Life Before the War

Elizabeth Choy
Elizabeth Choy

A Heroine in Times of War

She secretly smuggled supplies and messages to prisoners of war during the Japanese Occupation.

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A Heroine in Times of War

Looking back at these old photos, I can’t believe it’s been 12 years since I moved to Singapore to further my studies
Elizabeth Choy was born in 1910 in Sabah, Borneo. Though bilingual in English and Mandarin, she moved to Singapore in December 1929 to pursue higher education, as the standard of education in Sabah was lacking.
. I still shudder at the memory of the ship voyage—I was seasick all the time!

I was very lucky to get into the Convent of…
Elizabeth’s Neighbour
Aug 1941
I am so happy that you got married to Choy Khun Heng
Choy Khun Heng was Elizabeth Choy's husband. During the Japanese Occupation, the couple operated a tuckshop at Woodbridge Hospital, secretly taking food, medicine, money, messages and radios to British internees.
this year! It is double the happiness having a shared wedding with your brother, Kon Vui. Remember to thank the old schoolmate who introduced the both of you!

The Invasion of Singapore

Elizabeth Choy
Elizabeth Choy

A Heroine in Times of War

She secretly smuggled supplies and messages to prisoners of war during the Japanese Occupation.

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A Heroine in Times of War

We experienced the first bombs in Raffles Place. We were stunned because we believed Singapore was impregnable
British war propaganda in Singapore positioned the island as an impregnable fortress. Many civilians remained almost unaware of the impending war until the very last moment. Civilians thought the war was remote, and military leaders arriving in Singapore were shocked at the comfort the troops lived in and the lack of any attempt to prepare the local population to defend the island.
! We saw so many dead people and all that. Still we wouldn’t believe it...it was like a nightmare we hadn’t woken up from. Things are really bad now. All schools have been closed…
A Scottish Doctor
Feb 1942
These are truly grim times. I remember when the first bombs fell
The first bombs fell on Seletar Airport, Tengah Air Base, Chinatown and Raffles Place on 8 December 1941. Widespread panic ensued. The air raid sirens remained silent—the head of the Air Raid Precaution Unit had taken the evening off to go to the cinema. Chinatown was the worst hit, losing a large number of civilians. A total of 61 people died.
, and the worst bomb victim we had to treat. A little old lady had her legs blown clean off—along with most of her stomach!

The Sook Ching Massacre

Elizabeth Choy
Elizabeth Choy

A Heroine in Times of War

She secretly smuggled supplies and messages to prisoners of war during the Japanese Occupation.

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A Heroine in Times of War

I just went in search of my brother. It was very, very terrible. As I walked, I met other mothers, wives and relatives, also looking for their loved ones who never came home. In the end, nobody could tell us what happened. We will keep searching.
A Worried Sister
Mar 1942
I’m worried sick about my brother. A few weeks ago, he was out for a walk with my father when the Kempeitai
The Kempeitai was Japan’s military police force in its occupied territories during World War II. They were specially trained in interrogation methods, with the main task of crushing all resistance to Japanese military rule. They had the power to arrest and extract information from civilians, as well as military personnel. Those arrested by the Kempeitai were presumed guilty and had little option of receiving civilian help and no chance to appeal for clemency. Each Kempeitai officer was a police investigator, prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner.
detained him. We’ve been waiting and waiting, but there’s still no sign of him. People are whispering about an Operation Sook Ching
After Singapore's surrender, the Japanese carried out Operation Sook Ching. Chinese males between the ages of 18 and 50 were summoned to various mass screening centres and those suspected of being anti-Japanese were executed. Sook Ching means 'purge through cleansing' in Chinese. Elizabeth’s brother never returned.
. I pray that everyone remains safe.

The Black Market Thrives

Elizabeth Choy
Elizabeth Choy

A Heroine in Times of War

She secretly smuggled supplies and messages to prisoners of war during the Japanese Occupation.

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A Heroine in Times of War

I feel very, very sorry for the Britishers. Many of them are our friends, fellow parishioners and teaching colleagues. Just today they were marched to Changi Jail. They are used to luxuries and comfort. To see them in this state made me feel very sorry for them.

A Villager
Circa 1943
Japanese officials and clerks have just delivered goods and food to remote kampongs. They’ve instructed us to conceal the merchandise until ‘someone’ comes to claim it. Even the high-ranking officers are getting their hands into the black market! Meanwhile, my village and I are finding alternative sources for everything: rope from pineapple fibre, soap from coconut shells and palm oil, and charcoal for toothpaste!

The Double Tenth Incident

Elizabeth Choy
Elizabeth Choy

A Heroine in Times of War

She secretly smuggled supplies and messages to prisoners of war during the Japanese Occupation.

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A Heroine in Times of War

Khun Heng and I started a tuckshop at the Mental Hospital
The predecessor of Woodbridge Hospital. Also known as Miyako Hospital to the Japanese, the hospital was described as being “very out-of-the-way, with no shops around and very hard to get food or anything to eat”. Only serious cases of mental disorder were sent to the hospital.
, upon the request of our nurse and doctor friends. They gave us one part of the building for the canteen. An ambulance driven by an Englishman accompanied by a Japanese sentry comes around weekly to see that nothing goes…
An Internee at Changi Gaol
10 Oct 1943
The Japanese soldiers have raided Changi Gaol
Shortly after the fall of Singapore, Western civilians, including men, women and children, were rounded up and interned at Changi Jail (now known as Changi Prison). In May 1944, all prisoners of war (POWs) from the various POW camps in Changi were moved into Changi Jail, while the civilian internees were transferred to Sime Road Camp. Following the formal surrender of the Japanese, Changi Jail was used to detain Japanese war criminals and suspects, and was where most of the executions—either by hanging or firing squad—were carried out for those convicted with a death sentence.
, having suspected that Operation Jaywick
On 27 September 1943, seven Japanese shipping vessels were destroyed in Singapore waters. The saboteurs escaped unnoticed, and the Japanese suspected that prisoners interned at Changi had transmitted information to the raiding party. On 10 October 1943, the anniversary of the founding of the Republic of China, the Kempeitai raided the cells in Changi Jail. They interrogated 57 prisoners, and the torture resulted in 15 deaths. This Kempeitai raid is known as the Double Tenth incident, where the name refers to the date when the arrests began.
received information from inmates here. We assembled in the courtyard this morning and our cells were thoroughly searched. Those found in possession of radios have been hauled off. It seems that some parcels smuggled through Elizabeth Choy and her husband Choy Khun Seng contained parts for building radio sets.

193 Days of Hell at the YMCA

Elizabeth Choy
Elizabeth Choy

A Heroine in Times of War

She secretly smuggled supplies and messages to prisoners of war during the Japanese Occupation.

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A Heroine in Times of War

I heard that many people were taken by the Kempeitai, so I went to the Young Men's Christian Association office to ask about Khun Heng. I told them he had nothing with him—no blankets or clothes. Wouldn’t he be cold? They said they didn’t know.

Today, the…
John Leonard Wilson
John Leonard Wilson

Bishop of Singapore

An Anglican bishop, he was Bishop of Singapore from 1941 to 1949, including during the Japanese Occupation. He was subsequently Dean of Manchester and Bishop of Birmingham.

Bishop of Singapore
Nov 1943
Each cell had a leader, and we were both made leaders. Do you remember when we were taught to count in Japanese? Those were the rare moments of peace we had.

Released from Prison

Elizabeth Choy
Elizabeth Choy

A Heroine in Times of War

She secretly smuggled supplies and messages to prisoners of war during the Japanese Occupation.

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A Heroine in Times of War

Everyone shuns me because I’ve just been released by the Japanese. They fear that being associated with me is dangerous. All the time, I think I’m being followed. Now it’s just work for me at the canteen. I treat the Japanese who patronise my tuckshop in a very businesslike way.…
A City Dweller
Circa 1944
When you were in prison, did you see Lim Bo Seng
Before Singapore fell to the Japanese, Lim Bo Seng escaped to India where he joined British resistance group, Force 136. He was captured by the Japanese on 27 March 1944 and died in Batu Gajah Jail in Perak on 29 June 1944.
? I was told he was tortured too, and is on a hunger strike for his men from Force 136
Force 136 was part of the British Special Operations Executive, a secret service organisation active during World War II. The organisation recruited and trained local guerrillas to assist the planned British invasion of Malaya, which was held by the Japanese. Force 136 was also an intelligence gathering and spy network.
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Ordinary life in Singapore transformed drastically during the war. The Japanese sought to undo the social and cultural frameworks of British colonialism. Mamoru Shinozaki, a Japanese government official, was at the heart of this project.
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Confusing Times and Doubts of Liberation

Elizabeth Choy
Elizabeth Choy

A Heroine in Times of War

She secretly smuggled supplies and messages to prisoners of war during the Japanese Occupation.

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A Heroine in Times of War

There were rumours that the Japanese surrendered. We were not sure until we saw the British soldiers arriving. We are so excited. It is like the start of a new life! The war is truly over for Singapore. Today, Supreme Allied Commander (Southeast Asia), Lord Louis Mountbatten
In October 1943, Lord Louis Mountbatten became Supreme Allied Commander of South East Asia Command, a position he held until 1946. Working with General William Slim, Mountbatten achieved the defeat of the Japanese offensive towards India and the reconquest of Burma. In September 1945, he received the Japanese surrender in Singapore.
received the Japanese…
Elizabeth Choy
Elizabeth Choy

A Heroine in Times of War

She secretly smuggled supplies and messages to prisoners of war during the Japanese Occupation.

Explore
A Heroine in Times of War
Circa 1945
There is more good news! After many years of marriage, my stepmother has finally gotten pregnant! There are no medical facilities in Endau, so she was sent to Singapore, where the baby was delivered via caesarean in Kandang Kerbau Hospital by Dr. Benjamin Sheares
The second president of the Republic of Singapore, Dr. Benjamin Henry Sheares held this office from 2 January 1971 at the age of 63 until his death on 12 May 1981. Besides his presidency, Sheares was also known as a pioneer of modern obstetrics and gynaecology.
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