I travelled to Rendlesham Forest in Suffolk yesterday to reopen the investigation into Britain’s most famous UFO sighting – with the men who saw it 30 years ago.
Former US airmen John Burroughs and Jim Penniston are still angry about what they believe was a cover-up of the most compelling evidence yet of extraterrestrial visitors.
In the early hours of Boxing Day, 1980, the pair were on guard when they spotted strange lights in the forest, between US air bases Bentwaters and Woodbridge.
Thinking an aircraft might have crashed, they went to investigate. In a small clearing they encountered a triangular-shaped UFO. Jim, who got close enough to touch it, described weird symbols like Egyptian hieroglyphs on the craft’s side.
As they watched, the UFO started to rise before shooting off at an incredible rate. Jim wrote in his notebook: “Speed: Impossible.”
It was to be the first of a series of sightings.
Two nights later Lieutenant Colonel Charles Halt, deputy base commander at Bentwaters, was at an awards ceremony when a young officer burst in and told him “It’s back”. He quickly gathered a team and retraced John and Jim’s path to the clearing. There his men used a Geiger counter to take radiation readings. The levels were eight times higher than normal.
As the team continued into the forest, their radios malfunctioned and their powerful searchlights cut out.
Then they saw it. The UFO was back. Lt Col Halt later said: “Here I am, a senior official who routinely denies and debunks this sort of thing, in the middle of something I can’t explain.” He was carrying a hand-held tape player and you can hear the men’s fear: “It’s coming this way… it looks like an eye winking, it almost burns your eyes… he’s coming… ”
At this point the UFO fired a beam of light just feet from the group before firing more beams across the air bases.
Sceptics have since blamed a burning truck of manure, flashing lights of a police car and even a beam from a lighthouse at nearby Orford Ness.
But witnesses insist the claims are part of a government whitewash. There have been allegations of attempts at brainwashing, hypnosis and even “truth serums”.
For John and Jim, the search for evidence continues – but they vow they will uncover the truth.
Jim said: “Thirty years of misinformation must end.”
IT’S known as Britain’s very own Roswell – a story that has left many scratching their head and searching for answers in the night sky.
In December 1980 strange lights were seen by US Air Force personnel posted to the twin bases of RAF Bentwaters and Woodbridge.
To this day they have never been explained – although it has spawned a variety of theories and attracted worldwide interest.
Tomorrow a selection of leading experts will be on hand at Woodbridge Community Hall for a 30th Anniversary Conference.
It starts at 6pm and speakers will include eye-witnesses John Burroughs and Jim Penniston, who will talk for the very first time about what they saw, former Ministry of Defence employee Nick Pope and Emmy award winning documentary maker Linda Moulton-Howe.
Also on the bill is US based investigative writer Peter Robbins, whose book, Left at East Gate, which he co-wrote with eye witness Larry Warren, is a best seller.
Mr Robbins, 64, who has been staying with friends in Knodishall, near Leiston, spent almost a decade researching the incident, pouring over military reports and collating eye witness accounts.
He said: “I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. Initially Larry had given me a challenge – prove me wrong. “My starting agenda was the truth and wherever it took me. I didn’t care if it embarrassed me or him. It became an obsession.”
He said he is convinced the sightings were something out of this world and not a number of other theories such as lights from a police car, a meteor shower, a piece from an American space capsule or a physiological operation to test how military personnel would respond when confronted with something unexplained.
“It does seem to be something genuinely unusual,” he said. “When you hear audio from that night the fear in those men’s voices, that can’t be replicated by even the most gifted actor.
“I followed strict reasoning and research and in my opinion is was intelligence from parts unknown.
“But to claim to know why they were here is the height of intellectual arrogance. How can one truly know?”
Mr Robbins said he was looking forward to speaking at the conference, which is raising money for East Anglia’s Children’s Hospice’s Treehouse Appeal.
“It is very exciting,” he said. “We are all very proud we have been asked to attend and to help raise money for this worthy cause.”
To mark the 30th anniversary the East Anglian Daily Times has teamed up with BBC Radio Suffolk to try to explain the incident in an investigation called Rendlesham Revealed.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I had the privilege of reading an advanced copy of Gerry Huntman’s YA novel “Guardian of the Sky Realms” earlier this month. Gerry is not only my good friend but also my editor at IFWG Publishing. Despite the fact that fantasy is not normally my preferred reading, with the exception of J.R.R Tolkien’s timeless tales, I loved reading this wonderfully crafted tale. Well done my friend and congratulations. Sky Realms has been a long time coming…