National Day Parade 1966: 10 things about the inaugural parade

SINGAPORE - The National Day Parade (NDP) this year will hark back to the first held in 1966 after Singapore's independence.

Policemen in shorts, nurses donning their white vintage caps and trishaw pullers will be part of a vintage parade at this year's celebrations at the Padang, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said during his ministry's Budget debate on Thursday.


The simple parade at the Padang 49 years ago celebrated the nation's first birthday since the split from Malaysia.

It was a far cry from the mass displays and multi-media extravaganzas that recent NDPs have become.

Here's more about Singapore's first NDP:

1. It started at 9am


The Parade was held at 9am in the morning at the City Hall. Evening parades did not occur until 1973.

2. More than 23,000 took part


Soldiers, uniformed groups, teachers, children, trade unionists, cultural groups, lion and dragon dancers all took part in the march past. Singapore's first president, Yusof Ishak, reviewed the parade on the City Hall steps. The parade also wended through Chinatown and other parts of the city.


3. First parade by Singapore's army

It was the first time six contingents of the People's Defence Force went on public parade. This was before national service was instituted, so many of the soldiers were volunteers.


Four ministers donned uniforms and marched with the People's Defence Force. They were then Minister for Labour Jek Yeun Thong, Minister for Education Ong Pang Boon, Minister for Culture and Social Affairs Othman Wok and Minister of State for Defence Wee Toon Boon.

4. Failed fireworks in the daytime

The Chinese Chamber of Commerce presented a "daylight fireworks display" on the Padang. This turned out to be a "minor flop after 10 successive shots which filled the sky with little State flags", said a Straits Times article on Aug 10, 1966. The rest of the fireworks, which were supposed to blossom into lions, dragons and mythical creatures, were not fired after the first three failed to ignite.

5. Second fireworks display and a sea dragon


A second fireworks display at Fort Canning Rise was a success. The area was "jammed with a sea of humanity", the article said. There was a giant floating dragon illuminated by 12,500 bulbs that sailed from Telok Ayer Basin to Tanjong Rhu.

6. It rained

The weather held during the march past at City Hall, which lasted for 90 minutes, but after 10.30am, the rain fell.


Undeterred, the military units continued their march through Chinatown and Tanjong Pagar and were greeted by enthusiastic crowds.

7. Sports festival

A "Pesta Sukan" or sports festival was held from Aug 7 to 13 in conjunction with the National Day festivities. There were about 100 sports events ranging from athletics and archery to wrestling and yachting.

8. Nation-wide celebrations

On Aug 9, there was a reception for 1,000 guests at the Istana hosted by the President, and community centres held their own dinners and cultural shows to mark the occasion.



There was also a series of celebrations throughout the week that included cultural shows and more fireworks displays.

9. Except for...

Singapore was a new nation facing many challenges, and not everything was fun and fireworks.

Opposition parties at the time, the Barisan Socialis and Parti Rakyat, condemned the festivities as a waste of public money, and said they were a celebration of a "phoney independence".

10. A video of the parade will be unearthed this year

In December 1990, a video of the first NDP was one of the items buried in a time capsule. The Singapore 2015 Time Capsule also contained the music score for the National anthem and water from the Singapore River. The cylinder was part of Singapore's 25th anniversary celebrations.