UFO Incident: Rendlesham Forest
Written by Nick Pope (www.nickpope.net), this article is courtesy of The Journal of Anomalous Sciences, www.thedimensionzone.com. Nick Pope is a journalist and a former 25 year member of the British Ministry of Defence, investigating UFO sightings and reports.
26 December 2005 saw the 25th anniversary of Britain’s most famous UFO sighting ever, what has become known as the Rendlesham Forest incident. Since then there has been significant media interest in this event and I have even given a number of interviews that appeared on TV, radio and in the newspapers. The Forestry Commission even held a commemorative event on the 26th of December and UFOlogists by holding a ‘skywatch’ on 27 December, 2005.
When I ran the British Government’s UFO Project at the Ministry of Defence, this was universally regarded as the most convincing case that the Department had on its files.
I was originally commissioned by The Daily Express to write about this case, to which it was to appear as a major feature. The article is not available online, but differs only in very minor points from the original text that was submitted to the Daily Express.
On 21 May 1997 a former Prime Minister made an enigmatic comment that appeared to confirm the reality of Britain’s most famous UFO incident. The casual remark hinted at darker secrets and led to much debate among conspiracy theorists. The politician concerned was Baroness Thatcher and the implications of what she said are extraordinary.
The remark was made at a charity function. London based socialite and author Georgina Bruni had for some time been researching the Rendlesham Forest UFO incident, intrigued by hints dropped by various diplomatic, military and political friends. She had been skeptical about the whole UFO mystery and had initially thought that the subject was awash with cultists and crackpots. But Rendlesham was different and so, when she met Baroness Thatcher at the dinner, Bruni took the opportunity to put the former PM on the spot. Was there any truth to the extraordinary rumours concerning what happened in Rendlesham Forest? What did the government really know about UFOs? Was it a serious issue or just pie in the sky? Bruni was expecting a bland dismissal of the story. The official position of the Ministry of Defence, after all, was that no evidence existed to suggest that UFOs were extraterrestrial in origin. Then the former PM dropped her bombshell. “UFOs?” she said. “You can’t tell the people.” Bruni was astounded and pressed her point. What did she mean? Baroness Thatcher calmly repeated her remark, before departing.
I wasn’t at the dinner, but heard about the conversation very shortly afterwards. The reason I heard about it so quickly was that Georgina Bruni decided to call me at 2am to tell me what had happened. She called me because I used to run the British Government’s UFO Project, based at the Ministry of Defence, a position I’d held from 1991 to 1994. Georgina Bruni had interviewed me in the course of her research into UFOs and we bumped into each other from time to time at various social functions. Once I got over my sense of humour failure at having been called at 2am, I quickly grasped the significance of what I was told. I got up, went to my study and began to make some notes, all the time quizzing Georgina about every nuance of her brief encounter with the former PM. For me, this was a revelation, because out of all the thousands of UFO sightings investigated by the Ministry of Defence over the years, the Rendlesham Forest incident was the one that stood out. It was the case that we couldn’t ignore, despite best efforts to find some conventional explanation for what happened. This case was the Holy Grail and Baroness Thatcher’s remark put the events into a new light.
So what actually happened at Rendlesham Forest and what is it that makes this event the most extraordinary UFO encounter ever to have taken place in the UK? As we approach the 25th anniversary of Britain’s closest encounter, it was determined that it was time to re-open the MOD’s spookiest X-File.
Late on Christmas night 1980 and in the early hours of Boxing Day, strange lights were seen in Rendlesham Forest. This might not sound particularly significant. People see UFOs all the time and when I was running the UFO Project I used to receive between two and three hundred reports each year, most of which could be explained as misidentifications of aircraft lights, meteors, weather balloons and suchlike. What made this sighting interesting was the fact that the witnesses were United States Air Force personnel based at RAF Bentwaters and RAF Woodbridge in Suffolk. Rendlesham Forest lies between the twin bases and as the Cold War was still decidedly frosty, a UFO sighting at two of the nation’s most sensitive military sites was most decidedly of interest. In the early hours of 26 December, duty personnel reported lights so bright, they feared an aircraft had crashed. They sought and obtained permission to go off-base and investigate. They didn’t find a crashed aircraft – they found a UFO.
The three man patrol from the 81st Security Police Squadron – Jim Penniston, John Burroughs and Ed Cabansag – saw a small metallic craft, moving through the trees. At one point it appeared to land in a small clearing. They approached cautiously and Penniston got close enough to see strange markings on the side of the craft, which he likened to Egyptian hieroglyphs. He made some rapid sketches in his police notebook. Later on, because of the complicated legal and jurisdictional position of United States Air Force bases in the UK, police from Suffolk Constabulary were called out to the site where the object had apparently landed. They conducted a brief but inconclusive examination and then left. But three indentations were vis ible in the clearing and when mapped, they formed the shape of an equilateral triangle. A Geiger counter was used to check the site and the readings peaked markedly in the depressions where the object – possibly on legs of some sort – had briefly come to earth.
News of the UFO encounter spread quickly around the bases and came to the attention of the Deputy Base Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Halt. He was skeptical, but had the witnesses write up official reports, including sketches of what they had seen. The following evening Halt was at a social function when a young airman burst in and ran up to the colonel. “Sir,” he stammered, “It’s back.” Halt looked confused. “What?” he retorted, “What’s back?.” “The UFO, Sir – the UFO’s back.” Halt remained skeptical but gathered together a small team and went out into the forest to investigate. He subsequently stated that he went out with no expectation of seeing anything. In his own words, he said that his intention was to “debunk” the whole affair. But he didn’t debunk it because he too encountered the UFO, becoming one of the highest ranking military officers ever to go on the record about a UFO sighting. As he and his men tracked the UFO, their radios began to malfunction and powerful mobile ‘light-alls’, taken to illuminate the forest, mysteriously began to cut out.
One piece of equipment that didn’t malfunction was the hand-held tape recorder that the colonel took with him to document his investigation. The tape recording still survives and one can hear the rising tension in Halt’s voice and the voices of his men, as the UFO approaches:
“I see it too … it’s back again … it’s coming this way …there’s no doubt about it …this is weird …it looks like an eye winking at you … it almost burns your eyes …he’s coming toward us now … now we’re observing what appears to be a beam coming down to the ground … one object still hovering over Woodbridge base … beaming down”.
At one point the tension in their voices almost seems to become panic as the UFO makes a close approach and fires light beams down on Halt and his men.
Following these events, Charles Halt wrote an official report of the incident and sent it to the Ministry of Defence. Although somewhat innocuously entitled “Unexplained Lights”, his report described the first night’s UFO as being “metallic in appearance and triangular in shape … a pulsing red light on top and a bank of blue lights underneath … the animals on a nearby farm went into frenzy.” He went on to detail the radiation readings taken from the landing site and set out the details of his own sighting.
Halt sent his report to the Ministry of Defence, to the section where, a little over ten years later, I would spend three years researching and investigating UFO sightings. The report went to my predecessors, who begun an investigation. But they were hampered by a critical mistake that was to have dire consequences. For whatever reason – and it may have been nothing more than a simple typographical error – Charles Halt’s report gave incorrect dates for the incident. So when the MOD checked the radar tapes, they were looking at the wrong days. Looking at radar evidence is a critical part of any UFO investigation. There have been plenty of spectacular UFO sightings over the years, many correlated by radar. The MOD’s comprehensive UFO files detail several such cases, including ones where RAF pilots encountered UFOs and gave chase. Unsuccessfully, I might add.
In the absence of any radar data that might confirm the presence of the Rendlesham Forest UFOs, the investigation petered out. Yet, as I was to discover years later, the UFO had been tracked, after all. I spoke to a former RAF radar operator called Nigel Kerr. He had been stationed at RAF Watton at Christmas 1980 and had received a call from somebody at RAF Bentwaters. They wanted to know if there was anything unusual on his radar screen. He looked and for three or four sweeps, something did show up, directly over the base. But it faded away and no official report was ever made. It was only years later that Kerr even heard of the Rendlesham Forest incident and realised he might have a missing piece of the puzzle.
In the apparent absence of radar data to verify the presence of the UFO, arguably the most critical piece of evidence was never followed up. The Defence Intelligence Staff had assessed the radiation readings taken at the landing site and judged them to be “significantly higher than the average background.” In fact, they were about seven times what would have been expected for the area concerned.
So what are we to make of all this? UFO believers are convinced that the sightings involved an extraterrestrial spacecraft. They still hold skywatches in the forest and claim to see UFOs on a regular basis. The skeptical theories are almost as bizarre, with people variously suggesting that the highly trained military witnesses actually saw the lights of a police car, or the beam from the local lighthouse. “Lighthouses don’t fly”, Charles Halt observed, incredulously. More rational skeptical theories include the testing of some sort of prototype aircraft, but the bottom line is that while at any given time there are things being developed that you won’t see at the Farnborough air show for 10 or 15 years, we know where we fly our own hardware. The ‘black projects’ theory doesn’t fly.
The initial United States Air Force report to the MOD was obtained by American UFO researchers in 1983, under the Freedom of Information Act. But it was not until 2001 that the rest of the file came to light. Georgina Bruni had requested a number of documents on the incident under the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information – the forerunner to Britain’s Freedom of Information Act. She had also enlisted the help of former Chief of the Defence Staff Lord Hill-Norton – himself a firm believer in UFOs. The MOD, despite what conspiracy theorists allege, is committed to open government and was happy to release the file. It can now be viewed in entirety on the MOD website. In the league tables of FOI requests, questions about UFOs are near the top. The MOD and the National Archives are bombarded with requests about UFOs but have a rolling programme of disclosure. These are the real X-Files and they are being released.
On the 25th anniversary of this UFO encounter came and went, creating a tremendous interest in the incident. UFO enthusiasts are planned an anniversary vigil. The Forestry Commission – about eight years ago created a ‘UFO Trail’ in the forest – even planed a commemorative event. Several television documentaries were made and there’s even talk of a Hollywood movie. But after 25 years, despite the wealth of documentation that has emerged and despite the testimony of the witnesses themselves, we are no nearer to knowing what happened in Rendlesham Forest. The truth is still out there…somewhere!
|Forest clearing in the UFO Trailat Rendlesham Forest, and today, the forest looks quite different. At the start of the UFO trail, there is a large triangular shaped metal information board that features a map of the forest, clearly marking the UFO trail giving a basic account of what reportedly happened in 1980, although the initial sighting date is erroneous.Of course, there is no tangible evidence today that a UFO was ever on the ground – no debris can be found, apart from some remnant broken tree tops. However, as this article points out, all we can do is piece together from the existing known transcripts and recordings, taken at the time, an intriguing picture from what has been disclosed. But the question remains, “What hasn’t been?”www.rendlesham-incident.co.ukwww.wikipedia.com|
I recently sought and obtained a commission from the Ministry of Defence’s magazine, “Focus,” to write a feature on UFOs. In particular, I wanted to get across to the military and civil service readership some information about the Rendlesham Forest UFO incident of 1980. Dubbed ‘Britain’s Roswell’, this is the UK’s most significant UFO event that has sometimes been misrepresented as the “sighting of lights.” In fact, as the United States Air Force witness statements make clear, the security police personnel saw a metallic craft with strange symbols on the hull. Focus magazine ran this section of the article with very minor editorial changes:
The Ministry of Defence’s UFO Project has its roots in a study commissioned in 1950 by the MOD’s then Chief Scientific Adviser, the great radar scientist Sir Henry Tizard. As a result of his insistence that UFO sightings should not be dismissed without some form of proper scientific study, the Department set up arguably the most marvelously-named committee in the history of the civil service, the Flying Saucer Working Party. The committee’s conclusions were skeptical; UFO sightings were misidentifications of ordinary objects, or hoaxes. They recommended no further action. But in 1952 there was a series of high-profile events where UFOs were tracked on radar and seen by RAF pilots, and this forced the MOD to think again. UFO sightings were to be collated and sent to the Department for investigation, so that a determination could be made as to whether anything of any defence significance might have occurred. Since then, over 10,000 UFO reports have been received. From 1991 to 1994 I worked in the department responsible for this bizarre subject. It was among the most fascinating of my postings in 20 years in the Department.
Most UFO sightings received by the MOD had prosaic explanations: aircraft lights, weather balloons, meteors, airships, etc. But in all of this, a small percentage looked more interesting and one case in particular stood out. This was the so-called Rendlesham Forest incident. Last December saw the 25th anniversary of what is universally accepted as Britain’s most famous UFO sighting. There was extensive media coverage of this bizarre anniversary, a commemorative Boxing Day event organised by the Forestry Commission at the site of their ‘UFO Trail’, and several unofficial ‘skywatches’ where UFO enthusiasts came together to mark the event, swap stories, and generally stand around getting extremely cold. So why the interest? What happened in the forest all those years ago and why is it still generating so much interest?
Rendlesham Forest lies between the twin bases of RAF Bentwaters and RAF Woodbridge in Suffolk. In 1980 both facilities were operated by the United States Air Force (USAF). The Cold War was still decidedly frosty. The Solidarity Movement was taking hold in Poland and Soviet forces were building up on the border. It was against this background that a strange series of incidents occurred.
In the early hours of 26 December 1980 military personnel at the twin bases saw strange lights in the forest. At first they thought an aircraft might have crashed, so they went out to investigate. What they found was not a crashed aircraft, but what they could only categorise as a UFO. Nearby farm animals were going into a frenzy. One of the security police officers got close enough to touch the side of the object. He and another of the airmen present attached a sketch of the craft to their official USAF witness statements. One of these sketches even details the strange symbols seen on the craft’s hull, which the witness likened to Egyptian hieroglyphs. “I wish I’d had my weapon, because I felt totally defenceless,” one of the young airmen, John Burroughs, subsequently remarked.
Two nights later the UFO returned. The Deputy Base Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Halt, was informed and went out into the forest to investigate. He too saw the UFO, which at one point fired beams of light down at his party and at the Woodbridge facility. “Here I am, a senior official who routinely denies this sort of thing and diligently works to debunk them, and I’m involved in the middle of something I can’t explain”, he subsequently commented.
The MOD’s investigation included an inconclusive search for radar evidence that might have corroborated what was seen. Of far more interest, however, was an assessment of radiation readings that had been taken from the landing site with a Geiger counter. The readings had peaked in three holes in the ground which formed the shape of an equilateral triangle, as if the UFO had landed on a tripod of some sort. The Defence Intelligence Staff stated that the readings seemed “significantly higher than the average background.” Their report suggested that the radiation level was around seven times what would have been expected for the area concerned.
There are various skeptical theories for what was seen, the most prevalent one being that the various witnesses were somehow misled by the beam from Orfordness lighthouse, shining through the trees. “If the USAF really are capable of hallucinations induced by a lighthouse which must surely be familiar to them, then I shudder for that powerful finger which lies upon so many triggers,” remarked Ralph Noyes, a former MOD Under Secretary who took a close interest in the case after his retirement. Charles Halt’s reaction to the theory was blunter. “Lighthouses don’t fly,” he said. Ralph Noyes was not the only senior figure to take an interest in the case. Former Chief of the Defence Staff Lord Hill-Norton corresponded with the Department extensively about the incident, and tabled a number of Parliamentary Questions in the House of Lords.
Many UFO researchers believe that information about UFOs is being covered up. They see a vast conspiracy to keep the truth from the public. Nothing could be further from the truth. Requests concerning UFOs are among the most frequently submitted under the Freedom of Information Act and the MOD has made great efforts to be as helpful as possible. Information has been made available under the Publication Scheme, in the FOI ‘Reading Room’ and at the National Archives in Kew. The entire file of the Rendlesham Forest incident has been scanned in and is available on the MOD’s website.
The official position is that these events were of no defence significance, but the Rendlesham Forest UFO incident remains unexplained to this date. I hope that we have some answers before the 50th anniversary of one of the most extraordinary incidents ever investigated by the MOD.
The Rendlesham Files Reviewed
Ever since Georgina Bruni first broke the story concerning the release of MOD documents on the Rendlesham Forest incident, I’ve found myself on the receiving end of numerous questions concerning the papers: Did they prove that in my previous statements on the case I’d withheld information from UFOlogists? Was I implicated in a cover-up? Had I seen all of the papers? Had I been involved in the decision to release them? Skeptics and believers alike trawled through my previous comments on the case, and I found myself quoted, misquoted and selectively quoted. Everyone, so it seemed, had an opinion or an agenda. But what was the truth? In this article I’ll address all these issues and offer a personal view on what is already proving to be the biggest and most significant urological story in many years.
I should first pay tribute to Lord Hill-Norton and Georgina Bruni, whose tireless efforts over the last few years have culminated in the release of these documents. Whether you’re a skeptic or a believer, anyone with a genuine interest in UFOlogy should applaud the hard work that these two dedicated individuals have done, in their quest for the truth.
I will not go into a detailed summary or analysis of the documents themselves, because this has already been done by Georgina Bruni in her comprehensive article in the September edition of UFO Magazine, and in the various newspaper, television and radio interviews that she carried out after having broken the story. Instead, I’ll confine myself to observations based on my personal involvement with this case.
Are The Documents Genuine?
The first point I should make is that the documents are genuine. Readers may think this goes without saying, but I disagree. UFOlogists are well-used to debates about whether documents are genuine or bogus, the MJ-12 papers being a case in point. I can confirm that there are no question marks over the provenance of the Rendlesham documents. I say this for two reasons: firstly, I’ve seen the covering letter from the MOD under which these documents were released to Georgina, and know that it’s genuine. Secondly, and on a far more personal level, I recognise most of the papers from my time in Sec(AS). Indeed, I wrote some of them! (But more on that subject later.)
How Many Files?
Another point worth making is that the papers do not come exclusively from one file. Some people are already talking about “The Rendlesham File”, but this is misleading. In fact, the papers come from two main files, D/DS8/10/209 and D/Sec(AS)/12/2/1. The first of these was a general file on which miscellaneous UFO briefs, reports and correspondence were placed. There were seven “parts” to this file (i.e. different folders bearing the same reference, designated parts A to G). Generally speaking, a part should be closed when it contains one hundred enclosures or when it becomes over an inch thick, although this doesn’t always happen. Initially, papers on the Rendlesham Forest incident were placed on this general file, which explains why “E109” is written on the top right hand corner of Charles Halt’s memorandum, as opposed to E1 as one might expect.
It was only in 1982 that a discrete file on the Rendlesham Forest incident was opened, but as late as 1983, papers were still being incorrectly placed on the general file. To further complicate matters, DS8 ceased to exist in 1985 and was replaced by Sec(AS), following a major reorganisation of the MOD. The files were re-titled accordingly. Therefore although the MOD’s discrete Rendlesham file (D/Sec(AS)12/12/1) bears the date of October 1982 in the top left hand corner, as the date it was opened, Sec(AS) did not exist in 1982!
More Observations Concerning the Files
There’s another point about the front cover of the file (reproduced on page 10 of last month’s magazine) that’s worth making. The phrase “S/R 2025” means that the scheduled review date of the file was to have been 2025. This stems from the so-called 30-year rule which is a key part of the Public Record Acts of 1958 and 1967, and tells us that the Rendlesham Forest file was closed in 1994. Indeed, just about the final paper on the file was a 1994 briefing that I prepared for the MOD Press Office, which was passed to the makers of a Central TV documentary. I subsequently appeared in this programme as an official MOD spokesperson, giving the “no defence significance” party line, both in relation to the Rendlesham Forest incident and the UFO phenomenon more generally.
The final observation concerning the file cover relates to the “Sent Out Date” of 1/11/00 (i.e. sent out to the secretariat, at their request, from the Records Management division commonly referred to within the MOD as “Archives”). Georgina Bruni has pointed out that this is exactly the time when the MOD asked her publishers to supply the Department with an advance copy of her book You Can’t Tell The People, prior to its circulation to Defence Ministers and other senior MOD personnel. There are certain things that I can’t say about this and about the release of the documents, but I should make it clear that I no longer have any official MOD role in relation to the subject, and was in no way involved in the decision to release the documents.
These detailed comments about the files are doubtless difficult to follow, but I think it’s important to set out some information concerning the way in which MOD files are opened, managed, closed and archived. If it’s any consolation, I’ve worked for the MOD for over 16 years now and I still find this sort of thing confusing! Conspiracy theorists are driven to distraction by the complexities of the MOD filing system, but what they often see as evidence of a cover-up is generally only proof of civil service bureaucracy. On this, the Skeptics and I agree.
The Role of the Secretariat
The MOD documents completely demolish one enduring ufological myth, which is the theory that DS8 and its successor Sec(AS) acted only as a “shop window”, dealing with public sightings and correspondence only, while military UFO sightings were investigated by shadowy branches that carried out secret research which those in the secretariat had no need to know, and no security clearance to see. I’ve always said that this was nonsense, and I’m pleased that the files now prove I’m right. They clearly show that the secretariat acts as the lead department and tasks various specialist divisions to check points of detail relating to their specific areas of expertise. So if anything, these specialist branches have a subordinate role to the secretariat. It was curious that a handful of believers and Skeptics found some common ground here and seemed genuinely to believe that Sec(AS) were somehow “out of the loop”, acting as little more than a public relations office that carried out low level clerical tasks. The newly released documents set the record straight on this point.
Do I Remember All These Documents?
This is almost impossible for me to answer, given that I last saw the various UFO files over seven years ago. I’m very suspicious when people claim perfect recollection of official documents, years after their involvement. While I recognise most of them, I can’t swear that I recall every single one. Similarly, I’m pretty sure that I recall other Rendlesham documents that aren’t yet in the public domain. I’m trying to recall the details of these, but again I’m not sure about this and obviously couldn’t talk about such matters anyway, at least until an official decision to release them has been made.
Although most of the Rendlesham Forest documents that the MOD could locate have been released, five have been withheld because of exemptions to the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information. But aside from these withheld documents is the entirely separate issue of documents that were never on any of the files in the first place. As an example, I’m virtually certain that the individual statements taken or allegedly taken from key USAF witnesses Burroughs, Penniston, Cabansag, Buran and Chandler weren’t on any of the files I saw. I’m pretty sure this means they were never passed to the MOD, although I can’t be sure on this point. The photographs taken by Master Sergeant Ray Gulyas the morning after the first incident (showing Captain Mike Verrano and PC Brian Creswell examining the landing site) were also almost certainly never forwarded. I definitely didn’t see them during my time in Sec(AS).
This may sound a bit vague, but I’m being asked to recall specific details of work I did seven years ago, when the Rendlesham Forest incident was already thirteen years in the past. It’s not an easy task.
The Defence Intelligence Staff
Some of the released documents are from the Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS) and this brings me to a difficult area. It will be no great surprise to those with knowledge of the MOD that where I’ve previously referred to “specialist divisions” assisting me with UFO work, this included the DIS. The documents make it abundantly clear that with regard to Rendlesham, DS8 and the DIS worked hand in hand, freely sharing data in the course of the investigation. This certainly reflects what happened during my tour of duty in Sec(AS), from 1991 to 1994, when I would routinely liaise with these personnel, sharing data and ideas. But for reasons that I’m sure will be obvious, this was an area of my work that I could never previously have discussed with the media or the public. It’s an area where I still can’t be wholly forthcoming, and where not everything that happens is written up on files. I don’t mean this to sound conspiratorial, and please don’t think that I’m hinting at a cover-up, because I’m not. I’m simply trying to explain that the MOD and the military do business in a way that few outsiders understand.
Now some DIS UFO documents have been released, I can confirm the basic fact of my involvement with this part of the Department. But before they were released I could say nothing at all about such matters, and my original silence on the joint DS8/DIS/RAF investigation in the immediate aftermath of the incident is being interpreted as proof that either I wasn’t aware of this work or that I’d helped cover it up. Anyone who knows anything about intelligence matters and the Official Secrets Act must realise that I had to follow the party line here and not discuss any aspect of the case that wasn’t yet in the public domain. The idea that I’d be able to casually discuss such matters during interviews with UFOlogists is farcical.
The Radiation Readings
I want now to offer some views on two key aspects of the case that have been further highlighted by the released documents. The first is the issue of the radiation readings taken at the landing site by Staff Sergeant Munro Nevilles, on the orders of Charles Halt. When I re-opened the investigation into the Rendlesham Forest incident in 1994 I contacted Giles Cowling at the Defence Radiological Protection Service (DRPS) and asked that he provide Sec(AS) with an assessment of the radiation readings recorded in Halt’s memo. This assessment was that the readings were ten times what would be expected for the area concerned. As I was subsequently to discover, this assessment was broadly similar to the original assessment from the DIS, which I hadn’t seen at the time. Writing on 23 February 1981 R C Horscroft, ADI/DI52 said “The value of 0.1 milliroentgens (mr), I assume that this is per hour, seems significantly higher than the average background of about 0.015 mr.”
Some questions have been raised about the readings in Halt’s memo. Maybe the dial was misread, and maybe the needle was waving around so much that an accurate measurement was impossible. Well, all I can say to that is “maybe.” But any official assessment has to be based on the data received. It’s also been pointed out that the equipment used was not designed for the task. Short of suggesting that the USAF have a piece of kit designed specifically to measure radiation from UFOs, I’m not sure how to deal with such comments. Of course the equipment wasn’t designed for such a task, so of course it wasn’t ideal. But one can only use the equipment available, so again, we can only analyse the data we have, not the data we’d like to have.
I’ve previously assured people that the radiation at the landing site would have posed no danger to Halt and his team, or to those who subsequently visited the location. Various Skeptics have tried to spin this comment into my saying that the radiation readings were low. What I actually said is that they were comparatively low and therefore harmless. They are, however, as both the DIS and DRPS assessments make clear, significantly higher than would have expected. But as I’ve patiently explained to the likes of Ian Ridpath and Professor Frank Close, even this is not the key point. The key point is that the readings peaked in the three depressions in the ground, in the centre of the triangle formed by these depressions, and on the side of one of the trees facing the landing site. In any proper analysis of this, one has to go back to the raw data, and that means looking again at Halt’s memo and the new transcript of Halt’s tape that Georgina Bruni includes in her book, You Can’t Tell The People. On this latter point, another interesting question is what happened to the various soil and sap samples that Halt had his team collect?
The Radar Evidence
The second area where I want to offer some views based on my personal MOD experience relates to the radar data. Radar is not infallible, and in chapter 4 of Open Skies, Closed Minds I explained some of the reasons why a blip on a radar screen does not necessarily indicate the presence of an object. As examples, problems can occur in certain meteorological conditions and when two radar systems interfere with each other; and as with most technology, some bits of kit are more temperamental than others! Georgina Bruni’s interview with former RAF radar operator Nigel Kerr (see pages 39 and 40 of You Can’t Tell The People) covered what happened when personnel in the Bentwaters tower contacted Eastern Radar at RAF Watton, explaining that they could see unidentified lights over the base. On checking his radar screen Kerr noticed a blip that stayed for three or four sweeps before disappearing. Such returns are not uncommon, and in themselves mean nothing. But again, the Skeptics miss the point, which is that the return was seen at exactly the same time and in exactly the same location as the unidentified light seen in the sky by military personnel at Bentwaters.
In her analysis of the documents Georgina Bruni drew attention to several questions that arise from the files, including the following:
Why did General Gabriel (Commander-in-Chief, United States Air Forces in Europe) visit Bentwaters early in 1981, so soon after his official visit on 3 December 1980, and why does it seem that both Gordon Williams and Donald Moreland were unaware of the visit?
Who handed General Gabriel the tape recordings of Charles Halt’s encounter, was any other material handed over, and what subsequent analysis and investigation was carried out by USAFE? And if the tape recording in the public domain is only an edited extract of Halt’s recordings, what’s happened to the rest of it?
Was the DI52 offer to follow-up their initial assessment of the radiation readings taken up? If it was, was a site visit made, and what conclusions were reached? If the offer wasn’t followed-up, what was the reason, given the DI52 view that the readings were “significantly higher than the average background”?
With the release of the Rendlesham files Georgina Bruni has achieved a significant breakthrough for UFOlogy. She’s following up the questions detailed in the previous paragraph with various MOD, RAF and USAF contacts, and I know that other researchers have built upon her work and are making their own enquiries. Stand by for further revelations.
The Rendlesham documents reveal important facts about the case, and will have given fresh encouragement to UFOlogists as they seek to explain Britain’s most famous UFO mystery. There’s still much work to be done, but now so many of the official papers have been released, further investigation should be easier. The incident itself may be over twenty years old, but the trail is far from cold. As for where this trail will lead, time will tell.