Memories of first NDP to air online

Participants share sense of pride in feature on S'pore's nation-building

WITH less than 50 days to put together a show for Singapore's first National Day Parade (NDP) in 1966, some participants were feeling the pressure to come up with a worthy performance.

Mr Shamsudin Shadan, 80, the parade's regimental sergeant major, had to select and train army personnel for the guard of honour and ensure they knew their drills to perfection to reflect the Republic's growing military strength.

He recalled: "The training sessions were intensive and lasted four hours each time."

Mr Shamsudin and four other participants of the momentous day have shared their memories for the third episode of the National Heritage Board's documentary series A Nation Remembers.

It will air on the board's YouTube channel and website in August.

They tell of how a sense of despair and despondency was in the air as the young nation struggled to gain footing after its expulsion from Malaysia.

The series seeks to document important milestones in the island's post-independence history through personal accounts. The fourth and final episodewill be filmed later this month.

"We hope to capture the experience of the generation who lived through Singapore's nation-building years," said the board's director of heritage institutions, Mr Alvin Tan.

Mr Swee Boon Chai, 67, who marched as a Safti officer cadet alongside 23,000 other participants, said the parade helped to foster a sense of social cohesion.

The contingents, led by the guard of honour formed by the 1st Battalion Singapore Infantry Regiment, marched from the Padang to Chinatown and Tanjong Pagar, where they were greeted by a 350,000-strong crowd.

A retired lieutenant-colonel, Mr Swee added: "We showed citizens that Singapore had military strength of its own and that we were ready for any eventuality. The crowds in return cheered and clapped and our hearts swelled with pride."

Mr Lau Kee Siong, 66, a retired colonel who watched the parade on TV, said: "Many of us were surprised and impressed that Singapore had so many armed soldiers." He recalled the solid crunching of soldiers' metal studded boots. "Crunch, crunch, crunch. It's a rhythm I remember until this day because it evoked a clear sense of patriotism."

melodyz@sph.com.sg