UFOs - An Official History - Part 2


This world exclusive article provoked exactly the sort of debate that we expected, with all sorts of comments and questions being raised.  We thought it would be helpful to pick up on a number of these points, make some other more general observations and update readers on what is an ongoing area of research.

Secret Discreet

The Flying Saucer Working Party’s report (DSI/JTIC Report No. 7) was stamped “Secret Discreet” and a number of people have asked about this.  Secret is of course a classification, one below the highest UK classification of all, namely Top Secret.  Discreet is what is known as a caveat.  This is used in conjunction with a classification and places further restrictions or conditions on the distribution and/or release of a document.  Tellingly, given what we discovered about the US influence on the Flying Saucer Working Party, Discreet was defined as follows:

Contains classified military information of US or joint US/UK origin, which may not be passed to a third country without the permission of the US Government”.

The term is now obsolete and has been replaced by “UK/US Eyes Only”.

Anglo-American Relations

There is a popular misconception that Anglo-American relations during and after the Second World War were rosy.  As we explained in our previous article, they were not.  But with specific reference to UFOs, if the Americans did know something sensational, would they have told the British authorities?  In considering the answer to this question, it is as well to note the difficulties that arose with regard to the sharing of nuclear secrets.  The McMahon Act of 1946 precluded the US from passing technical data to any other countries, and in 1949 a British scientist, Klaus Fuchs, had confessed to having passed US nuclear secrets to the Soviets.  To what extent this had a bearing on the undoubted US influence on the Flying Saucer Working Party is unclear, but the fact that the Fuchs affair broke just before we sought US help on the UFO issue should be borne in mind.  The defection of Burgess and Maclean in May 1951 rapidly made matters worse.  This is an area of ongoing research.

M.I. 10

The first of the Top Secret DSI/JTIC minutes that were published last month listed a number of divisions that it was agreed should be represented on the Flying Saucer Working Party.  Mention was made of M.I. 10 and several people asked for details of this now defunct organisation.  M.I. 10 was a division within the War Office’s Directorate of Military Intelligence.  It had been established during the Second World War and its remit was to analyse technical intelligence from the enemy.  After the war, it continued to look at technical intelligence, but in the context of the Cold War.

DSI/JTIC Minutes

We have been asked whether there are further DSI/JTIC minutes available, aside from the three pages that were published in the last issue of the magazine.  There are.  Previously, we published those minutes relating to the setting up of the Flying Saucer Working Party and those dealing with its dissolution.  We felt that these were the most significant, and of most interest from a historical perspective.  However, there are others, relating for the most part to discussion over the precise wording of the working party’s terms of reference.  By popular demand, these additional papers are published here for the first time.

Appendix V of the Condon Report

In our previous article we cited Appendix V of the Condon Report as being one source of information concerning Professor R V Jones’ interest in UFOs.  We’ve been asked whether this is the same material as was contained in Jones’ article The Natural Philosophy of Flying Saucers (Natural Philosophy is the old term for physics) which appeared in Volume 19 of Physics Bulletin, published in July 1968.  It is indeed the same material.  For sake of completeness, we should point out that it also formed the basis of a lecture that Jones had given to the Newcastle upon Tyne Astronomical Society, on 23 November 1967.  The conclusion of this material is perhaps the best summary of Jones’ view on the UFO issue, and is worth quoting in full:

“My own position has been that if at any time in the last 20 years I had had to take a vital decision one way or the other according to whether I thought that flying saucers were fact or fantasy, Russian or extraterrestrial (why has China never been credited, by the way?); I would have taken that decision on the assumption that they were either a fantasy or an incorrect identification of a rare and unrecognised phenomenon; and while I commend any genuine search for new phenomena, little short of a tangible relic would dispel my scepticism of flying saucers”.

R V Jones’ Interest in the Unexplained

We should perhaps have made it more clear that although Jones was sceptical in his approach, he was certainly interested in all manner of mysterious phenomena.  Unlike most of his scientific colleagues, who generally dismissed the paranormal out of hand, without bothering to do any research, Jones was at least prepared to look into such matters himself.  His personal papers, held at the Churchill Archives Centre (not currently available due to a refurbishment project), show that he took an interest in subjects including the Loch Ness Monster and Uri Geller.  Although Gellar is best-known for his alleged psycho-kinetic abilities, he claims to have seen numerous UFOs, as Andrija Puharich’s book Uri makes clear.  It is Jones’ interest in UFOs that stands out from his private papers, the catalogue of which contains the sentence “Jones was very interested in reports of unexplained aerial phenomena”.  This interest lasted long after his official involvement with the subject was over, and included specific cases such as Robert Taylor’s 9 November 1979 close encounter at Livingston, Scotland.

R V Jones is a fascinating and controversial figure, whose influence on wartime and post-war policy concerning scientific intelligence cannot be overstated.  In our previous article we highlighted his links with the CIA, so we should point out that he had also been a scientific adviser to MI6.  As an interesting aside he had worked closely on SIGINT with the sister of Peter Wright (of Spycatcher fame), an intercept officer in the Wrens.  Jones’ influence on government policy concerning UFOs was immense, and one of the few UFO books to make this connection is The Missing Times, by Terry Hansen.  Graham Birdsall is currently following up some of the points raised in this book.

Adamski, Briggs, Mountbatten and Dowding

Several people were interested in Adamski’s contacts with Establishment figures and asked for further information.  Adamski’s first visit to the UK took place in April 1959 and included an appearance on Panorama, where he was interviewed together with the astronomer Patrick Moore.  Adamski’s first meeting with Lord Dowding took place during this visit when Adamski spoke at Tunbridge Wells in Kent on 21 April.  Dowding chaired the public meeting. 

Given that a major theme of our previous article was the involvement in the UFO debate of scientific figures such as Tizard, Lindemann and Jones, we should cite one bizarre anecdote from George Adamski’s final book, Flying Saucers Farewell.  In Book II, Chapter 3 he describes his visit to the UK and claims that while travelling to Weston-Super-Mare he found a man sitting in the compartment that had been reserved for him.  He writes:

To my amazement, he was a spaceman working as a scientist on projects for the British government!  He, and countless others like him, are working in various scientific projects for every government in the world”.

Adamski’s second visit to the UK took place in 1963.  It was during this visit that he met Mountbatten and Dowding in London, before travelling to Mountbatten’s Broadlands estate to see the site where Frederick Briggs (one of the Earl’s employees) had seen a UFO in 1955.  Our source for this is veteran ufologist Emily Crewe, who was present at a BBC interview Adamski gave, and at a gathering held at Desmond Leslie’s house, before the trip to Broadlands.

We are sceptical of many of Adamski’s claims and offer the above quotation as an item of historical interest only.  For us, Adamski’s significance was not so much the story he had to tell, but the way in which senior Establishment figures such as Dowding and Mountbatten were prepared to meet with him.  To what extent Adamski’s claims were believed by these and other Establishment figures remains unclear, as does the extent of any influence he may have had over them.

Scientific Intelligence

In our previous article we alluded briefly to the power struggles that had taken place between Tizard (whose concerns about UFOs led to the setting up of the Flying Saucer Working Party) and Lindemann.  We should perhaps say a little more about this and the way in which scientific intelligence as a whole was beset by such rivalries. 

The problems between Tizard and Lindemann first flared up in 1936 on the Air Defence Research Committee (ADRC), when Tizard accused Lindemann of lobbying outside committee, downplaying Tizard’s views on the importance of radar while promoting his own areas of interest (e.g. aerial mines on parachutes).  Tizard threatened to resign and the ADRC was temporarily dissolved.  When it reformed, Lindemann was not on the committee.  Tizard had won, but it was only a temporary victory, and it would be neither forgotten nor forgiven.  The bottom line was that Lindemann was a friend of Winston Churchill and became his scientific adviser in 1940, once Churchill had become Prime Minister.  When any disagreement arose over matters of scientific policy, Churchill was most likely to listen to Lindemann, who Churchill referred to as “The Prof”.  From 1940 onwards, Lindemann was in ascendancy, at least so long as Churchill remained in power.  This may be one reason why in 1952 Lindemann (by then Lord Cherwell) had the final word on Churchill’s enquiry concerning UFOs.  Once “The Prof” had assured Churchill there was nothing to worry about, the Prime Minister was content to let the matter drop.

More generally, scientists were often regarded by their civil service colleagues as eccentric and difficult to work with.  Wartime disagreements over the relative importance of specific fields or projects evolved into post-war arguments concerning the debate over how best to integrate scientific intelligence into government machinery.  These debates involved the likes of R V Jones, Edward Gollin, Charles Ellis, Professor P M S Blackett, Francis Crick, Professor David Brunt and Dr B K Blount.

One factor that explains why things became so acrimonious is the way in which scientific intelligence did not fit easily into existing military or civil service bureaucracies.  Thus it became something of a political football, caught up in the wider politics of post-war power struggles resulting from the major re-organisations that were undertaken of all government and military structures.  One key difficulty was that each of the three services wanted to retain its scientific intelligence remit, while modernisers wanted a tri-service organisation.  Jones had returned to government service in 1952, at the request of Churchill, who had asked him to address these sorts of difficulties.  But he was unable to deal with all the politics and infighting, and returned to the University of Aberdeen at the end of 1953, exasperated that these problems could not be resolved.

This is a fascinating area of research in itself and does overlap with ufology, because the difficulties over scientific intelligence took place at the time the DSI/JTIC considered the UFO issue.  Put bluntly, while the Flying Saucer Working Party was doing its work, government handling of scientific intelligence was a mess.

For those wanting to do some more general research into some of the scientific intelligence issues covered here, we recommend the following books:

 Most Secret War, by R V Jones

Top Secret Exchange, by David Zimmerman

Tizard, by R W Clark

The Rise of the Boffins, by R W Clark

The Hidden Hand, by Richard J Aldrich


We hope that this brief update has clarified a few points and expanded on some of the material covered in less detail in our last article.  The whole issue of the government’s early efforts to come to terms with the UFO phenomenon is an area of ongoing research.  It is inextricably linked to the wider issue of the way in which scientific intelligence was managed during the Second World War and, more importantly, in the Cold War.

By Nick Pope and Georgina Bruni