A SPATE of UFO sightings in Wales prompted a secret Ministry of Defence investigation, newly-released information has revealed.
The clamour around the possibility of “little green men” visiting Pembrokeshire forced Government officials to look into the situation in the late 1970s.
There were numerous tabloid reports, including one of an entire class of schoolchildren claiming to have seen a UFO landing.
Many others reported being petrified by a strange silver alien.
It all happened in what became known as the Broad Haven Triangle.
Canny tourist operators even started running UFO sighting weekends.
But new documents show despite publicly dismissing the reports as hoaxes, defence experts were racing to get answers.
In a letter from May 1977, MoD minister Dr John Gilbert MP tells officials in the department, “I am being inundated at the present time with representations about UFOs said to have been seen in Pembrokeshire.”
He asks whether any investigations are being carried out.
A reply tells the minister, “We look into detailed reports of unexplained phenomena to see if they have a bearing on the national defences.”
But they reassured we were not in danger of alien takeover, saying, “My department has carried out that type of investigation on the reports received from Wales, but these have been few in recent months.
“No evidence has been revealed to suggest that the alleged sightings in Wales, or indeed those reported from other parts of Great Britain in the past, contained anything of significance from a defence point of view.
“All I can tell you on the basis of the department’s past experience, is that most reports of this nature can usually be referred to a commonplace object, which may have been observed perhaps from an unusual angle or in somewhat unusual weather or lighting conditions.”
However, unbeknown to the minister, the RAF in West Wales was asked to carry out a “discreet” investigation.
An extract of a private memorandum to the Provost and Security Service of the RAF, (effectively the military police), reads, “I should be grateful if you would have a look at these papers and let me know whether you think some sort of discreet inquiry would be worthwhile.
“What I would really like to know is the volume of local interest and/or alarm, and whether there is a readily discernible rational explanation for it (perhaps a practical joker), or even whether there is prima facie evidence for a more serious specialist enquiry.
“But I have not committed you in any way, and I have not even told the minister I am consulting you.”
The report called for has yet to be released.
Sheffield University’s folklore lecturer Dr David Clarke, who uncovered the other documents under the Freedom of Information Act, is now trying to track it down.
Dr Clarke, who is researching a book called Saucer Full of Secrets about the folklore of UFO sightings, said, “I was really surprised to find this.
“Generally the MoD dismisses these things and doesn’t take them too seriously.
“But to find they ordered an investigation behind the Minster’s back is pretty interesting.
“It’s not quite the X-Files, but it is along the same lines.”
Dr Clarke is now trying to get hold of people who were featured in what he sees as the tall tales of nearly 30 years ago.
“What I’d really like is to speak to some of the kids who apparently saw the alien craft.”
A newspaper at the time reported Broad Haven Primary School headmaster Ralph Llewellyn backing the claims of his pupils, 14 of whom had drawn similar pictures of the craft.
“What would be fantastic is to meet whoever it was wearing the alien suit,” added Dr Clarke.
“As far as I’ve been able to work out it was someone living locally, who’d got hold of a chemical suit, having a great time terrifying people.”
Page 2: UFO ‘hysteria’
Page 3: The West Wales Star Wars connection
IN 1977 the talk of Pembrokeshire was all about UFOs.
Among dozens of alleged sightings, Billy and Pauline Coombes, living at a remote farmhouse near Broad Haven, were apparently terrified to see a 7ft giant in a silver suit outside their front room window at 1am.
Josephine Hewison, meanwhile, was reported to have seen a 50ft craft the shape of an upturned jelly mould parked outside her greenhouse.
As well as pranksters, and talk of strange goings-on at local military bases, folklore expert Dr David Clarke thinks films fuel the hysteria.
“Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Star Wars had just come out, so the idea of space was very much at the front of people’s minds, which is fascinating in itself.”
Anyone with stories or recollections from the time wanting to help David’s research can get in touch on 07906 377 988.
The West Wales Star Wars connection
UFO fever in Pembrokeshire reached its zenith in the winter of 1979.
Stories leaked about a strange saucer being housed in a Pembroke Dock warehouse.
It turned out to be a life-sized copy of the Millennium Falcon, which was being created for the Star Wars sequel The Empire Strikes Back, pictured above.
About 30 people working on the project had been sworn to secrecy by producer George Lucas, and had to refer to it by its code-name Magic Roundabout.
Marcon Fabrications, which normally worked with nearby petrochemical industry, were charged with building Han Solo’s famous starship.
It was able fly millimetres off the ground on compressed air to enable it to be moved easily.
Shortly after the well-kept secret was finally exposed, the ‘spaceship’ was dismantled and taken by road to Elstree Studios where it was reassembled for the film studios in London.