Revisiting the hiccups, moving moments and LOLs from NDP history

The late Lee Kuan Yew waves a flag, at left, and several former world leaders attend a past National Day Parade, at right. Images: 154thmedia2014, 154thmedia Entertainment/YouTube
The late Lee Kuan Yew waves a flag, at left, and several former world leaders attend a past National Day Parade, at right. Images: 154thmedia2014, 154thmedia Entertainment/YouTube

National Day is nearing and while we wait to celebrate it virtually from home, let’s take a walk down memory lane and look back at some of its best moments.

From the late Lee Kuan Yew’s final appearance to former political leaders like Malaysia’s disgraced Najib Razak gracing the occasion, here are some of the memorable clips from past parade broadcasts that will make you cringe, LOL, or feel warm and fuzzy. 

Missing Fire of Joy

Every year, the guard-of-honor units execute the Feu De Joie, aka Fire of Joy, in which they fire three, synchronized rounds from their rifles before joining other contingents to march off the stage.

Unfortunately in 2000, it appeared that the parade commander forgot to give that last round of command, shortening it to just two rounds. It even left some soldiers confused as they appeared reluctant to put down their rifles.

Right after the slip up, late former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew could be seen mouthing a comment to former president Tony Tan Keng Yam who was standing next to him. We don’t know about you, but it looked to us that he mouthed the phrase: “What a screw up!”

Oops! It’s not a fan

In that same year, cameras captured Lee Kuan Yew mistaking a paddle clapper for a handheld fan, breaking into a giggle after Tony Tan Keng Yam showed him its intended use. 

The paddle was included in the goodie bag similar to other years’ clappers that have evolved into inflatables, ones that are shaped like a hand and even include LED lights.

Singaporean gems on one stage

Each year, one singer will take the stage to sing the National Day theme song. But in 2015, four of Singapore’s most prolific singers performed a medley of five different tracks. 

Stephanie Sun sang We Will Get There (2002) and One United People (2003), Corrine May sang Song for Singapore (2010), JJ Lin sang that year’s theme song Our Singapore and Kit Chan sang Home (1998).

Here are the timestamps for each of their performances.

1:52:33 – Stephanie Sun
2:15:40 – Corrinne May
2:26:07 – JJ Lin
2:31:27 – Kit Chan

Lee Kuan Yew’s last NDP 

Lee Kuan Yew attended the National Day Parade for the last time in 2014, just a year before he died. He was captured on television standing momentarily and waving his flag before slumping back into his seat. The crowd gave him a standing ovation when he arrived.

Lee’s health began to deteriorate in 2013 after he was admitted to the hospital with an irregular heartbeat and a mild stroke. He died of pneumonia in early 2015.

World leaders in attendance

Singapore’s 50th birthday saw seven foreign leaders attend for the first time since 1969.

They included Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah; Prince Andrew; former vice presidents Li Yuanchao and Jusuf Kalla of China and Indonesia, respectively; and former prime ministers Najib Razak, Prayut Chan-o-cha and John Key of Malaysia, Thailand and New Zealand, respectively.

Then-president Tony Tan Keng Yam and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also hosted lunch at the Istana for key government officials from 18 countries on the day itself. All were members of the East Asia Summit and United Kingdom. 

Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad showed up for last year’s parade together with their wives. 

Vintage Parade

Singaporeans were reminded of their roots in the 2015 parade, which featured contingents donning iconic vintage uniforms worn by police officers and the military from the 1960s to 1980s. 

The uniform that stood out the most for many was that of the police. Officers in khaki shirts and shorts with high socks and white cloth bands wrapped around their legs seemed like a fashion statement many millennials were ready to rock again. 

Notorious flipping incident

What was probably the most talked about incident that happened in all NDP parades was when a boy was caught flipping off home viewers. 

The 2017 parade went smoothly up until the end, when the camera panned to student performers to bid farewell to viewers. The boy had his moment of infamy before the panicked camera operator zoomed out to focus on other students. 

YouTuber AndyHappyGuy was nice enough to tell us the boy is doing fine, and the consequences were not severe enough to get him expelled.

“That boy is in my school… he is now primary six getting ready for his PSLE. He did not get kicked out,” he said.


In last year’s parade, cameras caught a woman hitting the head of another woman sitting in front of her while the Red Lions paratroopers were free falling. She was captured apologizing while the other laughed it off. 

Other stories you should check out:

Singapore to turn 55 with all-day virtual birthday party
Nathan Hartono lends soothing vocals to Singapore’s COVID-National Day song
Proudly Singaporean, NDP singer Nathan Hartono explains after nationalist backlash
Remembering 10 of Singapore’s most forgettable National Day songs
Netflix brings back Singapore’s TV classics ahead of National Day
Here’s everything to look out for on National Day

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