Rendlesham: Ministry of Defence officer reveals all about UFO claims
- Credit: Archant
Never mind ‘Britain’s Roswell’, the mystery that unfolded in a forest clearing near the Suffolk coast in late December 1980 has become the most significant UFO case in history, according to a former government investigator.
Nick Pope spent three years as the Ministry of Defence’s UFO desk officer between 1991 and 1994. Since then, one series of events has remained for him a constant source of intrigue, resulting in the publication of a new book Encounter in Rendlesham Forest - written with US airmen John Burroughs and Jim Penniston.
Now an author and UFO commentator, Mr Pope contends that what the two servicemen witnessed at the East Gate of RAF Woodbridge was a controlled landing and take-off, “not just lights in the sky”.
He also ridicules popular claims that the apparition was caused by the glow of Orfordness Lighthouse, and disagrees with speculation of a nuclear mishap which was covered up.
Despite a classified UK intelligence study revealing “several observers were probably exposed to UAP (Unidentified Aerial Phenomena) radiation”, Mr Pope says the US government will not acknowledge that the incident occurred.
Now based in California, he said: “When I joined the MoD’s UFO project, it soon became clear that Rendlesham was the single case that was still generating not just public interest, but also interest from the media, and indeed Parliament.
“I went through all the theories in great detail. I have no agenda in writing this book, except for trying to help John (Burroughs) and Jim (Penniston) unlock their medical records, which they have faced trouble obtaining. These two main witnesses have health issues which they attribute to radiation from the UFO.
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“If British intelligence suggest they were irradiated, maybe there is something to say what kind of radiation.
“We have determined that John and Jim’s military medical records are locked in a closed section of the Department of Veterans Affairs - somewhere normally reserved for the records of intelligence agents.
“I think Jim and John have been vindicated by some of the things we have turned up. They feel very bruised by how they have been treated over the years.”
Mr Pope thinks that the key to solving the mystery may lie in what he believes was vital evidence removed from the airbase and flown to Germany by a USAF general.
The material in the book is largely based on government documents obtained under the US Freedom of Information Act, or released as part of the UK government’s declassification of UFO files.
But Mr Pope says that some UK intelligence files relating to the incident were “inadvertently destroyed”, but added: “Maybe there is someone out there with a smoking gun and maybe it will turn up.
“The book does not conclude it was extra terrestrial or that it was time travellers. We drew no definitive conclusion. It would have been dishonest to push our own theory. Previous authors had an answer before they had an investigation. We had no such approach.
“However, we are able to eliminate theories like the lighthouse or a nuclear accident cover story.
“In a sense it’s frustrating that we went through all the theories - sceptical and exotic - and can’t accurately say what it was. It’s still a mystery.
“I think this case is better than Roswell. It’s crazy for the UFO community to say Roswell is its flagship case. Rendlesham has displaced it.”
Nick Pope on Orfordness Lighthouse:
“I have been to the forest half a dozen times and satisfied myself that, from the places witnesses saw the UFO, it’s clear the lighthouse is not visible.
“More generally, it simply doesn’t fit from the description - particularly from the testimony of Colonel Halt (a witness who gave taped evidence following the second night of sightings) - that one of the ways they estimated the position of the UFO was by taking a bearing off the lighthouse.
“One of the most compelling things - and a factor which comes up in other UFO incidents - is the narrow beam of light was directed at the feet of the deputy base commander and his team, and into the weapons storage area.”
Nick Pope on ‘Missing evidence’:
“In 1967, defence ministers made a decision that all UFO files be made public - but we found that some files at the MoD were “inadvertently destroyed”. Worse than that, the destruction slip, which would have explained why they were destroyed, was itself destroyed.
“A key document that did survive, dated February 16, 1981, revealed that immediately after the incident, a senior USAF general flew into Bentwaters, was briefed on the incident and took items relating to the investigation back to his headquarters in Germany. The significance of this seems to have been lost over the years.
“The American government’s public position is that they haven’t investigated UFOs since 1969, when Project Blue Book was terminated. If that’s the case, why on earth did this happen?
“I think the missing link could be the file that must have been drawn up by General Gabriel, who flew back from having been briefed about the incident.
“We know he took various documents and the audio recording known as the Halt Tape. We know defence intelligence staff assessed radiation levels as significantly higher than background levels. We spoke to the disaster preparedness officer who went back to the clearing and discovered that the trees facing the landing site were scorched. That physical evidence must have gone back with the General.”
Nick Pope on the Cold War contention:
“Another idea we looked at was this being some sort of exotic test of guard force response. More extreme theories include the existence of holographic technology that can project anything from an alien invasion to the second coming - arguably an extremely useful weapon to cause a base to lay down its weapons and flee.
“As I’m still bound by the Official Secrets Act, and Jim and John are bound by a secrecy oath. Ours is the only book that required security clearance from the British and American government. Both governments are still, of course, extremely sensitive over the nuclear issue. The US stance is to neither confirm nor deny the presence of nuclear weapons.
“Some historians think we came closer to World War Three in December 1980 than perhaps has been acknowledged. The Rendlesham Incident played out over this period of great uncertainty.”