Memorial to the Penang Chinese Transportation Volunteers|
and Penang civilians killed during the Sino-Japanese War
The Japanese occupation of Manchuria on 18th September 1931 and the full-scale invasion of China beginning with the Marco-Polo Bridge incident on 7th July 1937 both triggered a number of anti-Japanese campaigns amongst the Chinese community in Penang. The formation of Penang Chinese Rebel Fund by 42 organisations on 15th August 1937 managed to raise the money to aid the victims of the war and to spread the message of unity against the common foe.
When the Japanese attempted to blockade all the sea ports of China an estimated 200,000 Chinese civilians of all ages took part to construct a road more than 1,000 kilometres long linking Burma to China’s southwest province of Yunnan in order to break the blockade and to ensure the continuous flow of vital supplies to China from the hinterland. In 1939, Tan Kah Kee, chairman of the Nanyang Federation of China Relief Fund mobilised a movement to send mechanics and drivers to the Burmese and Chinese border to support the transportation logistics line to China. More than 3,000 transportation volunteers from Malaya and Singapore, including 358 from Penang were recruited. On 20th February 1939, the first batch of 32 drivers and mechanics were recruited by the Penang Mechanics Guild. From April to December, a total of 326 transportation volunteers in 5 batches were dispatched to the perilous Burma-Yunnan border to support the vital support line and drive on the mountainous road (sic). Many were killed under the frequent attacks and bombings by the Japanese.
The Second World War in the Pacific broke out on 8th December 1941 and the Japanese invaded Malaya via Kelantan and southern Siam. Penang became defenseless and fell to the Japanese forces when the British decided to evacuate the island. The Japanese occupation marked the beginning of a dark period of torture, killing and deprivation in Penang that lasted 8 years and 3 months. During the ‘sookching’ or cleansing campaigns, the Japanese military authorities on 6th April 1942 and 15th September 1942 arrested more than 5,000 civilians and suspected anti-Japanese elements including teachers and students from Chung Ling High School. Many of them never returned alive.
After the liberation in 1945, the Penang China Relief Fund under Lau Geok Sooi was revived to investigate the extent of damage and loss of lives during the occupation and to help the slightly more than one hundred surviving volunteers to return home. On 18th March 1950, a sub-committee was formed to excavate the remains of the massacred victims and to build a war memorial to commemorate those transportation volunteers and civilians killed during the war. From March 1951, excavations to recover the remains were carried out in the Coombe Hill in Gelugor, Tihean Teik Estate and Air Itam, Vale of Tempe Road in Tanjung Bungah and Batu Ferringhi. About 800 incomplete skeletons and bones were collected in boxes and cremated. The ashes in 66 bags were buried beneath this War Memorial.
Chew Kok Kin and his brothers donated the land for the War Memorial. The obelisk is 49 feet high, with 7 steps on each side of the base to commemorate the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War which began with the Marco Polo Bridge incident on 7th July 1937. The War Memorial was inaugurated by Lim Lean Teng, the supervisory chairman of the China Relief Fund at 11a.m. 11th November 1951, the anniversary of the end of the First World War. Guan Zhenmin gave the speech on behalf of the families of the war victims.
After the China Relief was dissolved in 1952, Kong Min School was entrusted to take care of the War Memorial with $5,000 dollars and to organise the annual memorial service. To coincide with the 60th anniversary of the War Memorial inauguration, the trustees of the school decided to repair it and enhance the surrounding by the construction of a sculpture themed ‘Dauntless Warriors’ and a 60-foot long wall relief depicting the transportation volunteers moving the vehicles on the perilous Burma-China Road. A peace column with flying doves is to symbolize the people against the war and their desire for peace and freedom.
The memorial park was upgraded with RM400,000 donations from the Penang State governments, various organizations and individuals. The ceremony was launched at 11a.m. 11th November 2011, by the Chief Minister of Penang Y.A.B. Lim Guan Eng and a public memorial was held. Those who attended the solemn scene were Penang State Government and the individual representatives of political parties and associations, relevant local and foreign organizations and descendants of transportation volunteers.
From the Board of Trustees for the War Memorial, Kong Min School