As Singapore celebrates its 54th birthday and its Bicentennial, we take a walk down memory lane, to our very first National Day Parade at the Padang on 9 August 1966 – one year after our separation from Malaysia.
Back then, the celebration started at 9 am in the morning. The ceremony began with a parade at the Padang. President Yusof bin Ishak was greeted by Interior and Defence Minister Dr Goh Keng Swee on the steps of City Hall. Together with Singapore’s first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and other Cabinet members, they then took their seats at the grandstand on the steps of City Hall.
More than 23,000 men, women and children took part in the march past, and it was led by six contingents from the People’s Defence Force (PDF). In the contingents, there were four ministers – Minister for Labour Jek Yeun Thong, Minister for Education Ong Pang Boon, Minister for Culture and Social Affairs Othman Wok, Minister of State for Defence Wee Toon Boon – in officer cadets’ uniform.
A memorable scene from Singapore’s first National Day was when the heavens opened up at 10.30 am. But the contingents marched on, undeterred by the sudden downpour, through Chinatown and Tanjong Pagar and they were cheered on by the crowds.
Other highlights of the day included a fireworks display at Fort Canning and a giant illuminated sea dragon float that sailed from Telok Ayer Basin to Tanjong Rhu.
This year, our National Day Parade will be held at the Padang again and as we celebrate, it would be timely to reflect on our progress as a nation and as one united people.