15 images of S’pore’s 1st National Day Parade in 1966

Same same, but different.

By Tanya Ong | August 9, 2017

In 1966, Singapore held her first-ever National Day Parade (NDP) as a one-year-old nation.

Since then, the NDP has evolved to become a highly-anticipated event with mass participation from all sectors of society.

This National Day, we do a #throwback to 1966 with a chronological account of the parade.

August 9, 1966 – 9am.

The parade commenced at 9am in the morning at the Padang. Until 1973, the parade took place in the morning instead of evening.

Bird’s eye view of the parade. Photo from NAS

At that time, Lee Kuan Yew was Prime Minister, Toh Chin Chye was Deputy Prime Minister and S Rajaratnam was the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Culture.

They were photographed arriving at the parade:

Lee Kuan Yew Toh Chin Chye and S Rajaratnam arriving at the parade. Photo from NAS

Yusof Ishak (then-President of Singapore) rode in the ceremonial vehicle to wave to the crowd, and then inspected the parade.

The parade commander inviting then-President Yusof Ishak to inspect the parade. Photo from NAS
Yusof Ishak on the ceremonial vehicle. Photo from NAS

The march-past took place after the parade inspection.

23,000 people were involved – including soldiers, civic and uniformed groups, teachers, trade unionists, and children. Because National Service was not implemented yet, many people in the contingents were volunteers.

Contingents waiting for the parade to start. Photo from NAS
View of the contingents. Photo from NAS

The march-past was led by the People’s Defence Force (PDF). At that time, the PDF was a reserve combat unit to supplement the regular Singapore Army.

The People’s Defence Force. Photo from NAS

As the military contingents marched through Chinatown towards Tanjong Pagar, spectators would line the streets to watch them.

People filling a multi-storey building in Chinatown to watch the parade. Photo from NAS

Some also watched from their balconies for a better view.

People watching the parade from their balcony. Photo from NAS

The parade included performances by students from various schools, and a lion and dragon dance display at City Hall.

Rehearsal of a dance routine by a Malay girls school. Photo from NAS
Dragon dance performers. Photo from NAS

10.40 am

At approximately 10.40am, rain fell.

However, the military contingents continued marching through the rain. Many spectators were also undeterred by the wet weather.

Spectators braving the rain. Photo from NAS
Policemen in the rain – Yes, they still wore shorts at that time! Photo from NAS

4pm

The parade had two fireworks displays. The first display took place at 4pm at the Padang.

In anticipation of the fireworks, people gathered at the Esplanade area. Hawkers also set up stalls along Queen Elizabeth Walk to cater to the crowd.

People at Esplanade, waiting for the afternoon fireworks display. Photo from NAS

7.30pm

At night, there was a second fireworks display at Fort Canning Rise. Motor traffic in the area came to a standstill as thousands headed to Fort Canning to watch the fireworks.

Fireworks seen above the National Theatre. Photo from NAS

 

Since 1966, the parades have evolved.  Despite all the changes, the parade fundamentally serves as a reminder that Singapore is an independent nation.

Top image via NAS

1819 is a labour of love by Mothership.sg where we tell stories from Singapore’s history, heritage & culture. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!

About Tanya Ong

Tanya is a keen bean who strives to put the “art” in “articulate”. She also knows pi to the 35th decimal place for absolutely no reason at all.

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