||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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
nine it was so hard to be brave. I remember him
kissing me and I keep remembering him walking down
the stairs," he says.
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.
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."
two years and four months later, he died in jail at
the hands of his Japanese torturers in Batu Gajah,
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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