Woman, 83, visits Civilian War Memorial yearly: 'only way I can remember my father’

Woman, 83, visits Civilian War Memorial yearly: 'only way I can remember my father’
Madam Chew Goo Moi, 83, visits the Civilian War Memorial every year on Feb 15. Her father was taken away during the Japanese Occupation in Singapore and never returned.

SINGAPORE - On Feb 15 every year for the last 48 years, Madam Chew Goo Moi makes it a point to go to the Civilian War Memorial.

Sometimes, the 83-year-old retiree is not able to visit the monument.

But at the very least, she will get her family to drive her past the park at Beach Road so she can catch a glimpse of it.

"It's the only way I can remember my father," she said.

"When the Japanese took him away, he didn't return. There wasn't even a body."

The monument is dedicated to civilians who perished during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore from 1942 to 1945.

Madam Chew recounted how her father had been rounded up, along with many other men, never to come back.

"I was only 11 when it happened," she said.

"They said they were going to speak to them about Japanese values.

"I often wonder if he had a last meal, or if he was clothed properly."

Madam Chew had four sisters and a brother, and they were raised by their mother when their father did not return.

"All we had to eat were sweet potato and tapioca," she said.

"But that was already a luxury. We were very poor, but somehow my mother and two older sisters were able to work and provide for all of us."

She remembered a close encounter with the occupiers.

"There was one evening I went to the nearby shops to buy some food," she said.

"Then some drunk soldiers grabbed me and I screamed. It was very scary.

"Thankfully, some neighbours who heard me came to help, pushing the Japanese soldiers and allowing me to run away."

Madam Chew still cries when she watches dramas about the Japanese Occupation.


"It's very real and true. Those were tough times," she said.

"Even now I still have dreams about the horrors of war."

She now has seven children, 15 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

"But when I tell them about those times, they don't want to listen," she said.

"They say it was so long ago, and there's no point talking about it."

Yet, to the more than 1,000 people who gathered at the War Memorial Park on Feb 15, the day Singapore fell to the Japanese in 1942, it was important to remember the victims.

The 48th War Memorial Service was organised by the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SCCCI), which has held the service every year on the date since 1967, the year the monument was completed.

A spokesman for the SCCCI said: "We organise it every year so that the families of the victims have some way of remembering their loved ones."

Madam Chew said the memorial is significant, even to people who did not experience the war.

"The monument is important to remember all of the lives lost and all that was taken from us.

"We need to remember not to take things and people for granted," she said.

This article was first published on February 20, 2015.
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