EXTRA SPECIAL: Couple celebrate where wedding reception was held
ONE of the nation's most famous post-Merdeka sons returned to the Royal Malaysian Air Force base in Sungai Besi recently.
Colonel (R) Maximillian Albert Theseira, or Max as he is fondly known, who is one of the country's pioneer batch of pilots, celebrated his golden wedding anniversary at the officers' mess on Aug 12.
Fifty years ago that day, Theseira, now 75, and his Irish bride, Elizabeth Monica Brougham @ Betty, now 70, hosted their wedding reception at the very mess hours after exchanging matrimonial vows at St Francis Xavier church in Petaling Jaya.
The mess reunion with air force colleagues, relatives and friends was held as the air base will make way for the Greater KL project.
Present was Theseira's best man, Major-General (R) Datuk Shahrudin Ali, who later retired as RMAF deputy chief.
"We chose this place simply for nostalgia and to remember the wonderful and great times we had in those early days in the air force, where the KL base was its heart and the officers' mess was the envy of everyone in town.
"It was here, too, that we and my Royal Air Force (RAF) Cranwell colleague Omar Saman and his wife Anne jointly celebrated our wedding reception, demonstrating how close all the races and cultures were back then," said Theseira, who recalled how he himself was Omar's best man at his akad nikah (solemnisation).
"I remember vividly how Omar and I, similarly dressed in full Malay formal attire, were striding along the pathway at his kampung in Ulu Yam and I could hear people in their balconies asking 'Siapa yang akan kahwin? Mana satu yang pengantin lelaki? (Who is getting married? Which one is the groom?)," said Theseira.
His foray into flying began in 1956 when, as a trainee teacher in Penang, he joined the Malayan Auxiliary Air Force (MAAF), attending flying training on weekends.
In December 1958, Theseira, Bunny Chuah Ban Hin, Ong Eng Hai and another known only as Lau were selected to form the RMAF by the country's second air force chief, Air Commodore Noel Challis Hyde.
"Hyde told Chuah and me that if we joined the RMAF, we would be sent to Cranwell, England, for training.
"Within days, on Jan 2, 1959, myself, Chuah and Omar, who was a Royal Military College cadet, were off to London.
"Four days later, we embarked on the most fantastic and elaborate air force training programme available in Britain at that time, for a full three years," said Theseira, who was trained on the Piston Provost and Vampire aircraft, and graduated in December 1961.
The country's first local air force chief, Air Vice-Marshal (R) Tan Sri Sulaiman Sujak, however, was the first Malayan to be trained at RAF Cranwell in 1955.
Back home, Theseira flew Scottish Aviation of Prestwick's Single Pioneers during the Emergency and Confrontation, surviving an air crash in Hulu Langat while flying with Flight Lt A.H. Wright on April 24, 1962.
"Soon after the rescue team located us, the first thing they air-dropped were food supplies and a packet of cigarettes!" said Theseira, who had served as commander of various bases and as defence attache in London (1978 to 1981).
He was seconded to Airod Sdn Bhd as its marketing director in 1985 before retiring in 1987 after 29 years of service.
Theseira met his wife in England while training. The couple now have two sons and a daughter -- Maximillian Sean, Leynard and Deirdre.
Brougham, who was once KL Base "mess queen" and later St Patrick's Society of Selangor president, said: "When I arrived here, I did not know what to expect as a young bride in 1962.
"Fortunately, I was blessed with so many good friends with whom I am close till today, thanks to the fabric of our wonderful lives."