: The British “Roswell”
Disclaimer: This is a LONG post....
Early in the morning, around 2-3am, on December 26th or 27th (military documentation and police documentation conflict, due to it being a late
night/early morning event), 1980, one of the most important events in UFO history occurred.
Radar at RAF (Royal Air Force) Watton in Norfolk, England, reportedly picked up an “uncorrelated target” that then vanished from radar in the area
of Rendlesham Forest in Suffolk. According to reports, the same target was also tracked by radar at the RAF/USAF (US Air Force) Bentwaters base as
well, also in the area of the forest. While the MoD disputes such radar contacts in officially released documents, the events that follow are not in
This event went unknown to the public, until Robert Todd, a member of CAUS (Citizens Against UFO Secrecy) obtained an officially released report of
the incident under the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act). This report was dated January 13th, 1981, and was sent to the British Ministry of Defence
(MoD) by Lt. Col. Charles Halt, the Deputy Base Commander at RAF/USAF Woodbridge, which is just across the forest from Bentwaters.
On 13 January l981 Colonel Halt officially reported the matter to London at the request of Squadron Leader Donald Moreland, who acted as liaison
between the landlord MoD and their USAF tenants. Although Moreland personally saw nothing, he had every confidence in the men who did and sent a note
fully endorsing Halt's memo to the MoD. (Jenny Randles)
Colonel Charles Halt (left) and Tech Sgt. Jim Penniston (Woodbridge Security Supervisor)
Halt’s FOIA-released Report:
From the report: (my notes inserted in brackets)
1. Early in the morning of 27 Dec 80 (approximately 0300L), two USAF security police patrolmen [Airman First Class John Burroughs and Staff Sgt. Bud
Steffans] saw unusual lights outside the back [East] gate at RAF Woodbridge. Thinking an aircraft might have crashed or been forced down, they called
for permission to go outside the gate to investigate. The on duty flight chief responded and allowed three patrolmen [now including Penniston] to
proceed on foot. 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 meters across the base and approximately two meters high. It illuminated the entire forest
with a white light. the object itself had a pulsating red light on top and a bank(s) of blue lights underneath. The object was hovering or on three
legs. As the patrolmen approached the object, it maneuvered 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
One of the men, the above pictured Tech Sgt. Penniston, would remark later, “The air was filled with electricity. You could feel it on your skin as
we approached the object… On the upper left side of the craft, was an inscription. It measured six inches high, of symbols. They looked familiar,
but I couldn't ascertain why.” More of his testimony: (Images inserted by me)
"I got to within 10 feet of the craft and the clearing where it sat. I estimated it to be about three meters tall and about three meters wide at the
base. No landing gear was apparent, but it seemed like she was on fixed legs. I moved a little closer. I had already taken all 36 pictures on my roll
of film. I walked around the craft, and finally, I walked right up to the craft. I noticed the fabric of the shell was more like a smooth, opaque,
black glass. The bluish lights went from black to gray to blue. I was pretty much confused at that point. I kept trying to put this in some kind of
frame of reference, trying to find some logical explanation as to what this was and what was going on. It was dead silent. No animals were even making
"On the smooth exterior shell there was writing of some kind, but I couldn't quite distinguish it, so I moved up to it. It was three-inch lettering,
rather symbols that stretched for the length of two feet, maybe a little more. I touched the symbols, and I could feel the shapes as if they were
inscribed or etched or engraved, like a diamond cut on glass."
More refined version:
"At that point, I backed away from the craft, because the light was starting to get brighter. Still, there was no sound. There was no physical
contact with any kind of life form, but there did seem to be a life presence. It was mechanical, this ship, and it seemed to be under intelligent
"The next thing I knew, I was standing about 20 feet away from the craft with Burroughs, who I thought I had left back near the tree line. The craft
moved up off the ground, about three feet, still with absolutely no sound. It started to move slowly, weaving back through the trees at a very slow
pace, maybe a half a foot per second. It took about a couple of minutes for it to manuever itself back to a distance of about 100 to 150 feet, then it
rose up just over the trees, about 200 feet high. There was a momentary pause -- and then literally with the blink of an eye it was gone. All with
no sound. That still boggles my mind."
"We thought it had left, but then both Airman Burroughs and I saw the same array of colored lights maybe a half mile away. So we pursued it, trying
to follow its course as best we could on foot. We only got about 300 yards into the woods before we turned around. We still had no radio contact,
which I thought was strange. We weren't even getting squelch. We went back to the clearing. There, Airman Burroughs noticed the impression, the
indentations in the ground. We found three of them, all triangular in shape, each about three meters apart. Then I decided we should head back."
"I had dropped my film off at the base lab for developing, but I never got them back. I never saw them. I was just told that they didn't turn
out. I didn't understand that but was not in a position to push the issue. The cameras we carried in our vehicles were good ones, used to
photograph people on the perimeter. We were under a high terrorist threat at the time with the Irish Republican Army (IRA), another terrorist group
known as Black September, and some others, so we used them frequently as part of our patrol."
(a real-audio file is available here too)
All as published as a Special Report in Omni magazine, by A.J.S. Rayl
Many civilian witnesses also witnessed lights in the area at the time. These accounts are in numerous books on the incident, but I’ll include one
here just as a minor example:
Local UFOlogists, Brenda Butler and Dot Street, later found many witnesses in surrounding villages to the lights that Burroughs had reported over the
forest. The Webb family, returning from a Boxing Night party on the road through the forest, observed floating lights and had time to slow their car
to a stop, eliminating one theory since proposed for this UFO: a short duration meteor (or Satellite rocket) that astronomers had witnessed in the sky
around this time. (Jenny Randles)
A remarkable sighting to be sure, and by military personnel and civilians alike. Local constables were called to investigate also (as it was
technically on British soil), but by the time they arrived, there was nothing else to see. (this is confirmed by released MoD documents, see Appendix
A) Since they are available from other researchers, I’ll try to include photos of the areas in question, when able, so that we have an idea what
the men were seeing as we go through the account.
Following (photos) are from David Rudiak’s site: roswellproof.homestead.com...
Here’s the overview of the area: (this image is to see the areas in question during each step of the incident)
Aerial Map denoting the area: (from Skeptic Ian Ridpath)
" target='_blank' class='tabOff'/>
Here is a daylight view showing the vantage point of the witnesses: (first taken in 1981 (by Burroughs), the second in 2002 (Rudiak)) from the East
gate. (area 2 on the map)
The farm clearing: (Ridpath)
Needless to say, the skeptics cannot account for how light from the lighthouse could be identified as a triangular, metallic craft…but we’ll
discuss the lighthouse later.
Halt’s report then continues, as they investigate the area of the sighting the next day.
From the report:
2. The next day, three depressions 1 1/2" deep and 7" in diameter were found where the object had been sighted on the ground. The following
night the area was checked for radiation. Beta/Gamma readings of 0.1 milliroentgens were recorded with peak readings in the three depressions
and near the center of the triangle formed by the depressions. A nearby tree had moderate (.05 - .07) readings on the side of the tree toward the
(Marked as Landing site first night (Penniston) on the map)
Now we have physical evidence cited, and scientific readings taken and logged of the encounter site, as stated by the military officers involved.
Halt insists that the event be logged in the security log.
Base commander, Colonel Ted Conrad, who had an awards speech to give at the party, ordered his deputy, Lt Colonel Charles Halt to gather a team and
sort out the matter once and for all. Halt duly collected a tape machine to take notes in the dark woods , and took a small group of men,
including Englund, an officer from the disaster preparedness team and a base photographer, to prepare for a nocturnal investigation. Gas-powered
“lightall” searchlights were taken with them, but these constantly malfunctioned near to the “suspected landing site”. (Jenny Randles,
His report continues, as strange events continued to occur in the area.
From the report:
3. Later in the night a red sun-like 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 10° off the horizon. The objects moved rapidly in
sharp angular movements and displayed red, green and blue lights. The objects to the north appeared to be elliptical through an 8 - 12 power lens.
They then turned to full circles. The objects to the north remained in the sky for an hour or more. The object to the south was visible for two or
three hours and beamed down a stream of light from time to time. Numerous individuals, including the undersigned [Halt], witnessed the activities in
paragraphs 2 and 3.
Portions of these tapes can be heard here: (as obtained by the Sci Fi Channel, so I'll include their notes on this as well)
Exclusive: The Halt Tape
In 1984, a copy of what became known as the "Halt Tape" fell into the hands of researchers. (Released by a US Major who had held the tape since the
event-(Randles)) Unfortunately, because of static and the fact that the tape had been dubbed on an old machine, much of its background conversations
could not be discerned.
SCI FI has now acquired the original recording, which documents Lt. Colonel Halt (USAF) and his patrol investigating a UFO sighting in Rendlesham
Forest in December 1980. This tape not only reveals much more of the background conversations but features names that could not be heard on the
poor-quality 1984 dub. Below are five excerpts from the 17-minute-and-52-second recording, and a brief introduction to the material by UFO researcher
Georgina Bruni, author of You Can't Tell the People.
(You'll nead Real Player for these)
Lt. Col. Halt's Tape
Sgt. Bustunza Assistance Request
Residual Energy Discussion
Lt. Co. Halt on Barnyard Noise
Transcripts can also be found here:
LT COLONEL HALT: We just bumped into the first light that we’ve
We’re about a 150 -200 yards from the site. Everything else is
just deathly calm. There’s no doubt about it, there’s some kind
of strange flashing red light ahead.
SGT NEVILLES: Yeah, It’s yellow.
LT COLONEL HALT: I saw a yellow tinge in it too. Weird. It
appears to be making a little bit this way?
SGT NEVILLES: Yes sir
LT COLONEL HALT: It’s brighter than it has been........It’s
coming this way. It’s definitely coming this way.
MASTER SERGEANT BALL: Pieces are shooting off.
LT COLONEL HALT: Pieces of it are shooting off.
MASTER SERGEANT BALL: at about 11 o clock..... [referring to its
LT COLONEL HALT: There’s no doubt about it; this is weird.
MASTER SGT BALL: Look to the left
SGT NEVILLES: There’s two lights. One light to the right and one
light to the left.
LT COLONEL HALT: Keep your flash light off. There’s something
very very strange. Check the headset out see if it gets any
stronger. Give us....
SGT NEVILLES: OK, I have an indication that this is a vague
reading too (reading for radiation)
LT COLONEL HALT: A vague reading?
SGT NEVILLES: The cable has been removed
LT COLONEL HALT: OK.. pieces are falling off it again
MASTER SERGEANT BALL: It just moved to the right...went off to
LT COLONEL HALT: Yeah ....strange, Auh.
LT ENGLUND: Went off to the right.
LT COLONEL HALT: Strange. Ahhh. One again left. Let’s approach
the edge of the woods at that point. Can we do without lights?
Let’s do it carefully, come on.. OK we’re looking at the thing,
we’re probably about 2-3 hundred yards away. It looks like an
eye winking at you, it’s still moving from side to side and when
we put the starscope on it, it’s sorta a hollow centre right, a
dark centre, it’s....
LT ENGLUND: It’s like a pupil...
LT COLONEL HALT: It’s like the pupil of an eye looking at you,
winking . ....and the flash is so bright to the starscope, that
err.... it almost burns your eye.
LT COLONEL HALT: 2.44: We’re at the far side of the farmers, the
second farmers field and made sighting again about 110 degrees.
This looks clear out to the coast. It’s right on the horizon.
Moves about a bit and flashes from time to time. Still steady
and red in colour. Also, after negative readings in the field,
we’re picking up slight readings 4-5 clicks now on the meter.
Break in tape
LT COLONEL HALT: 3.05: We see strange err, strobe like flashes
to the err ... almost sporadic, but there’s definitely something
there, some kind of phenomena. 3.05: At about err..10 degrees
horizon err directly north, we got two strange objects,
err..half moon shape, dancing about with coloured lights on
them. but err. it has to be about 5-10 miles out, maybe less.
The half moons have now turned into full circles as though there
was an eclipse or something there for a minute or two.
Break in tape
LT COLONEL HALT: 3.15: Now we’ve got an object about ten degrees
SGT NEVILLES: There’s one to the left
LT COLONEL HALT: 10 degrees off the horizon, and the ones to the
north are moving, one’s moving away from us.
SGT NEVILLES: It’s moving out fast
LT COLONEL HALT: They’re moving out fast.
MASTER SGT BALL: There’s one on the right heading away too.
LT COLONEL HALT: Yeah, they’re both heading north. Hey, here he
comes from the south; he’s coming in toward us now.
MASTER SERGEANT BALL: #
LT COLONEL HALT: Now were observing what appears to be a beam
coming down to the ground.
[Excited shouting in the background]
MASTER SGT BALL: Look at the colours...#
LT COLONEL HALT: This is unreal
Break in tape
LT COLONEL HALT: 3.30: And the objects are still in the sky,
although the one to the south looks like it’s loosing a little
bit of altitude. We’re turning around and heading back toward
the base. The object to the sou...the object to the south is
still beaming down lights to the ground.
Halt also knows others at the base witnessed the objects, as he confirmed to Rayl, from Omni Magazine:
"We knew that, because we could hear the chatter on the
radio", and he estimates that between 30 and 40 personnel stationed
around the dual base complex witnessed these events.
Though not involved in the second incident, Penniston was then interrogated again (the first interrogation was immediately after the encounter, and it
was fairly cordial as this one was).
"After that incident, however, I was directed to report to OSI [Office of Special Investigations] at 0900 in the morning. I met with a couple of
agents, whom I had known because they had an office on the base. They debriefed me for about an hour and a half about the incident. It was an oral
debriefing where I basically just told them what had happened, and they seemed quite content with the information that I provided them at the time.
They seemed to have no problem with the fact that I had seen a craft. And, of course, there was no evidence, hard evidence, or so they thought.
I did not tell them at this point that I had approached the craft, touched the craft, but I did tell them about the photos I had taken. But all
this was, in their minds, I think, another unconfirmed UFO sighting, though the term `UFO' was not used -- by them or me. I think they felt assured
at this point that containment was going to be maintained and that there was not going to be a problem. Damage control was at a minimum, and I think
they felt that at that point they had met their objective. (Special Report, Omni)
One of the most startling things to come out, involved hypnosis sessions that Penniston reluctantly agreed to, to see if more facts could be
gleaned… He tells of being interrogated by two other agents (not remembered consciously), who seem to already know what he saw…
During the second hypnotic regression, the psychologist takes Penniston back to the debriefing by two Office of Special Investigation (OSI) agents,
and he recounts the scene and events just as he recalled them consciously. But then, according to Penniston's memory under hypnosis, those two
agents leave the room and two other officials, one American and one with a British accent, come into the room and ask Penniston to again
recount the story. They ask him, he says, if he would mind being given a shot of something and then telling his story again while they
tape-record it. Penniston agrees, "if that's what it takes." But he also tells his interrogators that he doesn't like shots.
In a dramatic and striking scene on the videotape, Penniston lifts his arm for a shot of sodium penthathol and the agents question him repeatedly
about the trajectory of the craft, its speed and approach. Penniston calmly repeats over and over that he did not see any of that, that the craft was
already on the ground when he saw it.
The interrogation continues, and Penniston answers the officials' questions about the craft itself and the symbols he found on one side. He recalls
the two agents talking to themselves, saying there was "no point in going further," that they knew what had happened and now the question was how to
contain the situation. "They know about what I've seen. They knew it already," Penniston says under hypnosis.
The most often cited explanation of skeptics for this event is almost too absurd to even mention. They assert that these officers saw the lighthouse
beacon of Orford Ness Lighthouse. There are some serious problems with the lighthouse theory. First and foremost of course, how does one mistake a
lighthouse for a triangular craft? Then of course, there are the more tangible problems…such as the fact that a light-blocking shield pretty much
directs the majority of light out to the water (go figure?
The other problem is of course that any light that does make it’s way behind the lighthouse, then has to go through a mile of other forest and
terrain, in order to be seen by the men. Also, it wouldn’t fit the witness descriptions of light colors, actions, etc. Then there is the question
of the physical evidence of the landing sites. Finally, we’re left with the fact that such a misidentification never took place before or since,
and surely the men would have realized a repeat performance if the lighthouse was the culprit…
The Orford Ness Lighthouse:
Indeed, as Nick Pope (UFOlogist and former Ministry of Defence, 1991-1994) states:
The sceptics clearly disagree, returning to the theory that all the UFO sightings were misidentifications of the Orford Ness lighthouse or the
Shipwash Lightship, or even of stars, and that the indentations in the clearing were caused by burrowing rabbits! When I met Charles Halt he was
dismissive of this, and confirmed that he and other witnesses were familiar with the lighthouse, which was indeed visible as an entirely separate
object for some time during his actual UFO sighting. Furthermore, as he explained on the Strange But True documentary on the case, “A lighthouse
doesn’t move through the forest; the lighthouse doesn’t go up and down, it doesn’t explode, doesn’t change shape, size – doesn’t send down
beams of light from the sky”.
Another claim the skeptics were quick to seize on, was when a claimant came forward that he was responsible for perpetrating a prank that led to the
incident, named Kevin Conde.
Kevin Conde, Former USAF Security Policeman
One interesting utterance that a puzzled Halt gives on the tape recording is, "The red, white and blue lights of the UFO are still hovering over
But former USAF Security Policemen, Kevin Conde, has exclusively revealed that these lights were the result of a practical joke he played on the
Conde says, "I drove my patrol car out of sight from the gatehouse, turned on the red and blue emergency lights and pointed white flashlights through
the mist into the air."
"The bottom line is that, that was not a UFO it was a 1979 Plymouth Volare!" explains a bemused Conde.
There are of course, even more problems with this explanation. In fact, there are so many discrepancies, that it is hard to see where to even
begin…. In this case, an author of arguably the best book on the subject, has done this admirably…Georgina Bruni, author of “You Can’t Tell
1. Conde can't recall the date of his alleged prank. If this is
so then how can he claim he was responsible for the 1980
2. Conde says there was fog on the night in question, but there
was no fog during any of the incidents that week.
3. He says he played his loudspeaker, but the UFOs were silent.
4. The car he used for the prank was a 'battered 1979 Plymouth
Volare.' Let us not forget that incident took place in 1980,
which means the so called battered police vehicle would have
been less than a year old at that time.
5. Conde claims he played the prank on the taxiway! The incident
did NOT take place on or near the taxiway, but inside the
forest. And let us not forget that the UFO was first seen
falling into the forest, which prompted those at the East Gate,
John Burroughs and his sergeant, Bud Steffans, to think it was a
downed aircraft. The lights, of course, were not going up into
the sky, but were falling down from the sky.
6. Conde says he was unaware of the Rendlesham mystery until he
looked up his old base on a US military website. If this is the
case then how could he claim that as far as he was aware they
found nothing above background [radiation] levels?
7. USAF personnel usually work in pairs when patrolling the base
in vehicles. I'm assuming he was patrolling the base, and if so
then he most likely would have had a partner that night. Who was
that person and why has Conde failed to mention him?
8. When asked about the metallic spacecraft and [ground]
depressions Conde pointed out that a large helicopter had landed
the previous night, apparently with three landing skids. Conde
obviously hasn't seen the USAF photographs of the landing site
showing the three ground indentations being examined by a
British police officer and USAF Captain Mike Verano.
Some have even suggested that perhaps the re-entry of a Soviet satellite, Cosmos 749 (or more accurately, the upper stage of it’s carrier rocket),
was to blame for the sighting. Even skeptics dismiss this however, including one of the most avid Rendlesham skeptics, Ian Ridpath, “Although the
Cosmos 749 re-entry sparked a rash of UFO sightings that were reported on radio that night and could well have put the airmen at RAF Woodbridge on
"UFO alert", there is no evidence to suggest that it had any other connection with the later events in Rendlesham Forest.”
Again though, such an event fails to explain things observed such as beams of light shooting to the ground from observed craft, landing indents,
damage to the treetops, etc. The bottom line is that we’re left with sightings by numerous military officers, of landed unidentified, and
unfamiliar craft, exhibiting capabilities beyond those of known craft. Official documentation exists, even documentation of physical evidence, done
by the military themselves.
The Ministry of Defence states that they could find no explanation for the phenomena described, and are of “no defence significance.”
They have also officially released documents regarding the incident. (see appendix A).
So, an American officer reports seeing a craft land on British soil. The account is seen as highly credible. Trace evidence is found of the landing.
And yet this isn’t deemed as of “defence significance”? Given such logic, I assume that the touchdown of a Soviet chopper in Rendlesham
wouldn’t be considered of “defence significance” either… Even the official MoD stance is that they simply don’t know what happened, and all
they have to go is Halt’s report. Some officials even blindly accepted the lighthouse explanation, despite the evidence to the contrary. All in
all, it remains a highly substantial account.
The MoD documents can be found here: (I’ve indicated some interesting pages, the rest are usually the standard MoD line, that unless it is deemed a
defence risk, they don’t investigate UFOs.)
(Page 12 is especially entertaining, as it is by none other than Nick Pope, during his tenure at the MoD, hehe…when he was on the other side of the
fence, so to speak)
(Page 17 is especially illuminating, as a Squadron Leader D J Coumbe replies that the films (taken by Penniston and another airman, thus confirming
this part of the story), were “faulty”)
(Page 18 confirms that the commander of the Bentwaters base likewise saw the unidentified lights of the second sighting.)
(Page 3 (also page 34) is a letter allegedly sent to a UFO researcher that the MoD claims is false (and it likely is, as the witnesses do not report
(Page 17 appears to be a reply from the RAF, in response to MoD official, Pam J Titchmarsh’s questions. (I say appears because of the blacked out
names, but the inference is pretty clear) However, it confirms the involvement of the Suffolk Constables, though they didn’t see anything after
they arrived some time after the initial sighting. They record the response as being 4:11am on Dec. 26th. Since it was late night/early morning,
it’s hard to know whether or not the event took place on the 26th or 27th, as one of the two (Constables or Halt) are in error, but of course this
is likely due to the fact that many view such early morning times as still being the same day.)
(Page 14 is interesting. It’s a letter from Pam J Titchmarsh (MoD) to Wing Commander J Davies of the RAF. “In addition, I would be grateful to
know whether the USAF would be willing for me to say that they did investigate the incident
”. It also points to the idea of censoring the
PS-I'm still trying to see if I can find the USAF pics taken during their investigation (as cited by numerous researchers). I suspect they are only
in print form, so I'll add such pics if/when I find them.
[edit on 1-5-2005 by Gazrok]