Don't rain on my parade — 9 memorable NDP firsts

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05 Aug 2020 | COMMUNITY

Don't rain on my parade — 9 memorable NDP firsts

//Story by Gabriel Lee

//Photos by PIONEER photographers

English Melayu
Since its debut in 1969 with 18 AMX-13 tanks, the Mobile Column has grown to include over 100 vehicles displaying the capabilities of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), Singapore Police Force and the Singapore Civil Defence Force. Pictured is the Mobile Column rolling past the Padang in 2019, which marked the 50th anniversary of the Mobile Column.

From the gripping flypast to fiery fireworks, the National Day Parade (NDP) celebrations are something Singaporeans look forward to every year. In commemoration of Singapore's 55th birthday on 9 Aug, here's a list of memorable NDP firsts you might not have known.

The then-People’s Defence Force contingent standing unflinchingly on the field despite the pouring rain in 1968. [Photo: National Archives of Singapore]

1) It's rained at many parades, including Singapore's first-ever NDP in 1966. 

Talk about bad weather failing to dampen the celebratory mood! It also poured heavily during NDP 1968, etching the memory into the minds of Singaporeans as participants and spectators from all walks of life stood steadfast under the rain.

An Alouette helicopter carrying the state flag during the flypast at NDP 1973.

2) The first NDP State Flag Flypast took place in 1970. 

That year, the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF)'s Alouette III helicopter carried a flag measuring 3m by 2m. This duty was then passed down to the UH-1H "Huey" in 1980 and then the Super Puma in 1986. 

Today, the State Flag Flypast is flown by the Chinook helicopters. The size of the flag has also increased dramatically through the years and is now much easier to spot - it now measures 30m by 20m!

Fireworks lighting up the evening sky at NDP 1982. Gliding along the water is a special sea-dragon display, which featured 30,000 light bulbs on its body and laser lights attached to its eyes.

3) The NDP was held in the evening for the first time in 1973. 

Did you know that the early NDPs kicked off as early as nine in the morning? It was only until 1973 that they were held in the evening. This year, the NDP will have morning and evening shows - with a military segment in the morning and various dance and show performances in the evening. NDP 2020 will also mark the first time the evening performance will be held indoors.

A marching procession held at Ang Mo Kio during NDP 1983. This was the last year that the NDP was held at multiple venues.

4) NDP was decentralised for the first time in 1975.

Did you know that this year's NDP is set to make history again after an almost 40-year hiatus from when the parade was last held in the heartlands? Between 1975 and 1983, the NDP was decentralised every other year to take the celebration into the heartlands, with various marching contingents and on-site performances at each location.

The NDP 1984 flypast involved 53 RSAF aircraft, including eight UH-1H helicopters as well as 15 Hawker Hunters, 15 Skyhawks and 15 F-5 fighter jets.

5) NDP 1984 marked many "firsts" in the history of the parade

Known as the NDP of numerous "firsts", NDP 1984 marked Singapore's celebration of 25 years of nation-building. It was the first time that so many RSAF aircraft (53!) were involved in the much-anticipated flypast, as well as the first time that military assets such as the 160mm Mortar and the Armoured Vehicle Launched Bridge were displayed in a parade.

This was also the first time the now-classic National Day tune Stand Up For Singapore made its appearance - NDP theme songs have now become an annual tradition.

Sailors, on board one of the RSN’s missile gunboats, extending a salute to then-President Wee Kim Wee (second from right) during the first sea review held at NDP 1990.

6) The first NDP sea review took place in 1990.

Officially titled the "Presidential Sea Review", the event saw then-President Wee Kim Wee reviewing an impressive flotilla of ships ranging from 25 Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) vessels to over 100 leisure and luxury craft.

The RSN displayed its rich naval tradition during the segment, such as "cheering ship" with crew standing on deck in their ceremonial whites and extending a "hats off" salute to Mr Wee.

The highly trained SAF Commandos performing a series of breathtaking stunts in their descent from one of two flood-light towers at the old National Stadium in 1991.

7) Who could forget the NDP where the Commandos stole the limelight by performing a synchronised Omega descent in 1991?

The Commandos' 20-storey Omega descent from the National Stadium light towers was not only the first ever performed at NDP, but also the highest one performed in Singapore then. The display earned its unusual name from the special equipment used to secure the feet of the Commandos (to the nylon rope) which is shaped like the Greek alphabet, Omega.

P.S. Did you know that 1991 was also the year when NDP packs were introduced?

Lights, camera, action: two Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats emerging at high speed to pick dispatched naval divers out of the water during Act 2 of the Dynamic Defence Display in NDP 2007.

8) The NDP relocated to a new venue - The Float @ Marina Bay - in 2007, and introduced a new parade segment showcasing a combined land, air and sea performance by the SAF.

Besides the change in venue from the old National Stadium in Kallang, NDP 2007 introduced a new military segment called the Dynamic Defence Display.

A fast-paced and thrilling display of the SAF's land, sea and air assets, coupled with pyrotechnics, sound effects, music and voice-overs, it has been a crowd favourite with audiences since.

In 2017, a second segment featuring a mock terrorist attack was introduced for the first time to portray realistic new threats that the SAF must deal with.

Girl power: Then-3WO Shirley Ng (right) being greeted by a Junior Red Lion after making her debut jump at NDP 2014.

9) The first female Red Lion made her debut jump at NDP 2014.

This could have happened a year before in 2013, but poor weather put a stop to the Red Lions' jump at NDP 2013. Not one to give up, 2nd Warrant Officer (2WO) Shirley Ng successfully made the jump in the next year, making her the first female parachutist to do so in the Red Lion's then-25-year history.

Look out for her in this year's Red Lions jump! The rigger in the Maintenance Detachment Command will be landing at the open field near Sengkang General Hospital come 9 Aug, as part of the Red Lions' tribute to healthcare workers fighting against COVID-19.

P.S. Did you know that the Red Lions only adopted this name in 1996? And while the Commandos have performed parachute jumps at NDP since the 70s, they were only formalised as a team in 1989.

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