Pioneers to march to old beat in retro uniforms

Relive parades gone by with vintage segment at NDP 2015

Despite rain, thunder and lightning, a young Lim Chor Eng stood ramrod straight, not flinching one bit - even though her white St John Ambulance Brigade uniform was soaked through and her shoes were waterlogged.

As spectators ran for cover, more than 1,000 participants in 81 contingents remained still before going on to complete an 8km march as part of the 1968 Nation al Day Parade (NDP). "Some of us were shivering," said Madam Lim, then a 19-year-old student from Chung Hwa Girls' School. She is now 66. "We didn't feel tired and knew we had to prove that we were tough enough and that nothing, not even rain, could stop us from putting up a good show."

Madam Lim considers the 1968 parade her favourite. And the remisier hopes to relive the atmosphere and memories of that parade and others in a vintage segment at this year's NDP celebrating Singapore's 50th birthday.

Spectators will get a glimpse of how things used to be with policemen in their old-fashioned uniforms, firemen in their now-defunct helmets and nurses in their vintage white caps. Brigadier-General Melvyn Ong Su Kiat, who is in charge of coordinating the Golden Jubilee parade, recently told reporters that pioneers would be selected to march down the Padang in the old uniforms.

The theme of this year's Aug 9 show, to be staged at the Padang, is Majulah Singapura, the title of the national anthem which means "onward Singapore" in Malay.

Details of NDP 2015 were revealed in tender documents obtained by The Straits Times from the government's GeBIZ website.

The hour-long show will also pay tribute to what makes Singapore unique today, like Singlish and its colloqualisms. There will also be eye-popping costumes like butterfly headgear and LED jumpsuits designed by the parade's art director Yang Derong. Award-winning singer-songwriter Dick Lee will be the creative director, as he was in 2002 and 2010.

Mr Shamsudin Shadan, the army's first regimental sergeant major, said bringing back the old-school parades will remind Singaporeans of how the country has progressed. The 83-year-old said: "We didn't have elaborate special effects or the song and dance (segments) like in today's NDP. I even had to adapt the military drills from a manual that was handed down by the British... but our sharp military drills and moves were still impressive."

Mr Vincent Undason, who in 1968 was the teacher-in-charge of the St Joseph School band, said: "Even though we didn't have much hardware, we knew we still had to put up a good show to give hope to people that we could succeed. Hopefully, this year's show can do the same and inspire confidence in our future generations."

jermync@sph.com.sg