Papa the hero Lim Bo Seng is Singapore's best known World War II hero, but what kind of man was he? His wartime diary and a letter he wrote to his wife provide glimpses of a man gripped by a sense of duty and honour. His eldest daughter tells S. TSERING BHALLA of a man who loved babies, music and poetry, and how their lives changed forever the day he went off to war.

A DAUGHTER REMEMBERS

LIM BO SENG held each of his seven children, aged two to 11, and kissed them one by one. He held his wife next. One long look, a brief clasp to the heart and it was over.

Then, steeling himself to his children's sobs, the tall, gentle-looking man hurried out of the room in the Telok Ayer Street office of the family business.

It was Feb 11, 1942, and the fall of Singapore was imminent. As a resistance leader, he knew he would have a price on his head when the Japanese arrived.

The eldest child, Woon Geok, recalls: "He was in tears as he kissed each one of us and then he hugged my mother. That last farewell is something I will always remember."

Her brother, Leong Geok, nine at the time, remembers staring at the rough concrete stairs long after the sound of his father's footsteps had died away.

"At nine it was so hard to be brave. I remember him kissing me and I keep remembering him walking down the stairs," he says.

Lim Bo Seng recorded his own anguish in a diary he kept while he was away: "I shall never forget their tear-stained faces as long as I live.

"If there is anything I could do to make up for what they were then going through, I shall not spare myself to carry it out."

But, two years and four months later, he died in jail at the hands of his Japanese torturers in Batu Gajah, Perak.

In a farewell letter he wrote to his wife before his death, he said: "When I left you that memorable February morning, it was intended to be for a short time ... little did I dream then that this parting would turn out to be eternal."

First published in The Straits Times, Feb 16, 1992

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