Source: The Independent on Sunday (London, England) (April 17, 2005): p23. (3811 words)
Document Type: Newspaper
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Full Text :COPYRIGHT 2005 Independent Newspapers (UK) Ltd.
They've been locked away for years. Now the Freedom of Information Act has allowed access to a mountain of remarkable documents detailing UFO sightings across Britain. From the ambassador who spotted a pear-shaped object trailing golden sparks, to the engineer who saw an 'aerial circus' above next door's bungalow, we present extracts from our very own X-Files
Unidentified flying objects are still regarded as an American phenomenon. Stephen Spielberg's films Close Encounters of the Third Kind and ET are born out of a culture deeply rooted in stories such as Roswell in 1947, when an alien spaceship is supposed to have crashed and its occupants captured by the US military.
In Britain we remain more sceptical about such things. The truth may well be out there but we want to see some pretty compelling evidence first before we can say we are truly not alone.
To date the most credible UFO sighting in this country concerns a strange incident that took place in Rendlesham Forest, Suffolk, during Christmas 1980. Military personnel at the twin US Air Force bases at Brentwaters and Woodbridge reported hearing a loud whirring sound and then seeing bright orange lights that illuminated the centre of the forest. But we wouldn't even know about this if it hadn't been for an American citizen who made a request under US freedom of information laws.
On 1 January this year our own Freedom of Information Act came into force and some of the first documents to be disclosed concerned home-grown sightings from the mid-1970s, previously kept secret by the Ministry of Defence's special UFO department, known as S4F.
These have been described as our very own X-Files; they detail thousands of observations of unidentified flying objects made by housewives, British Airways pilots and senior police officers.
Among the most noteworthy reports is one registered by an RAF pilot and two NCOs at RAF Boulmer in Northumberland. In July 1977 Flt Lt A M Wood reported 'bright objects hanging over the sea'. The file adds that the officer said the closest object was 'luminous, round and four to five times larger than a Whirlwind helicopter'. The UFOs were reported to be three miles out to sea at a height of about 5,000ft.
The officer, whose report is supported by Cpl Torrington and Sgt Graham, said: 'The objects separated. Then one went west of the other, as it manoeuvred it changed shape to become body-shaped with projections like arms and legs.' The men who were positioned at the look-out post at the RAF station were able to observe the strange objects for an hour and 40 minutes.
At the same time a radar station detected the objects in exactly the same position as the men had observed them.
The MoD report describes Flt Lt Wood as 'reliable and sober'. It adds: 'Two contacts were noted on radar, both T84 and T85, at RAF Boulmer. They were also seen on the Staxton Wold radar picture which is relayed to West Drayton... On seeing the objects on radar the duty controller checked with the SRO at RAF West Drayton as to whether he could see the objects on radar supplied from RAF Staxton Wold.'
Not all of the reports sent to the MoD are quite so credible. Many have an apologetic tone, perhaps conveying the observer's own sense of incredulity about what they believe they have seen.
In turn, officials working at the Ministry of Defence's UFO department courteously answer all enquiries with a standard letter reminding the author of the report that most unidentified flying objects can be explained as weather balloons, falling satellites or unusual meteorological phenomena.
For those that can't, the MoD adds a paragraph setting out the Government's agnostic position on visitors from outer-space: 'The MoD does not have any expertise or role in respect of UFO/flying saucer matters or to the question of the existence or otherwise of extraterrestrial lifeforms, about which it remains totally open-minded.'
Occasionally the UFO office can be more expansive still in its responses, as you will see on the following pages, where we present an intriguing selection of letters retrieved from the National Archives. Prepare for a journey into the unknown... '
Dear Mr Appleby: I enclose for your interest, details of an extraordinary sighting by myself and my wife on Friday night, 31 January .
I shall be interested to learn if you have received any other reports that correspond with my own experiences.
Date and Time: 31 January from 22.20
to 22.25 approximately.
Place: 6 Richmond Road, Caversham Heights, Reading, Berkshire.
Weather: Clear moonless night, stars only visible. No ground wind, temperature falling but no frost.
Observers: (i) Mr Alan Edwin Lott, C. Eng., FIEE, FIERE, Civil Servant, AWRE,
MOD (PE), Age 52.
(ii) Mrs Clarice Doreen Lott, Housewife, Age 50.
Details of observation: After spending a quiet evening at home I left the house at 22.20 approximately with my dog for a short walk. The dog stopped just outside the front gate and I casually looked around the firmament. I was surprised to see very bright lights in the sky to the east beyond the bungalow next door (No. 4) and after studying them for perhaps 10 or 15 seconds realised that I was watching something extraordinary.
I immediately returned to the house and told my wife to come outside and whilst she put on a coat I obtained a pair of 8x 40 binoculars. I suppose that about half-a-minute elapsed between entering the house and coming out again.
On looking for the lights I discovered that they were moving slowly in a straight line almost exactly East to West and were now directly above my house.
It was clear to the naked eye that there were three extremely bright lights of an orange/yellow colour arranged as a large equilateral triangle. There were two other very small lights, one red and one white. See Fig. 1 [pictured below]. All of the lights were steady with no flashing. There were no beams of light as with searchlights, just the steady brilliant glare.
My wife continued to watch and I then trained my binoculars on the display. I was unable to see anything through the binoculars additional to that seen by the naked eye. I was most surprised at this, I had expected to see the dark outline of an aircraft with perhaps fuselage lights and perhaps efflux from a jet engine.
The separation of the lights suggested a very large body flying very low but the UFO was travelling so slowly that it could not have been any conventional aircraft. The sighting from start to finish lasted about five minutes whereas the aircraft we see here are usually out of sight in about 15 seconds.
We watched the whole apparition steadily float into the distance and vanish silently behind houses and trees further down Richmond Road. I looked at my watch and it was 22.25.
The dog took no interest but sat waiting to be taken for his walk.
Comment: As a casual amateur astronomer I can categorically state that this was not any form of 'heavenly body'' or satellite.
Also having lived at the above address for 18 years I am fully conversant with all types of aircraft that infest the airspace at Caversham and their appearance and sound.
I am quite unable to account in any way for this 'aerial circus''. It was quite unlike anything I have seen.
A E Lott
Atomic Weapons Research Establishment
Aldermaston, Reading, 3 February 1975
Dear Sir: I am writing to you to report a rather strange happening which occurred on Friday, 31 October 1975.
Before going into detail I would like to say that I have written a letter to you before concerning the same subject. This was back in July (28th) 1975, but although it seemed a strange happening I accepted your explanation and thought no more of it.
However since then I sometimes take a quick 'glance' through my binoculars on a fine clear evening just to see if anything strange is around.
On Friday, I was glancing at the night sky when I suddenly noticed a bright red light. It moved so erratically and so fast that there was no way in which it could be classed as an aeroplane. Then quite suddenly the red light seemed to turn in flight as if to reveal its top. As this was in progress it changed to a mass of white lights.
Now it is hard to explain what this resembles but if you can imagine an aerial view of one of those fairground merry-go-rounds with masses of light bulbs, glowing then this would be very much a likeness to what I saw.
I enclose a few rough sketches [pictured below]. I hope you will reply to this letter. I am sensible married man. I am no space mad 'crank' or any other sort of fool. I would just like to know what on earth this frightening event could be.
Name and address blanked out
Essex, 3 November 1975
Dear Sirs: I was advised by a Blanked out name here of the Information Branch, RAE Farnborough to write to you for information concerning anomalous radar returns (possibly) at the time and place stated below:
Time: 12.15 hrs
Date: Friday 23rd January 1976
Location: Watford Road, Wembley, Middx
Object Seen: Large rotating ovoid hovering at approximately 1,000m.
I would be grateful if you could provide information that might explain the appearance of an object [pictured right].
Name and address blanked out
27 March 1976
UNIDENTIFIED FLYING OBJECTS
1. Attached is a copy of a letter, passed to us by the National Air Traffic Services, from the Air Attache in Berne enclosing a UFO report made by the British Ambassador to Switzerland and a news cutting.
2. Although the report indicates a doubt as to whether the incident occurred on 14th or 15th of October, the report made by the Ambassador to RAF Manston, which was passed on to us, referred to the incident as being on the 14th October. The news cutting refers to a sighting on 15th October by a Mr Frear, who did not make a report to S4F.
3. Although we do not normally undertake to advise observers of the possible identity of the object seen, we will in this case have to respond to the Ambassador's specific request to the Air Attache to obtain comments. I should be very grateful therefore if you could suggest a possible explanation of this phenomena.
Miss S J Jamieson
MOD, Whitehall, 22 November 1977
SIGHTING OF AN UNIDENTIFIED FLYING OBJECT (UFO)
At 6.45pm on the evening of either October 14th or 15th " I regret that I cannot be more precise about the date " I was driving from my house along Wassall Lane near the village of Rolvenden Layne in Kent when through my car windscreen I sighted to the north of me, an object in the sky, at an inclination of some 18 or 20ft above the horizon, travelling fast from south to north and shaped somewhat like a flattened avocado pear. The blunt and leading end seemed to be rimmed horizontally by some sort of phosphor or bronze metal which shone quite distinctly. The general body of the object was emitting a pronounced bluish light and from the tapering or trailing end there was a stream of golden sparks. The whole sighting took only a matter of one or one-and-a-half seconds but my impression of what I had seen was so vivid that when a few minutes later I entered the 'Ewe and Lamb'' public house in Rolvenden Layne (for a well-deserved pint of bitter after a hard day's work in the garden), I immediately announced to the landlord, Mr Joe Hoad, that I had just seen my first UFO.
I did nothing further about this until I saw the attached report in the Kent Courier of 28 October [pictured below left].
My interlocutor was polite enough but took care to say that I should not necessarily expect to hear anything further from the RAF. I can well understand why RAF Duty Officers say this to people who call in with reports of sightings of UFOs eg because the report is a hoax or because the person making it is an unreliable witness or dotty or drunk. However I was certainly not drunk at 6.45 in the evening nor am I dotty nor an unreliable witness. I should therefore be grateful if you can follow this strange story up a bit and see whether we can extract any comment from the competent authorities.
A K Rothnie
British Embassy, Berne, 8 November 1977
IT WAS SWIFT, IT WAS LARGE
A report, 29 November 1976 early hours of Monday am (between Sunday night and Monday am) about 3am.
It was barely light.
I woke in bed, facing the window (in front bedroom of house) and saw what I thought was the moon and thought " what a bright moon " then realised I had never seen the moon in this part of the sky before.
It was a quarter moon, then I saw it was moving.
It moved nearer, overhead in Guildford Town direction. Coming from the right of the cathedral site. It wasn't all that high in the sky.
I heard a 'high drone' as it neared. It was swift, it was large. It was round in body structure and very brightly lit underneath.
I tried to absorb as much as possible before it passed from my view to the back of the houses.
The 'underneath' from my view point looked like this [pictured above]. I could discern long thin legs from the body structure.
It was very large. It was no plane. As it passed overhead, there was a flurry of air or cloud around it.
Next Day, I phoned the police, in case it had been reported to them. But no one had seen anything.
I did see it.
Mrs JH Cleghorn
Guildford, Surrey, 9 December 1976
Dear Mrs Cleghorn: I am writing to thank you for your letter of the 9th December and the detailed account of the unidentified flying object which you saw during the night of the 28th and early morning of the 29th November.
As I explained we cannot undertake to pursue our research beyond our defence interests.
You may, however, wish to know that over the past number of years sightings are considered to originate in the main, from aircraft or the lights of aircraft being seen under unusual conditions, balloons and various meteorological phenomenon as well as astronomical sightings, space satellites and space 'junk'.
I am sorry that I cannot assist you any further with any account on what you actually saw.
MOD Main Building, London, 23 December 1976
BRIGHTER THAN THE MOON
Dear Sir: I am sending to you the particulars of a UFO that I saw in this region last night. I wonder if identification could be made.
I and my friend are amateur 'star gazers' and have never before seen anything like this. It most certainly was not an aircraft, weather balloon, planet or star.
Date: October 12th 1977
Duration: approx one second
Description: spherical, brilliant white, very much more brighter than full moon on good night (about 10x). No noise heard.
Position: Observed from forecourt of 3, Hampden Rise (350ft above mean sea level)
Position of UFO: Moved from behind house (No.2) and descended to disappear behind single-storey garage.
Range: No idea of distance.
Speed: Unbeknown but extremely fast.
Conditions: Perfect visibility, just a little cloud very low in west.
Notification: No authorities previously notified.
I was sighting on Capella, preparatory to finding the planet Jupiter when suddenly a large, intensely white object flashed across my field of view, as in the diagram [pictured below left].
It completely blotted all stars in the neighbourhood, and though it was gone in one second, it could not have been a trick of the imagination, as my eyes were stationery and the streetlamps are yellow. Meteors are ruled out because a disc was visible.
I would be grateful if you could inform me of your identification, if possible.
Mark Porter (age 151/2)
Royston, Herts, 13 October 1977
I, Peter Melling of 3 Hampden Rise do hereby confirm that my friend Mark was truly astounded at what he saw, and could find no terrestrial or astronomical explanation for this unusual observation
Peter Melling (Age 161/4)
I NEARLY HAD KITTENS
Dear Sir: I enclose a sketch of the craft I saw [pictured below] on Friday morning 5th November at 6.21am. I am not doing this as a hoax and I don't want any publicity whatsoever or it going to the press, as if it does I will deny everything. I hope you will treat this matter in strict confidence.
Huntingdon, Cambs, 10 November 1976 '
MOD note (by Mr HE Mackey): Further to RAF Wyton Signal 05133DZ Nov, I had asked RAF Wyton to try and obtain precise location of incident reported at Oxmoor Estate on 5 Nov '76.
Flt Lt Chapman said he had phoned name withheld (on 10.11.76) and his mother answered the telephone. She was well spoken, and brought her son to the telephone. Mr name withheld had a broad local accent. After F/L C. had gained his confidence, Mr name withheld was very willing to talk about the incident and himself. He seemed (to F/L C.) a kindly likeable person. His voice sounded younger than his 29 years might suggest. He impressed F/L C. as imaginative. He reads a lot, especially books on aviation.
The place of the incident was a playing field between Shapley Rd and Hartford Rd, two acres in area. It transpired that the incident occurring on 5 Nov was not the first time that Mr name withheld had sighted the object, the first occasion being about two weeks previously. He had again seen the object on the morning of 9 Nov.
Further Description of Object: Tank-like, rather square with dome-shaped super structure, had white and blue lights. Main body of dark blueish- grey colour. Mr name withheld had impression of heat radiating from object.
Noise: Almost silent: thought he detected low-pitched hum. Dog ran into field. Object descended, but did not actually land, to about 12ft from observer. A 'sort of telescopic probe appeared'' and seemed to be 'probing the ground''. At this juncture the object turned round and faced Mr name withheld. He was petrified and in his own words 'nearly had kittens''. The probe then retracted and object made off at speed.
Mr name withheld is now no longer frightened of the object, and has taken to looking for it on his walks with his dog. He intends to take a camera with him on future walks, and if he gets results he will contact Wyton.
A RATIONAL EXPLANATION
Dear Mr Mackey: Thank you very much for your letter of the 11 February. Bearing in mind that you will have been given all the relevant information on the sighting, I take pleasure in enclosing an artistic impression of the occasion [pictured right]. The large white disc in the top left hand corner is intended to be the moon and the smaller object above the trees is intended to be Venus. Neither the moon nor Venus were visible to me at the time in question, they are strictly there to give some idea of how, in size, the object I saw appeared to me.
The object travelled downward, following the path of the dotted line. Compared with the objects I've included in the picture, you'll see how 'large'' it appeared to be and considering the speed at which it moved, you'll appreciate my excitement and surprise at that time.
Let me finish by saying that it is not my intention to encourage you to involve yourself in time corresponding with me, but, if there is some simple explanation that I can know about I would appreciate hearing from you.
LG E Campbell
Harborne, Birmingham, January 1975
Dear Mr Campbell: Thank you for your recent letter. Although as I explained, we cannot normally undertake to advise observers of the probable identity of the objects they see and kindly report to the Department, I am pleased to be able to give you some information in connection with your report of an unidentified flying object seen by you on 18 January this year.
The under-mentioned Earth satellite vehicles (ESVs) were within 1,000km at the time of your sighting.
1 Name: ZOND4;
Slant range: 558 km;
Azimuth: 1,32 DEC;
Elevation: 26.2 DEG;
2 Name: Cosmos 460;
Slant range: 878 km;
Azimuth: 004 DEC;
Elevation: 30.9 DEG;
It seems probable that the object you saw was one of these vehicles.
H E Mackey
MOD, Whitehall, London, 20 February 1975
WITNESSED BY 12 OFFICE STAFF
Dear Sir: I telephoned Manston Airport, on Monday January 19 reporting a strange object in the sky. Although the person I spoke to sounded extremely bored, he did suggest I should send in all the details:
I was watching the sunset at VW Motors, Manston Road. At about 16.05 I noticed a strange length of light very far off, in the north west. It was quite high and moving about the same speed as a plane. It could have been a very long aircraft but to me the object was far too long. I think it was the reflection from the sun, which gave this object a flaming effect. I watched it from north west to west until my view was blocked.
Still watching the sky, at 16.10 my colleagues and I saw a very small ball of light, again north west. There was a few clouds about and my view was blocked for a couple of minutes. Then the speck was gone but a little to the north was an object much closer, at a very rough guess 10-15 miles off. It was bright yellow. Note: By this time the sun was red. The object was the size of about 30 large stars as we see them. It could rotate, ie it appeared length ways, front on and width ways. It left with a fair speed and disappeared altogether. The third sighting lasted from about 16.15 to 16.35.
The whole incident I have stated was witnessed by 12 office staff, my supervisor and my boss. I trust you will look into it.
At a guess I would say that the object I saw was a research craft, measuring the atmosphere or something, but I find it more interesting to think maybe I saw my first UFO.
Name blanked out
Ramsgate, Kent, 23 January 1976 n
Introduction by Robert Verkaik, National Archives research by Daniel Poole