Rendlesham Forest Incident
since Georgina Bruni first broke the story concerning the release of MOD
documents on the Rendlesham Forest incident, Iíve found myself on the
receiving end of numerous questions concerning the papers: Did they prove that
in my previous statements on the case Iíd 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?
Sceptics 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 Iíll address all these issues and offer a personal view on what
is already proving to be the biggest and most significant ufological story in
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 youíre a
sceptic 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
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, Iíll confine myself to observations based on my
personal involvement with this case.
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, Iíve seen the covering letter from the MOD under
which these documents were released to Georgina, and know that itís 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! More about
point worth making is that the papers do not come exclusively from one file.
Some people are already talking about ďThe Rendlesham FileĒ, 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 ďpartsĒ 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 doesnít always happen.
Initially, papers on the Rendlesham Forest incident were placed on this
general file, which explains why ďE109Ē is written on the top right hand
corner of Charles Haltís memorandum, as opposed to E1 as one might expect.
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 MODís 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!
another point about the front cover of the file (reproduced on page 10 of last
monthís magazine) thatís worth making.
The phrase ďS/R 2025Ē 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 ďno defence significanceĒ party line, both in
relation to the Rendlesham Forest incident and the UFO phenomenon more
final observation concerning the file cover relates to the ďSent Out DateĒ
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 ďArchivesĒ).
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
Canít Tell The People, prior to its circulation to Defence Ministers and
other senior MOD personnel. There
are certain things that I canít 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.
detailed comments about the files are doubtless difficult to follow, but I think
itís important to set out some information concerning the way in which MOD
files are opened, managed, closed and archived. If itís any consolation, Iíve 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 sceptics and I agree.
MOD documents completely demolish one enduring ufological myth, which is the
theory that DS8 and its successor Sec(AS) acted only as a ďshop windowĒ,
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. Iíve always said that this
was nonsense, and Iím pleased that the files now prove Iím 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 sceptics found some common
ground here and seemed genuinely to believe that Sec(AS) were somehow ďout of
the loopĒ, 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.
is almost impossible for me to answer, given that I last saw the various UFO
files over seven years ago. Iím
very suspicious when people claim perfect recollection of official documents,
years after their involvement. While
I recognise most of them, I canít swear that I recall every single one.
Similarly, Iím pretty sure that I recall other Rendlesham documents
that arenít yet in the public domain. Iím
trying to recall the details of these, but again Iím not sure about this and
obviously couldnít talk about such matters anyway, at least until an official
decision to release them has been made.
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, Iím virtually certain that the individual statements
taken or allegedly taken from key USAF witnesses Burroughs, Penniston, Cabansag,
Buran and Chandler werenít on any of the files I saw.
Iím pretty sure this means they were never passed to the MOD, although
I canít 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 didnít see them during my time in Sec(AS).
may sound a bit vague, but Iím 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. Itís not an
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 a knowledge of the MOD that where Iíve
previously referred to ďspecialist divisionsĒ 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 Iím sure will be obvious, this was an area of my work that I could never
previously have discussed with the media or the public.
Itís an area where I still canít be wholly forthcoming, and where not
everything that happens is written up on files.
I donít mean this to sound conspiratorial, and please donít think
that Iím hinting at a cover-up, because Iím not.
Iím simply trying to explain that the MOD and the military do business
in a way that few outsiders understand.
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
wasnít aware of this work or that Iíd 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 wasnít yet in the public domain.
The idea that Iíd be able to casually discuss such matters during
interviews with ufologists is farcical.
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 Haltís 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 hadnít seen at the time.
Writing on 23 February 1981 R C Horscroft, ADI/DI52 said ďThe value of
0.1 milliroentgens (mr), I assume that this is per hour, seems significantly
higher than the average background of about 0.015 mrĒ.
questions have been raised about the readings in Haltís 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 ďmaybeĒ.
But any official assessment has to be based on the data received.
Itís 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, Iím not sure how to deal with such comments.
Of course the equipment wasnít designed for such a task, so of course
it wasnít ideal. But one can only
use the equipment available, so again, we can only analyse the data we have, not
the data weíd like to have.
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 sceptics 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 Iíve
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 Haltís memo and the new transcript of Haltís tape that
Georgina Bruni includes in her book, You
Canít 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?
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 Bruniís interview with former RAF radar operator Nigel Kerr
(see pages 39 and 40 of You Canít 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 sceptics 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.
her analysis of the documents Georgina Bruni drew attention to several questions
that arise from the files, including the following:
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?
handed General Gabriel the tape recordings of Charles Haltís 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 Haltís
recordings, whatís happened to the rest of it?
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 wasnít followed-up, what was the reason, given the DI52
view that the readings were ďsignificantly higher than the average
the release of the Rendlesham files Georgina Bruni has achieved a significant
breakthrough for ufology. Sheís
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.
Rendlesham documents reveal important facts about the case, and will have given
fresh encouragement to ufologists as they seek to explain Britainís most
famous UFO mystery. Thereís 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.