April 20). Esplanade Park memorials. Retrieved 2017, January 26 from National Heritage Board website: https://roots.sg/Content/Places/national-monuments/esplanade-park-memorials; Lim Boh Seng memorial. (1971, October 22). New Nation, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Lim memorial approved. (1951, June 27). The Singapore Free Press, p. 8; Rains hold up Lim Bo Seng pagoda: A hero’s memorial. (1954, February 5). The Singapore Free Press, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; National Heritage Board. (2016, April 20). Esplanade Park memorials. Retrieved 2017, January 26 from National Heritage Board website: https://roots.sg/Content/Places/national-monuments/esplanade-park-memorials
26. Rains hold up Lim Bo Seng pagoda. (1954, February 5). The Singapore Free Press, p. 5; Work starts on $50,000 pagoda. (1953, September 18). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Singapore monuments. (1988, February 14). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Brazil, D. (1991). Street smart: Singapore. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 54. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BRA-[HIS])
28. Singapore monuments. (1988, February 14). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; National Heritage Board. (2016, April 20). Esplanade Park memorials. Retrieved 2017, January 26 from National Heritage Board website: https://roots.sg/Content/Places/national-monuments/esplanade-park-memorials
29. National Heritage Board. (2016, April 20). Esplanade Park memorials. Retrieved 2017, January 26 from National Heritage Board website: https://roots.sg/Content/Places/national-monuments/esplanade-park-memorials
30. The life of Lim Bo Seng. (1992, February 16). The Straits Times, p. 2; General: The Lim Bo Seng story. (1971, May 24). New Nation, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Brazil, D. (1991). Street smart: Singapore. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 56. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BRA-[HIS]); Low, N. I. (1995). When Singapore was Syonan-to. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 41. (Call no.: RSING 959.57023 LOW-[HIS]); Mulliner, K., & Mulliner, L. T. (1991). Historical dictionary of Singapore. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, p. 90. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 MUL-[HIS])
31. The life of Lim Bo Seng. (1992, February 16). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32. Singapore monuments. (1988, February 14). The Straits Times, p. 8; General: The Lim Bo Seng story Part Three. (1971, May 26). New Nation, p. 9; War-time fighters, lunch-time buddies. The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
33. In memoriam: From family man to fighter. (1994, June 30). The Straits Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Singh, D., & Arasu, V. T. (Eds.). (1984). Singapore: An illustrated history, 1941–1984. Singapore: Information Division, Ministry of Culture, p. 39. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS]); Mulliner, K., & Mulliner, L. T. (1991). Historical dictionary of Singapore. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, p. 90. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 MUL-[HIS])
34. Lim Bo Seng: A hero’s death, 50 years on. (1994, June 28). The Straits Times, p. 21; The life of Lim Bo Seng. (1992, February 16). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
35. In memoriam: From family man to fighter. (1994, June 30). The Straits Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
36. Brazil, D. (1991). Street smart: Singapore. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 54. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BRA-[HIS])



Further resources
Chapman, F. S. (1997). The jungle is neutral. Singapore: Times Books International, pp. 225–256.

(Call no.: RSING 940.53595 CHA-[WAR])

Low, N. I. (1947). This Singapore: Our city of dreadful night. Singapore: City Book Store, pp. 52–53.
(Call no.: RCLOS 940.54825957 LOW)

Parkinson, A. (1956). Heroes of Malaya. Singapore: D. Moore, pp. 107–112.
(Call no.: RCLOS 920.0595 PAR)

Show, C. (1998). Lim Bo Seng: Singapore’s best known war hero. Singapore: Asiapac.
(Call no.: RSING 940.5425092 SHO-[WAR])

Wan, M. H., & Lau, J. (2009). Heritage places of Singapore. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, p. 75.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 WAN-[HIS])



The information in this article is valid as at 2011 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
Lim, Bo Seng, 1909-1944
Personalities>>Biographies>>War Personalities>>War Heroes
Heroes--Singapore--Biography
War personalities
History>>Asia>>Southeast Asia>>Singapore