Bagpipes, lion dances & a 500-foot long electric sea dragon: What the first 2 NDPs were like

Not that much time, but they did it well nonetheless.

| Nyi Nyi Thet | Sponsored | July 13, 2022, 06:28 PM

At 9am on Aug. 9, 1966, Singapore’s first National Day Parade (NDP) kicked off.

Swee Boon Chai, part of the first batch of officers at SAFTI, had only been told to start practising for the parade six weeks earlier.

It was quite a short prep time, but that was a theme that would define the earlier NDPs.

Another recurring theme would be the ability to carry it out.

According to a YouTube video by Roots Sg:

“With just six weeks of preparation, the parade at the Padang was carried out with clockwork precision, a great credit to the 23,000 citizens who were involved.”

The parade wasn’t just contingents marching either.

There was a Sea Dragon Procession where a 500-foot long and a 40-foot high electrically lit sea dragon glided along the “nearby waterfront” between Telok Ayer Basin and Tanjong Rhu.

You got a quick one and a half hours to spare? Then why not enjoy the 90-minute fireworks display at Fort Canning.

Another 90-minute extravaganza came in the form of a 90-minute march by the aforementioned 23,000 citizens.

Even the rain, which is quite rare for an NDP, could not put too much of a downer on the events as the military units continued their route march through “Chinatown towards Tanjong Pagar”, greeted by cheering crowds.

All in all, it was quite a success.

Then-Defence Minister Goh Keng Swee even held a reception for the "hundreds of men and women" involved in the National Day Parade, calling it a "successful and memorable occasion".

But despite the success, Goh was careful not to get complacent.

"We should start thinking out new ideas - how to improve our last performance - so that the next National Day Parade can be an even better one."


There were again plenty of highlights from this NDP.

Some colourful lion and dragon dances were part of the celebrations

All images from, collection of National Museum of Singapore

The lowkey star of the show, however, might have been the bagpipers. Specifically, “The Singapore Girl Pipers.

Remember how we said short prep times would be a running theme for the early NDPs? The Pipers took that to the nth degree.

The 36-piece pipe band had about eight months to train.

The timeframe was considered so egregiously short that a Scottish soldier actually wrote a forum letter decrying the attempt, noting that it took about six years to train a piper.

The task of prepping the girls was left to one of the “most famous pipe majors” in the world, Peggy Iris.

And even she acknowledged the difficulty of the task at hand, noting that this was the first time she had to train an entire band in such a short time.

When told about the naysayers, Iris told the media she could see where they were coming from.

According to The Straits Times:

"They probably are right. But I'll try hard to get 40 girls ready for National Day.”

An extensive repertoire was out of the question, but she was aiming for the team to learn one or two tunes by NDP.

Long story short:

Image from, collection of National Museum of Singapore

Screenshot from ST

The Girl Pipers were so good that they were tasked to play a second major public event before then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, the cabinet, and "some 3,000 community and Government leaders at the National Day cultural show and rally".

It was a rousing success and thought by many to be the highlight of that year’s NDP.

But in case you think that Singaporeans then might have gotten too satisfied or complacent with the parade, fret not. Here’s a forum letter complaining about the camera cuts during the parade.


Heritage Hunter: The Way Home

Disgruntled letters aren’t the only thing bridging the past and present.

Heritage Hunter, a scavenger hunt-inspired game on, is taking on a national day twist this month, Heritage Hunter: The Way Home.

Like its previous two iterations, it will offer one challenge per week, for three weeks in July.

Each week, August the Merlion and Heritage Hunter cat Hakim will venture through a period in Singapore’s time to uncover the history of our island nation.

Players will have to solve clues to find hidden icons for a chance to win prizes.

Instead of the usual scrolls and other game icons, Heritage Hunter: The Way Home will use icons with NDP elements.

Here’s the first clue:

You can go on to to start scavenger hunting, but be sure to make use of the search function.

The correct page for the aforementioned will contain this nifty little cap at the bottom:

P.S you should see a funpack when you’ve solved the third clue. It will appear on the answer page like this:

Click on the funpack and you’ll be directed to fill up an entry form that grants you lucky chances to win this season’s grand prize.

Stand a chance to win NDP preview show tickets and S$100 Grab vouchers.

There’s also a Grand Prize (for those who participated across all three weeks) of official NDP show tickets, S$300 Grab vouchers, and a staycation.

Winners of the grand prize will be announced on July 26, 2022.

This sponsored article by The National Heritage Board made the writer Google how much a bagpipe costs.

All images from, collection of National Museum of Singapore