The Story of Lim Bo Seng & How He Became a National Hero

Image: Wikipedia

To many Singaporeans, we know that Lim Bo Seng is a war hero, but do we know exactly what he did that made us confer him with that title?

A hero without a story isn’t a hero, so here’s a concise account of what he did.

Lim Bo Seng’s involvement to resist the Japanese influence occurred even before the start of World War II: being an active and vocal member in the Chinese community in Singapore, he planned and successfully implemented a strike in a Malaya tin mine, as the tin mine was owned by the Japanese, and it was used to mine raw materials that would be shipped to Japan to manufacture weapons for the Second Sino-Japanese War.

Lim’s first combat experience was during the Battle of Singapore in February 1942. During the battle, the British soldiers were defending against the Japanese troops, and Lim organized a group of volunteers (a military reserve force) to fight alongside with the British soldiers.

However, the Japanese eventually won the final battle, leading to the surrender of Singapore. Lim’s most notable involvement was during the Japanese occupation.

He, together with Captain John Davis from Special Operations Executive, set up Force 136. The Special Operations Executive, known also as SOE, was a secret organization by the British to conduct espionage, sabotage and reconnaissance in regions that were conquered by the Axis powers.

Force 136 was the codename for the SOE in Southeast Asia. The agents comprised resistance fighters who were civilians, but the top command included both British officers and civilians.

Force 136 was a successful resistance group, having raised over £77 million through their activities.

They operated several covert operations to sabotage the Japanese, and was also involved in gathering lots of information about the Japanese in the region.

The Japanese hunted down members of Force 136 once they knew about their existence. Around March or April 1944, Lim was captured and interrogated. Even under torture, he refused to provide any details about Force 136.

Eventually, he died on 29 June 1944 after being tortured for months.

Lim might not have directly freed Singapore from the Japanese, but it is his courage that makes him such a textbook-worthy figure.

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His tenacity to rebel against the Japanese has become a case study for patriotism—and that is how you become a hero. Not posting photos of you helping someone on social network and stroking your own ego with your friends’ praises.