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Elizabeth Choy - Singapore's War Heroine, Politician and Teacher (1910 - 2006)

Better known in Singapore as a war heroine, Mrs Elizabeth Choy and her husband were jailed and tortured by the Japanese Military Administration Department for helping to pass food, medicine and messages to British prisoners of war during the Japanese Occupation. Her psychological resilience helped her to endure the interrogations by her Japanese captors. After the war, Mrs Choy was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in recognition of her valour during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore.

In her reflection on the lessons learnt from the war, she said, “My values are quite changed. I am no more materialistic, even to this day. Never mind if I have no mansion, no diamonds... still I’m happy.”

Mrs Elizabeth Choy also made history by becoming Singapore's first woman in the Legislative Council in 1951. She entered the political arena in 1950 when she contested unsuccessfully at the Municipal Elections as an Independent candidate. On recounting how she got into politics, she said, “I was persuaded by a very prominent Singaporean by the name of V P Mendis to stand for this election... He told me Singapore was an emerging country working towards self-rule and independence. And he said with my experience I must help to promote the political growth of Singapore. I was reluctant. But after much persuasion, I agreed to stand as an Independent candidate in the Cairnhill constituency."

Foremost, Mrs Elizabeth Choy was a natural and dedicated educator for 40 years. She started teaching first at St. Margaret's School and later St. Andrew's School; and was the first principal of the Singapore School for the Blind in 1956. For her years of service in education, she was awarded the Long Service Award by the Singapore Government in 1973. She retired at St. Andrew's in 1974.

Mrs Elizabeth Choy with Minister for Culture, Mr S Rajaratnam enjoying a performance by the children from Singapore School for the Blind during a Christmas party at the Radio Singapore, 1959.

She imparted to her students more than theoretical knowledge, but life values as well. This was conveyed to her when she returned to St. Andrew's as Guest of Honour on Founder's Day in 1979, where she received a note which wrote, "Mrs Choy, you taught me love, patience, kindness and consideration to others." Such was the influence of this "saint", as some remember her as.

For her life-long commitment to social work, Mrs Elizabeth Choy won a Golden Heart Award from the Golden Years Fellowship in 1997.

A lesser known fact was that Mrs Elizabeth Choy joined the Singapore Volunteer Corps for a short period when she was in the Legislative Council, and earned the rank of 2nd Lieutenant by the time she left. On why she was nicknamed "Gunner Choy", "(I underwent training such as) shooting. Gunner. That's why I was called Gunner Choy. And mapping out… Like the control tower that type. And marching."

Her colourful life has indeed imparted many valuable lessons which will be remembered by many whose lives she has touched.
 

 

Information extracted from the Oral History Interview of Mrs Elizabeth Choy
Accession No: 000597


Information extracted from the Oral History Interview of Mrs Elizabeth Choy
Accession No: 000862


Information extracted from the Oral History Interview of Mrs Elizabeth Choy
Accession No: 002827