Reminiscing our Past National Day Parade

This year 2007, Singapore celebrates its 42nd Birthday as Singapore gained Independence from Malaysia on 9 August 1965. So is this our 42nd National Day Parade? No, it’s our 41st National Day Parade.

We had our 1st National Day Parade in 1966 at the Padang. The first National Day Parade started at 9am in the morning. There were no such thing as tickets issued for the National Day Parade so if you wish to view the parade, you may have to be there as early as 7am.Our President then was Mr. Yusof Bin Ishak – yes the face you see on our currency note.

Below shows our 1st National Day Parade at the Padang in 1966 and the third one shows the NDP in 1967;

Above 3 Photo Credits : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS.

Note : Did you see our late President Mr. Yusof in any of the 3 photos and what was he wearing then? Clue

For the next 8 years, our National Day Parade was held at the Padang until 1974 (inclusive). During the earlier years, NDP was very much simple and not so glamorous as now – maybe I should said more solemn and serious then.

For example, our first National Day activities include an official cocktail party at the Istana Negara, a special variety show staged at the National Theatre and a spectacular fireworks display at Fort Canning in the evening, besides the formal parade at the Padang in the morning.

For those who watched the parade on TV, it was then still in “Black and White” – without colour. Maybe I’m sadist, but I love to watch the soldier dropping down (fainted) while standing still on the parade;

Photo Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS.

Later on in the years, improvement in the NDP were made where soldiers no longer need to stand still there and wait for hours.

In1969, we started to have our first mobile column during the National Day Parade. I was so fascinated by it. The 18 AMX-13 tanks rumbled down the St. Andrew Road at the 4th NDP (1969).

Photo Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS.

I could felt the floor vibrating even before their arrival. In the past, though the National Day Parade were held at the Padang, the troops were then marched right to the heartland location. Below shows one in 1968 parade;

After those tanks or heavy armor vehicles driven on the roads during the parade, the road need to be resurfaced again. Probably because of these, the mobile column display was stopped ater 1970. It made a comeback in 1990 and then maybe once every 5 years.

We had our first Decentralised National Day Parade in 1975 and the last one in 1983. The parade alternated between Decentralised and Centralised at either Padang or National Stadium. It was probably to mark the 10th years of Independence and to reach out to a wider audience. 13 locations were selected then. Some of the locations of Decentralised parade in 1975 were Toa Payoh, Redhill, Haig Road and Queenstown.

1976 – the National Day Parade was held at the National Stadium for the very first time. It was the natural choice to stage the nation’s biggest celebration. In fact, the utilization of the National Stadium was so successful, since then, three out of every four National Day parades has been held there. The Padang, being the historic site of the first National Day Parade, now stages the parade once every four years.

Below shows the first Decentralised parade at Toa Payoh in 1975;

Photo Credit : National Archives of Singapore.

The National Day Parade was first held at the National Stadium in 1976. The National Stadium was opened in 1973. Tickets to the parade were also issued to the public for the first time as previously admission were by invitation only. Altogether the National Day Parade was held at the National Stadium for a total of 18 times and the last one was in 2006 – the final one before it demolished.

Some of my favourites in National Day Parade were;

Precision Drill by the Military Police first started in 1986 at the National Stadium.

Photo Credit : Singapore Idler in 2006 NDP Precision Drill.

The Fly Past of our fighter planes and the parachuting display by our commandos were great too. I hate the mass display and I think it’s rather boring.

In 1986, the Flashcard display were first used and I love it.

1986 was also the year where “Count On Me, Singapore” NDP Theme Song was introduced. Everyone likes this song as the “count one me” section sound like “count money”….

1986 was also the first time the National Day parade was held in the evening. Since then except 1989 and 1990, every NDP was held in the evening.

I remember in one of the NDP (but don’t remember which year), all the religious leaders were gathered and blessed Singapore before the start of the parade, do you remember? That must be a special year…

Frankly I prefer the simple but solemn parade of the past at the Padang than the much “commercialised” type of glamor parade nowadays – but this is my personal opinion. Too many road closed for the rehearsal and preview and think the cost of such events are also too excessive.

All our past NDP were held on solid ground but this year 2007, it is the first time to be held on water at the Marina Bay Front! Seen the making of it on tv.

The Making Of National Day Parade 07 ;

Wishing our country a Happy Birthday!


14 Responses to “Reminiscing our Past National Day Parade”

  1. 1 fiz Wednesday, August 8, 2007 at 8:50 pm

    Thanks for those “golden years”. Nice going back into the old days.

    Happy National Day to all!

  2. 2 kelvin Thursday, August 9, 2007 at 1:16 pm

    happy national day!!!

    i love da flashcards too..

  3. 3 kelvin Thursday, August 9, 2007 at 1:17 pm

    actually, the first national day theme song is stand up for singapore in 1985.

  4. 4 profkingsfield2004 Thursday, August 9, 2007 at 3:29 pm

    The 1974 National Day at the Padang I remembered. I was doing my NS and our contingent was from SAFTI Officer Cadets School. Though there are times life was a mindless numbing game in the army and complains about spending enless burnt week-ends doing rehersals, when Aug 9 arrived, it was a different feeling.

    From the Padang we marched through the streets of Singapore through North Bridge Road, South bridge Road and then dispersed at Tg Pagar. The Chinatown crowds came out to cheer us. During the march through town, we wore inner liner, no spectacles (for those who wore they had to take it off) and carried the AR 15 rifle with bayonet fixed. We looked very tough (crew cut and tanned), first we wore no specs and only the big size guys were placed in the outer columns facing the public and the smaller built guys were hidden from the public eyes (as they stood in the inner column). We received all kinds of remarks: Why never so SAF got so many tough guys.

    At the dispersal area, we switched carrying the AR15 to the left arm. Almost everybody’s rifle dropped on the ground because our arms suffered from cramps.

  5. 5 Lam Chun See Thursday, August 9, 2007 at 5:56 pm

    I remember being on duty at one of the decentralized parades in Queenstown. Had to halp to control traffic. I think it was 1977.

  6. 6 Victor Koo Thursday, August 9, 2007 at 9:25 pm

    I participated in the National Day Parade as a scout around 1970, I think. Had to march through the streets (North Bridge Road, South Bridge Road, and so on). Some more had to hold a big flag slotted into a sling pouch. Tiring man.

  7. 7 JustCate Friday, August 10, 2007 at 4:47 pm

    What I remember well about those early day parades was that none of the contingents could march in straight smart lines. Precision and uniformity wasn’t the code of the day. Look at us now – I would say our parade is absolutely ‘world-class’.

  8. 8 Lam Chun See Sunday, August 12, 2007 at 5:46 pm

    Hey Justcate. How long ago was your ‘early days’. I remember thinking to myself some years back; “Our marching standards were much higer than these” as I watched NDP.

  9. 9 laokokok Monday, August 13, 2007 at 7:54 am

    You guys are right! One thing I noticed about this year parade is the use of the new rifle SAR21 is it? It looks shorter and the soldiers need to grab it on their hands when at ease instead of putting them besides their leg…

  10. 10 justcate Monday, August 13, 2007 at 2:44 pm

    LCS, early days were really early – I can still recall the first NDP on black and white TV!

  11. 11 profkingsfield2004 Wednesday, August 15, 2007 at 6:47 am

    To the one who wrote about not marhcing in a straight line….let me relate in my time. Any SAF contingent whose unit was “caught” on TV marching out of syn, you know what happens to contingent commander or the unit commander? Kenna condemned and very difficult to get promotion.

    Also we had so many barking dogs in the SAF then that after review one week late if no good word from the top, whole contingent kenna “turn-out” for extra drills. I am sure old guns like W01 Samsuddin or Tiger Hong could tetsufy to this.

  12. 12 zab Wednesday, August 6, 2008 at 7:02 pm

    my birthday at 9 august,no prezen????hahahahahaha

  13. 13 rad Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    Yes, the year 86, was the first time NDP was done in the evening. And i remembered it fondly as I was in the Girl Guide contigent. It was then that we had the first every light display using torch lights to the song of “Count On Me, Singapore” and others. And since then NDP had been colourful.
    Todate, I memorise the lyrics of “Count On Me, Singapore”.

  14. 14 Yeo Hong Eng Tuesday, May 29, 2012 at 3:31 am

    For three successive years (1966, 1967 and 1968), I was marching under the STU contingent.

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