Singapore: 50 years : The National Day Parade through the years–Down Memory Lane


August 13, 2016

Singapore: 50 years : The National Day Parade through the years–Down Memory Lane

http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/the-parade-through-the-years

1966: Singapore’s first National Day Parade kicks off at 9am at the Padang. President Yusof Ishak, resplendent in military uniform, takes the salute, with PM Lee Kuan Yew and ministers behind him. The parade features 23,000 participants and a military parade that marches through Chinatown. According to an interview from the National Archives, a seven-man committee helmed the event.

1966

Singapore’s first National Day Parade kicks off at 9am at the Padang. President Yusof Ishak, resplendent in military uniform, takes the salute, with PM Lee Kuan Yew and ministers behind him. The parade features 23,000 participants and a military parade that marches through Chinatown. According to an interview from the National Archives, a seven-man committee helmed the event.

1967

The second National Day Parade, also at the Padang, sees an increase in the participation of women, with 36 female bagpipers a main draw. The women – young office workers, teachers and students – had less than five months of training. The day also features the “longest and loudest bang” in Singapore’s history – firecrackers are set off for 15 minutes by the Chinese Chamber of Commerce.

1968

Bedraggled contingents stand stoically throughout an unexpected downpour. MPs, the Cabinet and PM Lee Kuan Yew also take seats in the rain at the Padang. Mr Lee says later that he was worried about the children and asked how many had fallen ill the next day. He says in 1988 that this was his most memorable parade.

With foreign guests – Queen Elizabeth’s cousin Princess Alexandra, Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Razak, and representatives from New Zealand, Britain and Australia – in the stands, this parade sets out to impress. PM Lee Kuan Yew greeting the princess after the parade, while Finance Minister Goh Keng Swee chats with her husband, Mr Angus Ogilvy.

The stars of the show from Singapore’s armoury – 18 tanks, 16 unimogs with 120mm mortars and 32 jeep-mounted recoilless guns.

1970

Jets make their debut, with nine BAC Strikemaster jet-trainers and Alouette III helicopters flying low over the Padang. Participants and guests are asked to tune in to the radio at 5am to find out if there would be a likelihood of rain, in which case the parade would have to be postponed. This parade also features the first fly-past of the state flag, which would become an annual highlight.

1971

This is President Benjamin Sheares’ first National Day Parade as head of state. The parade finale has a “blue-collar” theme, focusing on industrialisation and the importance of blue-collar workers.

1972

Floats are the highlight of this parade, with the People’s Association presenting six of the 10 floats. Progress and multiculturalism are the main themes.

1973

For the first time, the parade is held in the evening. Another first is a contingent of police and army dogs – 50 labradors and alsatians march on-leash.SAF dogs and their handlers at the parade.

1974

The parade is seen on TV in colour for the first time, with colourful floats taking centre stage. It also features the biggest fly-past so far, involving 56 aircraft from the Singapore Air Defence Command. The parade ends with a spectacular fireworks display over the harbour.

1975

On Singapore’s 10th birthday, the parade breaks out into “pocket pageants”, with celebrations taking place at 13 locations around the island for the first time.Bicycle acrobats entertaining the crowds at the Maxwell Road centre.

1976

The parade is held at the National Stadium for the first time, with some 60,000 Singaporeans packed into the parade site. Contingents also march a 6km route from the stadium through streets lined with thousands of people. Singapore Airlines’ 21m replica of a jumbo jet – with 36 stewardesses perched atop it – is reportedly the most attractive float.

1977

Celebrations are held at six decentralised locations – Jurong, Toa Payoh, Tiong Bahru, Jalan Besar, Bedok and Queenstown. However, the centres are reportedly overwhelmed by crowds.

1978

The big parade returns to the Padang. The first troupe of women lion dancers participate in the largest lion and dragon dance performance which comprises 140 lions and nine dragons.

1979

The parade, at six locations in the heartland, is ticketed for the first time to manage crowds that had overwhelmed the 1977 celebrations.

1980

Back at the National Stadium with a crowd of 100,000, the parade is bigger than ever before. It is captured on TV from the air for the first time and is President Benjamin Sheares’ last parade as head of state.

1981

Decentralised celebrations are held at six locations, with some drama reported: At Ang Mo Kio Secondary School, a platform for VIPs collapses under their weight half an hour before the parade begins, and a policeman draws his revolver to break up a fight between members of two dragon dance troupes; in Toa Payoh, a commando skydiver deploys his emergency parachute when the main one fails and two other skydivers land off target – to applause nonetheless – at an electronics factory50mfrom the stadium.

1982

This marks President Devan Nair’s first parade as head of state. The parade is back at the Padang, but the highlight is a display of 1,800 fireworks which are set off near East Coast Parkway. While only 21,000 attend  the parade proper, the crowds lining the streets are said to be the largest in 12 years.

1983

This is Singapore’s last decentralised parade. One commando, aiming to land at Toa Payoh Stadium, ends up in Whampoa when his parachute fails to deploy in Toa Payoh and he has to use his emergency chute.

1984

The famous Stand Up For Singapore is first sung at this parade. A grand military column of 116 vehicles trundles from City Hall to Serangoon Road.

1985

Despite news of a recession, about 60,000 spectators pack the National Stadium. Above: Children lining the street to catch the marching contingents at the full dress rehearsal.

1986

President Wee Kim Wee makes his first appearance as head of state. The year sees the introduction of the popular song Count On Me, Singapore, and marks many firsts: Never before has a parade started so late – 6pm; never before has a rock group been featured – Tokyo Square mimes hits before the parade. There are also no tanks this year.

1987

Another beloved tune –We Are Singapore – makes its debut. The year also sees a street party finale with people dancing and singing in the streets and at the Padang. About 100,000 lights are strung up around the Padang area and lit simultaneously, literally lighting up the night.

1988

Swing Singapore, the first street party, is held on Aug 8 with about 100,000 people packing Orchard Road. Dancing is cancelled due to the unexpectedly large crowd, but Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew says in the following days that it was a mistake to cut the party short. He suggests a second party and one is held at the end of the month with about 250,000 people showing up (above). It is planned in just 17 days.

1989

This year’s parade is remembered for the first daytime fireworks – 20 smoke strings forming the shapes of flowers, palms and willows. They are kept under wraps and come as a surprise to the crowd at the National Stadium. The Red Lions make their first appearance as a formalised team, and continue to be an NDP favourite till today.

1990

Singapore celebrates her 25th year of independence with the catchy song, One People, One Nation, One Singapore. The parade marks Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s last year as Prime Minister of Singapore. It also sees a comeback of the military mobile column, made up of a record 250 vehicles.

1991

Mr Goh Chok Tong is greeted with loud applause at his first parade as Prime Minister. Commandos execute the highest Omega Descent from the National Stadium light towers – about 20 storeys high – and there is a heart-stopping moment when half of the Happy Birthday banner they release fails to unfurl. NDP funpacks are introduced.

1992

The parade is specially significant to the SAF as it is the 25th year of NS. National servicemen put on an impressive show using 64 physical training logs. Super Skyhawks execute a precision bomb burst manoeuvre and commandos hang mid-air from Super Puma copters.

1993

Mr Wee Kim Wee attends his last parade as President at the Padang, noting that he felt “not one but two lumps in (his) throat”. He had just recuperated from two operations and stepped down the following month.

1994

The first night parade, starting at 7.15pm, is Mr Ong Teng Cheong’s first as President. It is also the first time the 25-pounder guns used for the traditional 21-gun Presidential Salute are placed inside the stadium. First mass display performance by the Singapore Civil Defence Force, with regulars swooping down via cables from the towers at the top of the gallery.

1995

Singapore celebrates its 30th birthday at the Padang with the mobile column making an appearance after a five-year absence. The parade is a youth-oriented one.

1996

Poet Edwin Thumboo pens a drama on the story of Singapore for the parade. Almost two centuries of history unfold in 40 minutes at the National Stadium as a cast of 4,000 play out the Singapore Story.

1997

The Red Lions parachute into the National Stadium bearing the Asean flag and state flags of member countries for the first time. The centrepiece is a giant inflated rainbow which symbolises the pursuit of the Singapore dream. This is also the year that the National Education Show – for Primary 5 pupils – is launched.

1998

Kit Chan debuts the Dick Lee song Home, which becomes an instant favourite. Two parade venues are rolled into one with a replica of City Hall built at the National Stadium.

1999

Overseas Singaporeans watch the parade live for the first time over the Internet. It is Mr Ong Teng Cheong’s last parade as President. Parade committee chairman Brigadier-General Andrew Tan comes up with the NDP tattoo which has since become a National Day staple.

2000

The first National Day of the new millennium offers several firsts – a four-day carnival, the RSAF Fighting Falcons, a new submarine – and the return of the mobile column. It is also President S R Nathan’s first parade as head of state.

2001

Captain Christine Sim (above) is the first woman to take part in the state-flag fly-past since 1970. A colourful 80m-long “bridge” connecting an island of people to a giant, glowing globe is the parade centrepiece at the National Stadium, while Tanya Chua sings the self-composed Where I Belong.

2002

Coming out of an economic recession, Singapore’s 37th birthday is celebrated with great joy. Parade-goers also get to sample the newly released Newater found in their funpacks.

2003

The parade takes place at the National Stadium just three months after the Sars outbreak kills 33 people in Singapore. The crowd pays tribute to 240 healthcare workers who enter the stadium bearing glowing hearts to the strains of a specially written song – Through Your Eyes.

2004

The 21/2-hour parade is capped with a surprise video tribute to Mr Goh Chok Tong, who would hand in his letter to the President the next morning to step down as Prime Minister. He gets a standing ovation from the crowd.

2005

Singapore celebrates its 40th birthday with simultaneous parties at five locations – a main parade at the Padang and four other celebrations in Marina South, Tampines, Yishun and Jurong East. All are linked by a live feed. This is Mr Lee Hsien Loong’s first parade as Prime Minister.

Above: One of 12 floats depicting aspects of Singapore’s history trundling by the Padang.

2006

The National Stadium hosts the parade for the last time before being torn down. The crowd pays tribute to former deputy prime minister S. Rajaratnam, who died in February, reciting the Pledge which he wrote.

2007

The first parade on the Marina Bay floating platform (above) gets the thumbs up, with many praising the waterfront ambience.

2008

It is a wet parade but spirits are hardly dampened as parade-goers put their funpack ponchos to good use.

2009

At 8.22pm, SCDF sirens sound across the island and Singaporeans – including thousands overseas – recite the Pledge.

2010

The parade returns to the Padang. Singer Kit Chan belts out Home and Singaporeans follow with a “One Voice” moment, reciting the Pledge and singing the National Anthem. The parade is also celebrated at five heartland locations.

2011

This year marks the final NDP for President S R Nathan as head of state. It is the first time the parade – at the Floating Platform – is held against a completed Marina Bay skyline. It is also the first time former prime ministers Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong do not have front-row seats. Both have retired from Cabinet and are seated behind with the MPs. The parade also gets its first female regimental sergeant major – Master Warrant Officer Jennifer Tan.

2012

Singapore celebrates its 47th birthday with an Olympic win at the ongoing London Games. President Tony Tan Keng Yam observes his inaugural parade as head of state and MPs show up in red and white for the first time, instead of the usual all-white for the People’s Action Party and blue for the Workers’ Party.

2013

Third Warrant Officer Shirley Ng is denied the chance to make history as the first woman to skydive onto the parade floor as part of the annual Red Lions parachuting display after cloudy conditions force the team to cancel its appearance at the Floating Platform.

2014

Third Warrant Officer Shirley Ng becomes the first female Red Lion parachutist to perform at an NDP celebration.

2015

Singapore’s 50th birthday is celebrated with gusto at the Padang, but there are also reflective moments as founding father Lee Kuan Yew, who died in March, is remembered in a video segment. Earlier in the day, public warning sirens herald the broadcast of a recording of Mr Lee reading the Proclamation of Singapore.

2016

The parade will be held today for the first time at the Sports Hub with indoor fireworks, aerial performers and a flying unicorn to wow the crowd. The show also goes high-tech – giant props will be brought to life using 3D projection mapping, while the funpack will include a souvenir booklet that can activate a free augmented reality app.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 09, 2016, with the headline ‘The parade through the years’. Print Edition | Subscribe

16 thoughts on “Singapore: 50 years : The National Day Parade through the years–Down Memory Lane

  1. I lived and worked in Singapore from 1988-1991 and witnessed the NDPs during that time. Those occasions were impressive and inspiring. Belated B-Day wishes to Singapore and Singaporeans. You are naturally proud to what you have achieved in building a United multiracial and meritocratic society. I wish to remember Mr. Lee Kuan Yew and other Singaporean leaders who are no longer with us today, They were all there when I was living there.–Din Merican

  2. “Singapore: 50 years : The National Day Parade through the years–Down Memory Lane”

    Dato’

    An interesting collation on the history of Singapore’s 50 years.

    Very well said…!

    I was also there during those great Malayan Airways, Malaysian Airways. MSA & SIA days until 1973.

    Born there (KK Hospital Singapore, Federated Malay States) & still treasure late LKY’s values.

    The early Malay, Chinese, Pakistani, etc professionals in Singapore, FMS since 1948 –

    “…On polling day, John Laycock, C. C. Tan and Nazir Bin Abdul Mallal of the SPP successfully defeated their opponents.

    The remaining three seats went to independents S. C. Goho, Sardon Bin Haji Zubir and Mohamed Javad Namazie.[9] Despite Singapore’s Chinese-majority population,

    only one out of the six elected councillors was Chinese – C.C. Tan of the SPP.[10] The other councillors comprised three Indians, one British and one Malay.[11]…”

    http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/history/events/44e7b06b-05b0-4255-869f-1528a5ac35e7

    Also to share this –

    Meet the younger LKY having a nice chat with his friends( c1988) !! – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6NTRAOaIwU

  3. If at the time of negotiating Singapore’s Separation, the PM of Malaysia was not the affable Tunku, but an ultra Malay nationalist, Malaysian troops would march into Singapore arrest the not-yet-so-famous LKY and change the course of Singapore’s and also Malaysia’s history.

    Or perhaps the Tunku while getting rid of Singapore also got rid of almost 2 million potentially troublesome Chinese voters.

    Or perhaps the British under Harold Wilson, a good friend of both the Tunku and LKY, stayed the Tunku’s hand.

    Or perhaps the Almighty has a hand in it.

    Whatever it is, if someone were to tell me way back in the 1950s / 1960s when I spent many a school holidays visiting my uncles in Singapore by the overnight “Night Mail” train powered by a steam engine belching out black smoke and blowing it’s horn all through the night when nearing an intermediate station and waking up at 6 am at Tanjong Pagar terminal station, what Singapore will turn out to be and my present personal relationship with the World class small Island city state, I would have laughed.

    Because I still remember the China Town squalor and floods every time it rains, the streets of beggars, the pirate taxis that require 5 minutes of negotiations before boarding, the “romantic” Oriental trishaws, the filthy Singapore River choked up with bum boats and wretched coolies. Even today when I walk along the now pristine River near where it goes under the bridge near Parliament House, I can still smell in my mind the salty, musty aroma of goods and spices being unloaded into the Godowns.

    LKY certainly died a happy, satisfied man. What else can a man ask more of?

  4. flyer168, thank you, very impressive video on speech by the PM. wish Malaysian PM can be that candid and fluent.

  5. Flyer 168: “only one out of the six elected councillors was Chinese – C.C. Tan of the SPP. The other councillors comprised three Indians, one British and one Malay despite Chinese-majority population”

    During the time of Legislative Elections in 1948, the population was Chinese majority but was not Chinese voter majority. Only British subjects could vote then. A big chunk of Chinese, who came from China had no voting rights. Thus the eligible electorate was more or less split between the Chinese and the non-Chinese.

    Wayne: ” LKY certainly died a happy, satisfied man”

    I doubt so. LKY was a broken man following his wife’s death and it got worse every passing year that followed. My sense was that towards the end he could have felt guilty and remorseful for ruining the lives of some of the good and decent people (and their families), who happened to be his arch political rivals.

  6. I was in Singapore in 1970 summer as an exchange student from Hong Kong visiting Singapore. Singapore always intrigues me. Now I live in the USA as an emigrant. What Singapore can and do achieve cannot be replicated elsewhere. It is a city state of migrants. One wonders what Lee Kuan Yew’s miracle can be repeated in succeeding generations. If so at what price? I would praise or condemn Lee and his son in one broad stroke.

  7. I’m thinking of all the ex-Malayans and ex-Malaysians who contributed to the progress of Singapore:

    Perak-born Toh Chin Chye, Melaka-born Goh Keng Swee, talented Malaysia-born Singapore Cabinet Ministers, Malaysia-born professors and scientific researchers, and so on and so forth.

    If we ever get a peaceful, non-violent regime change in Malaysia and UMNO Baru-BN gets ousted, the next step is a Malaysia-Singapore economic union.

  8. /// Wayne August 13, 2016 at 10:43 pm
    If at the time of negotiating Singapore’s Separation, the PM of Malaysia was not the affable Tunku, but an ultra Malay nationalist, Malaysian troops would march into Singapore arrest the not-yet-so-famous LKY and change the course of Singapore’s and also Malaysia’s history.

    Or perhaps the Tunku while getting rid of Singapore also got rid of almost 2 million potentially troublesome Chinese voters.

    Or perhaps the British under Harold Wilson, a good friend of both the Tunku and LKY, stayed the Tunku’s hand.

    Or perhaps the Almighty has a hand in it. ///

    Syed Jaafar Albar in fact did want to arrest LKY. Malay troops were already mounted in their military trucks.

    Harold Wilson did send a warning to Tunku not to arrest LKY.

    The almighty is not that all mighty and got nothing to do with it.

  9. singapore no need to talk so much. 50 years already got gold medal. but do not rest on your laurels. if you do then you are wearing it the wrong way. maju maju maju lah singapore. pardon for lower case letters. cpmputer sudah 10 tahun.

  10. Wrong Mr. Right. there were people in PNG who toyed with that dame idea as yours to borrow him for a year to put things right in that former Protectorate of Australia. Conclusion of officials he would have been absorbed by that culture.

  11. PS

    Wrong Mr. Right. Some researchers in Third World Countries did toy with the idea of getting an expatriate leaders and did research on it. Conclusion of study, he or she will be absorbed by the local superior culture.

  12. Quote:- “…a Malaysia-Singapore economic union”

    I doubt so, too late for that, and also for the same reason why the European Economic Union is failing or has failed as it was more for political expediency than economic advancement.

    As between Malaysia & Singapore, it’s like having a corporate merger between a 10 billion $ company with a neighborhood mom and pop provision store. The Sing $ is 3.02 times the Ringgit. Once our oil, timber and brain talent runs out, what is Malaysia really? An acquisition maybe, not a merger.

    More crucially, there is also a vast personality disconnect between the top politicians from both sides. Not too long ago, they can’t even agree at what time the moon rises.

    At best a closer and a more integrated economic co-operation with a more convenient cross-border mobility of citizens with Johor providing a cheaper, pleasant residential suburb for stressed Singaporeans and a safer, conducive financial environment for capital investments.

    Besides cheap land and semi-skilled labor, there is nothing much Malaysia can offer Singapore now. In fact Singapore is selling treated communal water to Johor.

  13. Malaysia’s dream Pokemon GO?
    https://right-waystan.blogspot.my/2016/08/the-tyranny-of-pokemon-go-more.html

    Yes, dreams do come true! It can become real when you dream, play or admire your idols.

    If you accompany the successful people around you, you will achieve success like Schooling. Check link: http://rightwaysrichard.blogspot.my/2016/08/singapores-first-olympic-gold-medal.html

    If you follow the ordinary people, you will not achieve much, may become a Monster at best, like playing the Pokemon Go: The tyranny of Pokemon Go, more addictive than other games, check link https://right-waystan.blogspot.my/2016/08/the-tyranny-of-pokemon-go-more.html

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