Friday, December 21, 2018

Cheah Kuan Oon (Kopi Sua)

Cheah Kuan Oon (謝寬溫) / Chia Kuan Oon is buried in the Hokkien Cemetery complex at Whitley Road colloquially known as Kopi Sua. From the tomb, you can see his name and the date of death, 6th July 1962 and the names of his children, sons; Cheah Soon Seng, Cheah Poh Chwee and daughters; Cheah Cheng Siew, Cheah Siew Bee, Cheah Siew ? . The obituary notice from newspaper archives (7th July 1962) list his age has 53 and the cortege left from 58 Jalan Chengkek and that he is survived by his wife, 2 sons, 3 daughters and 1 brother. However the very same obituary notice also states that Mr. Cheah Kuan Oon was originally supposed to be buried in Bulim Cemetery. This was not the first instance where the papers state the deceased in one cemetery while in fact the actual tomb was not located there.

Cheah Kuan Oon tomb at Kopi Sua

Syonan Police Force and Japanese Collaborator 

From the engagement notice of Mr. Cheah Kuan Cheang to Miss Chew Lian Neo published in 21 November 1944 in Syonan Shimbun a couple of important nuggets can be gathered, which helped to established who and what role Cheah Kuan Oon played when he was alive.


  1. Cheah Kuan Cheang is the youngest son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Cheah Soo Tuan and brother of Cheah Kuan Oon. In that article, Cheah Kuan Oon was mentioned to be a Keibu in the Syonan Police Force  (Keibu probably equates rank of an Inspector )
  2. Miss Chew Lian Neo is the youngest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Chew Hock San and grand daughter of the late Mr and Mrs. Chew Boon Lay
Cheah Kuan Oon (Chia Kuan Oon / Chia Kuan Onn ) as a Keibu (Inspector) in the Syonan Police Force was reported to have collaborated with the Japanese Occupiers and committed crimes of torture and criminal intimidation. A Post War Crimes Court found Cheah Kuan Oon guilty and sentenced him to a total of 2 years and 6 months. In his defence, Cheah Kuan Oon testified that he admitted to have tortured, stripped a woman by the name of Goh Piak Keng who was accused of being a Communist but said that he carried out the orders for fear of repercussions from the Japanese masters.

source: NewspaperSG

It was also during this trials, i read about how at the early stages of occupation, Japanese officers took 20 police detectives to the East Wharf (Tanjong Pagar Docks) and machine gunned them. Some tried to escape by jumping into the water and of the 20, 17 were murdered by the hail of bullets.

War Crimes Murder Inquiry

Post Japanese occupation, there was a War Crimes Court murder enquiry trial that charged and eventually gave the death by hanging verdict for Sgt. Major Aikichi Toyoda (a member of the Kempeitai attached to the Central Police Station) who ill-treated and tortured many local civilians and was charged to have caused the death to some of those held captive. Among those who have died were Wahab, Arumugam and Wee Cheng Woo. Many well known residents of Singapore such as Mr. Tan Thoon Lip, Mr. T.W. Ong, Mr. Tan Cheng Chuan, Mr. Wee Sin Choe, Lim  were among the people that were named to be have subject to torture by Toyoda. The ill treatments took place from February 20 - December 31, 1942. Ibrahim bin Omar (former Inspector of Police and head of the Malay Section of the Special Branch at the Central Police Station) was charged for abetment of murder. Wahab  (a member of the Straits Settlement Volunteer Force) died in the lock up of the Central Police Station due to the repeated beatings in the early period of the Japanese Occupation. During this beatings, Wahab eventually lead his captors to a spot in Lorong 35, Geylang where weapons and ammunition were buried ( 3 revolvers, 3 rifles, hundreds of pounds of ammunition, hand grenades, an a Lewis Gun). Among the many witness called was a lorry driver who gave witness that during his time of service with the Japanese Special Branch of Police, he had carried about 20 corpses from the Cells of the Central Police Station to the Cemetery in Tiong Bahru. (and he was not just the sole driver employed for the purpose). He gave witness that he was the lorry driver on the day that dead body of Wahab placed in sack was brought out from the cell which was accompanied by Ibrahim bin Omar and a Japanese officer of the department.

source: NewspaperSG

Toyoda was sentenced to death on 8th July 1946 and the hanging took placed on 16th August 1946. The sentence was carried out at Changi Prison.

[research on-going]

Death. (1962, July 7). The Straits Times, page 10
Advertisement. (1944, November 21). Syonan Shimbun, page 2
Corpses removed from police cell. (1946, May 17). The Straits Times, page 3
Toyoda, "The Brute" Charged. (1946, July 4). Indian Daily Mail, page 4
Toyoda Sentenced to Death. (1946, July 9). The Straits Times, page 5
Inspector Denies he beat Wahab. (1946, July 12). The Straits Times, page 5
Detective tells Court how he survived Jap firing squad. (1946, August 28). The Straits Times, page 5
2 1/2 years gaol for ex-Inspector. (1946, August 29). Malayan Tribune, page 3
Legal Tool Database. Reference from
Cheah Kuan Oon (謝寬溫). Reference from

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Chia Seng Quee (Bukit Brown)

While exploring Hill 4 Division A, i came across a tomb that was covered with creepers. Clearing it i uncovered the tomb of Chia Seng Quee who died on 24th November 1936 at the age of 37. The headlines of the papers reads "Man dashed to death in Singapore Street fall from high building".Chia Senq Quee was Straits-born Chinese and a senior clerk with the Great Eastern Life Insurance Co. for more than 14 years. He was earning $175 a month and was witness to have reach work on the 24th November at 8:30 am and left his personal belongings and a letter behind. Chia Seng Quee died as a result of multiple injuries sustained in the fall from the Bank of China Building in Cecil Street. Witness reporting hearing a loud thud and saw the body of Chia Seng Quee, who was dressed in a white tunic suit in a mutilated condition with his head smashed.

Madam Chua Kim Neo (widow of Chia Seng Quee) who was dressed in black and with tears in her eyes gave her evidence in English during the courts inquiry in December. She said her husband was 36 years old and they lived in Still Road, Katong and have been married for 8 years. Her husband left the house at 7:45 am on the morning of November 24 after having recovered from Malaria a few days ago. She went on to describe that there was no financial problems nor did they quarrel. The Singapore Coroner, Mr. W. McQuarrie eventually returned a verdict of suicide.

Chia Seng Quee's tomb at Hill 4 Division A, plot 700

Chia Seng Quee's tomb (before clearing)

From the tomb of Chia Seng Quee, i can make out the name of 1 son (Chia Cheng Poh) and 3 daughters ( Chia Poh Neo, Chia Cheng Neo, Chia Hiah (?) Neo). Another interesting bit of nugget that was shared with me was Mrs. Chia Seng Quee nee Chua Kim Neo who passed away in 8th August 1980 is likely the daughter of Chua Kim Teng. (father of Chua Jim Neo and maternal grandfather of Lee Kuan Yew).

High Building (Bank of China / Great Eastern Life Insurance Co.)

Reading the tragic story on how Chia Seng Quee ended his life. A couple of questions came to my mind. (1) What did the content of the letter read? (That remains a mystery to me for now) and (2)  Where was this high building in Cecil Street located and how did it look like and how tall was it actually?  One thing for sure, the Bank of China that is located in Battery Road was not the high building that comes to mind as it was constructed only in 1954. Bank of China was established in 1936 and had its office leased in the ground and mezzanine floor within the premise of the Great Eastern Life Building in Cecil Street at No. 12 Cecil Street, the very place that Chia Seng Quee works.

source: NewspaperSG

Great Eastern  / Bank of China at No 12 Cecil Street

(source: PictureSG)

[research on-going]

Malaya's own life assurance co. (1935, October 8). The Straits Times, page 15
Untitled. (1936, June 16). Morning Tribune, page 2
Man dashed to death in Singapore Street fall from high building. (1936, November 24). Malayan Tribune, page 11
Death Fall from Window of City Office. (1936, December 12). Morning Tribune, page 23
Widow's Tears at Inquest. (1936, December 12). Malaya Tribune, page 14
Suicide Verdict. (1936, December 16). Malaya Tribune, page 8
$715,000 land deal. (1937, May 10). The Straits Times, page 12