Ex-Ministry of Defence UFO investigator lifts lid on Britain's most famous 'alien encounter'

TODAY marks the 40th anniversary of the UK’s most sensational UFO encounter. 

Here, a former Ministry of Defence UFO investigator lifts the lid on the case that has been called Britain’s Roswell Incident.

IT was in the early hours of December 26, 1980, that three men from the US Air Force security police based at RAF Woodbridge, Suffolk, saw the strange flashing lights.

Coming from beyond the perimeter fence, in Rendlesham Forest, they figured an aircraft might have crashed. They drove out to investigate and help. 

As the track narrowed, they continued on foot. 

They were walking into history.

John Burroughs and Jim Penniston advanced into a small clearing, brightly lit by the strange lights. As they got closer, they realised it was not a crashed aircraft — it was a landed UFO.

The object was triangular, ten feet wide at the base, looked like a cross between a small stealth fighter and a lunar landing module, and was resting on three legs.

The only way into the clearing for a vehicle was from above.

Penniston was trained in aircraft recognition and this was like nothing he had ever seen. Symbols on the side looked like Egyptian hieroglyphs.

He took photos but was later told they did not come out. But he sketched the craft too, and his drawing has survived. He also took notes. The craft took off vertically and he wrote: “Speed — impossible.”

Two nights later the UFO returned and the witnesses then included the deputy base commander, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Halt. A sceptic, he led a team into the forest when he was told the UFO had come back. 


He recorded his observations on a cassette. It makes eerie listening as Halt catches sight of the UFO and says: “It’s definitely coming this way . . . pieces of it are shooting off . . . this is weird.” 

Then the UFO appeared overhead and fired a thin beam of light in front of them. 

Shocked Halt later asked himself: “Was this a weapon, was this a warning, was this communication?”

Later the UFO was seen firing light beams into a storage area, where many claim — though this was never confirmed — that nuclear weapons were kept.

In 2015, Colonel Halt, who has pursued the case, acquired statements from two military radar operators, Ike Barker and Jim Carey. 

They confirmed the UFO was tracked, travelling at thousands of miles an hour then stopping over the base.

“It wasn’t like any radar target I have seen,” Barker said. 

Halt concluded that the craft, “was clearly under intelligent control”. 

Radioactivity at the site was said to be, “significantly higher than the average background”. 

Defence chiefs conspired to keep the incident secret. 

But in 1983 the News of The World printed details.

Then Lord Hill-Norton, formerly Britain’s most senior military officer, asked a series of questions about the incident in Parliament.

He stated that either the deputy commander of an operational, nuclear-armed Nato base was hallucinating — or there had been a UFO landing.

The second establishment figure to break ranks was former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. She was at a charity function in 1997 with the socialite Georgina Bruni, who had a long-standing interest in UFOs. 

Bruni asked Baroness Thatcher about UFOs and Rendlesham and she replied: “You must have the facts and you can’t tell the people.” Bruni believed Thatcher had been spooked by a secret about UFOs.

Burroughs and Penniston later reported health issues they put down to the sighting. 


In 2006 the MoD declassified a top-secret assessment of the UFO phenomenon, code-named Project Condign. I helped set up the study and, although I am still bound by the Official Secrets Act, because the study had been released to the National Archives I was able to point the witnesses to a bombshell quote from the final report. It stated that, “several observers were probably exposed to UAP radiation for longer than normal UAP-sighting periods”.

This was passed to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, and a confidential settlement was agreed with at least one witness. UAP stands for Unidentified Aerial Phenomena — the term governments, the military and intelligence community use for UFOs. 

In August the Pentagon set up a UAP task force, following demands from the powerful Senate Intelligence Committee. The US also has a secret research branch called AATIP (Advanced Aerospace Threat Identi- fication Program) tasked with working out the secrets of UFO technology.

In the past few days the former head of Israel’s space programme, Haim Eshed, claimed aliens had negotiated a secret deal with the US government and had stepped in at the last moment to prevent President Trump from revealing the truth. 

With the 40th anniversary of the Rendlesham Forest incident, many believe we are on the verge of revelations that could change our world for ever.

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