Author: By Steve Connor
In a letter to Michael Heseltine, Mrs Thatcher’s defence secretary at the
time, the late Lord Hill-Norton said the sightings of unidentified flying
objects in Rendelsham Forest by USAF personnel in December 1980 had “puzzling
and disquieting” features that have never been satisfactorily explained.
The letter, written on 1 May 1985 is among official government documents on
UFOs released today by the Ministry of Defence to the National Archives.
Fourteen files containing more than 4,000 pages spanning 15 years between
1981 and 1996 have been placed online.
Lord Hill-Norton’s letter covers perhaps the best-known British UFO incident
of the period when the USAF twice reported mysterious lights and a metallic
flying object in the woods at the perimeter of the base. They said a
triangular-shaped object had left radiation traces and three visible
markings in the ground.
Colonel Charles Halt, the USAF deputy base commander, who saw the lights
himself, wrote a short report on 13 January 1981, but the Ministry of
Defence denied all knowledge of the events until the colonel’s memorandum
was released in June 1983 under the US Freedom of Information Act. The MoD’s
public response was that the incident had no defence interest.
“My personal view, having considered the fragmentary but compelling
evidence brought to public knowledge by the media, is that the case cannot
be disposed of in these rather perfunctory terms,” Lord Hill-Norton
wrote. “If the report made by the USAF authorities in January 1981 is
accurate, there is evidence that British airspace and territory are
vulnerable to unwarranted intrusion to a disturbing degree.
“If, on the other hand, the report of the deputy base commander must be
dismissed … then we have evidence ? no less disturbing, I suggest ? that a
sizeable number of USAF personnel at an important base in British territory
are capable of serious misperception, the consequences of which might be
grave in military terms.”
The MoD reply repeateded that if there were sightings of unidentified flying
objects they did not have any defence significance. A “final position
statement” was prepared in 1985 by officials for the defence minister,
Lord David Trefgarne. “It is highly unlikely that any violation of UK
airspace would be heralded by such a display of lights,” the file
continues. “I think it equally unlikely that any reconnaissance or
spying activity would be announced in this way.”.
Other MoD documents released relate a UFO incident in Belgium in 1989 and 1990
when Belgian Air Force F-16 fighters were scrambled to intercept strange,
brightly-lit, triangular-shaped flying objects reported by police and
others. A statement sent to the MoD in November 1993 by General Wilfried de
Brouwer, chief of operations in the Belgian Air Staff, confirmed that the
fighters had locked-on to something with their radar but were unable to
explain what it was.
The MoD said there had been no threat to the UK and that it has never detected
a “structured craft flying in UK airspace that has remained unidentified”.
One report in the MoD file details a supposed encounter by two Staffordshire
teenagers who rushed into a police station late on 4 May 1995 claiming that
they had been stopped in a field by aliens with lemon-shaped heads who told
them, “We want you; come with us”, then vanished in a glowing-red
‘X-Files’ blamed for rise in sightings
This is the fourth instalment of files on UFOs being released by the Ministry
of Defence to the National Archives and they include details of a wide
variety of “sightings” that may owe more to Mulder and Scully,
above, than little green men.
The files contain UFO reports of 800 sightings between January 1993 and August
1996, but in 1996 alone 609 incidents were logged, three times more than all
the previous three years together.
“The large increase in numbers during 1996 may reflect increased public
awareness of UFOs and aliens due to the popularity of the TV series The X
Files and the release of the movie Independence Day,” said
David Clarke of Sheffield Hallam University, a consultant to the National
Archives on the MoD’s UFO files.
Some of the sightings had a rational explanation, such as the reports of a
brightly illuminated oval object moving slowly over London during 1993 and
1994. It was actually a Virgin airship advertising the launch of the Ford
Mondeo which as seen even by the MoD’s UFO desk officer. Another explicable
sighting was early on 31 March 1993 by police and military personnel from
RAF Cosford near Wolverhampton. More than 30 sightings of fast-moving bright
lights were reported but they were caused by the re-entry into the Earth’s
atmosphere of the Russian Cosmos 2238 satellite.
And two youths reported a UFO landing in a field at Chasetown in
Staffordshire. They told police they were hit by a blast of heat, and a face
appeared with a voice saying, “We want you; come with us.” They
panicked and fled.
Cheshire police reported an apparent alien attack in a cemetery which left a
smouldering railway sleeper with a hole burned through it. Bonnybridge in
southern Scotland became a hotspot for UFO sightings in the mid-1990s with
3,000 reports of mystery objects in the sky. A Bonnybridge councillor tried
to get the town twinned with Roswell, the New Mexico town were some people
believe an alien spacecraft crashed in 1947, a craft dismissed by the US
military as a high-altitude surveillance balloon.
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