Relatives of civilians who died in Singapore during World War II continue to pay their respects 80 years later


SINGAPORE – Since 1967, Madame Chung Kwai Kuen, 85, has faithfully visited the Civilian War Memorial on Beach Road every year – to pay tribute to her father who was killed by the Japanese during the occupation of Singapore.

Madame Chung’s father, who ran a cafe at the time, was one of the Singaporeans killed at the start of the Occupation in 1942.

She said: “He was a law-abiding man. When the Japanese took over, they told all traders to come to them and apply for a new permit.

“He left and never came back.

She was five years old at the time.

Her mother took her father’s death badly and died soon after, Ms Chung said, adding she will never forget how difficult it was for her and her four siblings.

Now she and her husband, Mr Chan Wing Hong, fear that memories of the war are fading among young Singaporeans, including their three grandsons.

Mr Chan, 88, a retired teacher, told the Straits Times in Mandarin: “Very few of us have seen the war.”

On Tuesday, February 15, the couple were at the 55th War Memorial Service held for the civilian victims of the Japanese occupation of Singapore, which also marked Total Defense Day. Colonial Singapore fell to the Japanese 80 years ago on this date in 1942, resulting in almost four years of occupation.

The commemorative event has been organized by the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI) every year since 1967.

This year’s event has been reduced due to Covid-19 safety management measures. It has seen over 1,000 attendees in the past.

On Tuesday, around 50 people attended, including members of the Singapore Armed Forces Veterans League and SCCCI board members.

The event was also open to family members of civilian victims.

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