1,000 gather to remember victims of Japanese Occupation

Madam Lim Geok Hong (right), 83, and her son John Teo (partially hidden, laying a flower), 50, at the Civilian War Memorial along with other participants of the 49th War Memorial Service yesterday.
Madam Lim Geok Hong (right), 83, and her son John Teo (partially hidden, laying a flower), 50, at the Civilian War Memorial along with other participants of the 49th War Memorial Service yesterday.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Madam Tan Hong Choo could not recall how old she was when Japanese soldiers took her father away.

"I don't even know where or how my father died," said the 86-year- old at a memorial service for civilian victims of the Japanese Occupation yesterday. "The Japanese chased us out of the house and drove us in a lorry from Geylang to Telok Kurau.

"That night, my father cut down a banana leaf from a nearby tree for me to sleep on. The next day, they took him away and he never returned. I was so close to him, so being here fills me with sadness."


(From left) Representatives from Nan Chiau Primary, Greenwood Primary, Gongshang Primary, Pei Chun Public School, Tampines Junior College, Tao Nan School, Poi Ching School and Pei Tong Primary at yesterday's memorial service, after laying a wreath at the Civilian War Memorial. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

  • ABOUT THE CIVILIAN WAR MEMORIAL

  • Built in 1967 and gazetted as a national monument in 2013.

    Also called the Chopsticks, with four tapering columns symbolising the unity of Singapore's four races.

    Contains a vault underneath with the remains of civilians who were not cremated but buried, owing to objections from the Muslim and Catholic communities.

    Most of the civilians were killed in the Sook Ching massacre during the Japanese Occupation, and their remains were found in 1962 in areas such as Siglap and Bukit Timah.

    Cost about $300,000, with half paid by the Government - including a sum from Japan as atonement for war crimes - and the other half by the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

    Was the winning entry in an open design contest, and designed by Mr Leong Swee Lin from architectural firm Swan & Mclaren.

    Officially opened by founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew on Feb 15, 1967, the 25th anniversary of the day that the British surrendered Singapore to the Japanese.

Madam Tan, who was at the event with her sister and daughter, has been attending the service every year since the war memorial in Beach Road was built 49 years ago.

They were among some 1,000 people, including students and foreign ambassadors, who attended the service, held by the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry each year on Total Defence Day on Feb 15, the date when Singapore fell to the Japanese in 1942.

At the start of the ceremony, a localised "all-clear" siren was sounded - a symbolic move showing that danger was not present. This was followed by a minute of silence.

Then five wreaths were placed at the memorial by, among other groups, students, religious leaders and army veterans, who included Singapore Armed Forces Veterans League president Winston Toh .

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, the guest of honour, launched a campaign titled #neveragain, to strengthen support for national service and remind Singaporeans of the need for defence.

She said: "We have learnt very painful lessons about the effects of war, so it's very important for them to appreciate the value of peace and the need to defend the country."

At 6.20pm yesterday, the Singapore Civil Defence Force also sounded its Public Warning System sirens across the island, in support of Total Defence Day.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 16, 2016, with the headline '1,000 gather to remember victims of Japanese Occupation'. Print Edition | Subscribe