Terry Johnson (RAF pilot) & Geoff Smythe (RAF navigator) interviewed by the BBC in the early 1950s about their sighting of an Unidentified Flying Object November 1953
Follow-up BBC feature to the 1953 sighting of a UFO by Terry Johnson (RAF pilot) and Geoff Smythe (RAF navigator) in 1953 featuring original BBC news footage.
In chapter 17 Ruppelt reveals that even after he had left Project Blue Book and the USAF, friends in RAF intelligence kept him informed about latest developments, on a private basis.
Another indication of the strong US influence on the Flying Saucer Working Party is the fact that their June 1951 final report was entitled Unidentified Flying Objects. This term had been devised by Ruppelt himself, early in 1951, but was not at the time in use outside US Government circles.
..The Flying Saucer Working Party had been dissolved in 1951 amidst a frenzy of scepticism that had clearly been fuelled by the Americans. The response that Churchill received to his 1952 enquiry showed that the sceptics still had the upper hand within the MOD. But this was soon to change.During the period 1952 to 1957 there were a series of UFO sightings involving the military, which forced the MOD to rethink and then reverse its policy. These included sightings during Operation Mainbrace in September 1952 (including those at RAF Topcliffe), the West Malling incident on 3 November 1953, Flight Lieutenant Salandin’s near-collision with a UFO on 14 October 1954, the Lakenheath/Bentwaters radar/visual sightings on 13 and 14 August 1956 and the RAF West Freugh incident on 4 April 1957.
TW: We were above Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, out
of Boscombe Down, and we got up to over 60,000 feet. It
was just after noon on a cloudless day as we set off on a
northwesterly heading when my radar picked up a target at
five miles behind pacing us like an echo. Fearing the return
of the interference problems, we switched off the system,
reset it, and did a number of internal checks. This did not
clear the target. Now we knew that something really was
following us. But that was virtually impossible at this height.
JR: Could it have been a secret flight or a spy plane?
TW: We were a secret flight and because of the importance
of our job that day we were given cleared air space. I
knew this was something important—and, of course, that it
could have been an enemy aircraft. So I clambered into the
rear gun turret to investigate. Sure enough, there was an
object trailing behind. It was round and silvery, reflecting
sunlight like a giant mirror. I told the pilot to increase speed.
Although we got to 225 knots the object stuck with us so I
recommended “a big radius turn” in order to shake it. The
object vanished from the radar now because the system was
only operating in a rearward-facing mode. However, the
object was not visually absent for long. Within moments it
was dead ahead. As we came out of the turn, we flew
towards the glinting object and closed the gap very fast. For
about 30 seconds we were on a collision course. During this
period we had a close-up view.
JR: What did it look like?
TW: It was silvery and very thin in body shape. Overall
it appeared to be a remarkably flat oval without any sign
of wings or windows and just the faintest hint of a tail fin at
The Secretary of State for Air said "The object seen on radar over London...has been traced to balloons released by the Meteorological Office..." page 58. Clarke comments "A declassified history of balloon operations by the USAF Missile Development Center in 1958 reveals that balloon launch number 175, launched from Holloman, New Mexico, on 27 October 1953, failed to drop into the Atlantic at the end of a scheduled 12 hour flight. Six days later it was this, cruising at high altitude over Kent, that was spotted by the RAF crew and which prompted flying saucer questions in Parliament " page 62.
In view of continuing allegations of official disinformation concerning UFO reports, the following may interest some readers. It is taken from Merseyside UFO Bulletin (Magonia’s predecessor), Volume 2, Number 3, May-June 1969:
The official chicanery employed to discredit the Wardle sighting probably had the West Malling incident of 1953 as its precedent. On 3 November 1953 the crew of a jet fighter saw a UFO and made a report of the incident when they landed at their base at West Malling, Kent. It was afterwards revealed that later that day a UFO had been tracked on a radar set which was being tested at Lee Green, Kent. (5) Because of the experience and qualifications of the witnesses and their descriptions of the object, their reports were taken very seriously and a question was asked in the House of Commons on 24 November 1953. The explanation given by Mr Birch, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Defence, was that two meteorological balloons were observed at different times on 3 November. The question also included a reference to a dome-shaped UFO seen over Norwich. However, this report was very detailed and could not be explained away as a balloon. (6) So Mr Birch brushed it off by saying that he was “not closely in touch with the Norwich Astronomical Society which had reported dome-shaped objects emitting lights from their domes being observed at night”, this being followed by the inevitable (Laughter.). More (Laughter.), indeed (Loud laughter.), followed when an Honourable Member asked if the Minister would agree that “this story of flying saucers is all ballooney?” The minister readily agreed that this appreciation was “very nearly correct”. (Laughter.)
UFOs, Scepticism and Disinformation. John Harney