Singaporean World War II survivor: My father was taken away and never came back

Lim Cheng Kang, 87, paying his respects at the Civilian War Memorial on 15 February, 2017.
Lim Cheng Kang, 87, paying his respects at the Civilian War Memorial on 15 February, 2017.

Lim Cheng Kang was just 12 years old in 1942 when he saw his father and several others being taken away by Japanese troops.

The retiree, now 87, told Yahoo Singapore in Mandarin, “My father never came back. He was 33. Later, we heard that they were driven to Changi Beach and killed. My mother was very sad.”

Asked how he felt so many years after the fact, Lim was stoic. “It’s nothing, it’s been so many years. It was fated.”

Lim was among 1,200 people who took part in the 50th memorial service for the civilian victims of the Japanese Occupation held at the Civilian War Memorial on Wednesday (15 February). It coincided with the 75th anniversary of the Fall of Singapore. Lim has been present with his younger brother at every memorial service since it started in 1967.

Those present at the event included students, ambassadors, members of clan associations, representatives of the SAF Veterans’ League and religious leaders. The guest of honour was Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu.

The memorial service, which is held annually, was one of many events organised to remember 15 February, 1942, when British colonial forces surrendered Singapore to the Japanese invaders. The Japanese Occupation lasted three and a half years and officially ended on 12 September, 1945.

An altar was also set up at War Memorial Park for about 50 civilian survivors and relatives of the deceased to pay their respects and give offerings to the fallen. Following the official unveiling of the memorial on 15 February, 1967, the remains of civilian victims were also buried alongside it. These remains were uncovered all over Singapore, including Changi, Bukit Timah and the hill behind Nanyang Girls’ High School.

One attendee, who declined to be named, recalled that during the memorial service in previous years, many of the bereaved would burst into tears.

Chen Zhao Hua, 73, has been coming to the memorial service for the last 30 years and came to pay respects to her father and uncle.

Born shortly before the Occupation ended, Chen recalled in a mixture of Mandarin and Hokkien, “My father heard that my grandfather had been taken away by the Japanese and went looking for him. It turned out that his older brother had been captured in Geylang instead. He never came back. Every year when I come here, I will think of them.”

Chen added with a smile, “I used to be angry, but not anymore. Even if you cry, they won’t come back.”