From: David Clarke <cd292.nul> Date: Fri, 29 Nov 2002 17:36:55 -0000 Archived: Fri, 29 Nov 2002 10:43:02 -0500 Subject: British FOIA Rendlesham File Released Source: The Times (London) www.times.co.uk Friday, 20 November 2002 HOW UFO FEVER TAXED MEN FROM THE MINISTRY A report of alien sightings prompted floods of letters to the MoD, reports Alan Hamilton. New laws have made these public, explains Frances Gibb. While British and American defence chiefs were supposed to be keeping a watchful eye on the Soviet threat in Europe during the 1980s, they were spending an undue amount of energy dealing with little green men. The so-called Rendlesham File, now available for public inspection, is a fat catalogue of increasingly despairing correspondence between the Ministry of Defence and members of the public after the sighting of unexplained lights in Rendlesham Forest, near the RAF base at Woodbridge, Suffolk, in December 1980. The story was given wing by its detailed disclosure in the News of the World in 1983. Soon after the alleged incident, reported by the USAF deputy base commander at nearby Bentwaters, the MoD drew up an internal memo: "No evidence was found of any threat to the defence of the United Kingdom, and no further investigations were carried out. "No further information has come to light which alters our view that the sightings of these lights was of no defence significance." Nothing was picked up on radar that night, officials added, and they concluded that the airmen had confused the lights with the beam of Orford Ness lighthouse, distorted by trees, or a natural fireball. But the Ministry and the RAF were bombarded with inquiries from the public.Officials suggested that besieged officers at Bentwaters should take the line that "there was no question of any contact with alien beings." They should also dismiss rumours that the UFO story was a cover- up for the crash of an aircraft carrying nuclear material. Still the letters poured in. Two years later an increasingly short- tempered MoD was writing to one correspondent demanding a full investigation: "There is no organisation in MoD appointed soleyl for the purpose of studying reports of such objects, and no staff are employed on the subject full-time." It added: "We have to recognise that there are many strange things to be seen in the sky, but we believe there are adequate explanations for them." Things got worse as forged letters purporting to come from MoD officials began to circulate. One, apparently on Ministry notepaper, claimed that a craft of unknown origin and "crewed by several entities" had landed near Bentwaters. The entities, it went on, were about one and a half metres tall and wore nylon-coated pressure suits but no helmets. They had claw-like hands with three digits and an opposable thumb. One self-styled researcher into "cosmic conspiracy", having seen the letter, wrote to the MoD requesting further information on the craft which had landed for several hours to carry out repairs, during which time the USAF base commander had conversed with its crew. An MoD official replied tersely: "I am afraid that it is a forgery... I have no idea where it came from or why it was written and can only conclude that it was intended by someone as a joke." MPs forwarded letters from worried constituents convinced of a cover-up. One passed on by David Alton, MP, said in part: "There is clear evidence that British airspace and territory were intruded upon by an unidentified vehicle on two occasions in late December 1980, and that no authority was able to prevent this." Some correspondents continued to harry MoD until officials were driven to reply: "I suggest that there is little point in continuing this correspondence." The final letter in the fiel is dated July 1992, in which an MoD official writes to the RAF liaison officer at Bentwaters asking if the original USAF report of the sightings was genuine, "as a number of hoaxes have been circulating for years." Squadron Leader P. Rooney at Bentwaters had the last word: "I have no records on this subject and the file to which you refer has long been destroyed." WHAT AIRMEN FOUND IN THE WOODS A GRAPHIC description of the "unusual lights" that were suspected of being a UFO is described in the Rendlesham file. The lights were spotted by two USAF security police patrolmen, according to a report dated January 1981 headed "unexplained lights," written by Lieutenant Colonel Charles Halt, deputy base commander at RAF Bentwaters in Suffolk. He states: "Thinking an aircraft might have crashed or been forced down, they called for permission to go outside the gates and investigate. "The individuals reported seeing a strange glowing object in the forest. The object was described as being metallic in appearance and triangular in shape, approximately two to three metres across the base and approximately two metres high. It illuminated the entire forest with a white light. "The object itself had a pulsing red light on top and a bank of blue lights underneath. The object was hovering or on legs. The object was hovering or on legs. As the patrolmen approached the object, it manoeuvred through the trees and disappeared. At this time, the animals on a nearby farm went into a frenzy. The object was briefly sighted approximately an hour later near the back gate." The report goes on to describe the depressions found in the ground and in a tree the next day. "Later in the night, a red sun-light light was seen through the trees. It moved about and pulsed. At one point it appeared to throw off glowing particles and then broke into five separate white objects and then disappeared. "Immediately thereafter, three star-like objects were noticed in the sky, two objects to the north and one to the south, all of which were about ten degrees off the horizon." The MoD made further inquiries. No unidentified flying object had been seen on radar at the times in question nor was there any evidence of anything having intruded into British airspace. One theory, it concluded, was that what was seen was the beam of Orford Ness lighthouse, with distortions caused by its being seen through trees. But "in the absence of any hard evidence" the MoD remains open-minded about these sightings. PUBLIC'S RIGHT TO KNOW EXTENDED DETAILS about UFO sightings, clinical trials, accident investigations and Whitehall meetings will be released to the public under plans to open up government. Public access to information from government bodies is to be extended by the scrapping and amending of up to 100 pieces of legislation, the Lord Chancellor's Department announced yesterday. The changes are being made under the Freedom of Information Act which is being phased in over the next three years. >From Sunday the first tranche of hitherto secret information is released when government departments publish their own schemes of legislation which they plan to release to the public. The material will be made available immediately on departmental websites or through application by post. The Ministry of Defence achives will include information on UFOs, including the Rendlesham File about a UFO report in Suffolk in 1980. The Lord Chancellor's Department is to publish the guidance given to lawyers applying to be Queen's Counsel or judges.
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