Uncovered at last: the sightings of strange flying objects found in Britain’s ‘X-Files’
By Robert Verkaik
22 January 2005
They contain Britain’s very own X-Files: thousands of classified documents detailing credible observations of unidentified flying objects reported by RAF personnel, British Airways pilots and senior police officers.
Now under the Freedom of Information laws, files previously held by the Ministry of Defence’s special UFO department, known as SF4, are being released to the public.
Among the most credible reports of a possible visit by extraterrestrial life-forms is one made 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 MoD document adds that the RAF 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 picket 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. It registered them to be between 30 to 35 degrees before they disappeared from the screen.
The 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.”
This account was deemed so sensitive to the national interest that the MoD had delayed its release for an extra three years. But under the Freedom of Information Act, which came into force on 1 January, the file has been reviewed and declassified.
Some of the other reports are equally compelling. A British Airways Tri-Star on a return flight from Portugal in July 1976 was involved in an incident which led to the scrambling of fighter jets.
The MoD report says that the Tri-Star captain reported “four objects – two round brilliant white, two cigar-shaped” 18 miles north of Faro. The captain was so alarmed by what he and the passengers had seen that he reported the sighting to air traffic controllers at Lisbon and Heathrow. The report says that fighters were immediately scrambled from Lisbon.
Shortly afterwards another Tri-Star crew on the same flight path reported a similar unexplained sighting. This time they said there was a “bright object with two contrails” between Fatima and Faro. It remained stationary before moving north and then “changing in length”.
In another incident in the same month two Tri-Star co-pilots and five of their cabin crew reported “passing underneath a bright white circular object”.
The files also contain reports compiled by police officers of their first-hand experiences of observing UFOs. On 8 April 1977, Superintendent Cooper of West Yorkshire Police described a sighting while on duty in a patrol car in Laisterdyke. He said: “I looked to my right and through the side window of the car I saw a bright silver light. At first I thought this was a bright star. It was low in the sky, a long distance away… then I thought that this light was moving. The light was visible just over the rooftops of the houses on Ferrand Avenue at the junction with Hambledon Avenue.”
Superintendent Cooper continued to observe the object as it moved along the rooftops until the light “suddenly vanished”. He said: “The light went out and I could see nothing whatsoever in the sky where the light had been. I then contacted Operations who reported no other sightings recorded.”
MoD officers working at the UFO unit have often made reference to the credibility of the person making the reports. Observations made by former servicemen appear to be taken more seriously than others. An MoD report sent from RAF Cosford on 14 July 1976 noted that the 66-year-old woman from Wolverhampton, who claimed to have seen a “white, bar-shaped” object in the night sky, was married to a retired RAF pilot but later the report added dismissively: “He did not observe anything from his seated position.”
But the veracity of the reports is brought into question as soon as there is any suspicion of alcohol influencing the observations. Several sightings between 2 and 5 September 1977 are dismissed even though the informants are adamant they saw a “pulsating bright light, emitting a vapour trail” near Derby. The file ends: “Four witnesses had been imbibing at the local hostelry and their sightings were discounted.”
Scepticism creeps into the MoD reports if it emerges that it is not the first time a person has seen a UFO. Between 7 and 8 August 1976, a Rotherham man reported four sightings to his local radar station. The comment on the UFO file reads: “He evidently runs a UFO sightings club and has been logging UFOs for three years.”
British UFO hunters will no doubt use these sorts of comments to help support the theory that the Government has been suppressing evidence of a visit by extraterrestrial life.
However, some of the sightings strike a rather salutary note. A white, bright light that caught the attention of a woman in Tenterden in September 1977 was immediately reported to Ashford police station and her observations duly noted.
But in the MoD file, the officers find a more mundane explanation for her experience. The officers says: “She saw a long white light in the front with a flashing red light at the rear. The informant states: ‘like a jumbo jet’.”
Leading article, page 42
Chief Superintendent Hobson, Manchester Police, 3 July 3 1976
Routine traffic patrol on A62, Manchester Road: “We watched the light for about two minutes. I then followed in a police vehicle along the A62.”
Flight Lieutenant A M Wood, Corporal Torrington, SACs Hughs, Goddard and Graham, July 1977
RAF Boulmer: “Two bright objects hanging over the sea. As it manoeuvred object changed shape to become body shaped.”