Ru­pert Hawk­sley

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Film -

Dubbed “Bri­tain’s Roswell”, the Rendle­sham For­est in­ci­dent, which took place in a se­cluded cor­ner of Suf­folk over three nights in De­cem­ber 1980, still fas­ci­nates UFO en­thu­si­asts and con­spir­acy the­o­rists. Only last month, a ram­bler pub­lished new footage of uniden­ti­fied lights in the sky above Rendle­sham For­est, and Daniel Simp­son, an ex­pert on the sub­ject, has re­leased a new film based on the orig­i­nal sight­ings. Al­most half of all cor­re­spon­dence di­rected to the Min­istry of De­fence about UFOs since 1980 re­lates to the in­ci­dent. There is even an of­fi­cial UFO trail for walk­ers to fol­low through Rendle­sham For­est. But what ac­tu­ally hap­pened? And, 35 years af­ter the sup­posed event, is any­one any closer to un­rav­el­ling the mys­tery? Given the num­ber of wit­nesses and writ­ten state­ments, it is easy to un­der­stand why peo­ple re­main fas­ci­nated. Con­sider these points: 1) “This was not some vague ‘lights in the sky’ sight­ing – the UFO ac­tu­ally landed.” Nick Pope, a Min­istry of De­fence em­ployee from 1985 to 2006. 2) “When I ar­rived [at the scene], it was go­ing in and out through the trees and at one stage it was hov­er­ing.” Sgt Adrian Bustinza, a United States se­cu­rity po­lice J to in­ves­ti­gate the blue, red, or­ange and white lights in the sky. In his wit­ness state­ment, pub­lished in 1981, Bur­roughs ex­plains: “As we went down the road that leads into the for­est, the lights ap­peared to stop in a bunch of trees… Also, the woods lit up and you could hear the farm an­i­mals mak­ing a lot of noises… what­ever it was started mov­ing back to­wards the open field… You could see the lights down by a farmer’s house. We climbed over the fence and started walk­ing to­ward the red and blue lights and they just dis­ap­peared.” His su­per­vi­sor, Staff Sergeant Jim Penniston, claims to have en­coun­tered a craft cov­ered in char­ac­ters sim­i­lar to hiero­glyph­ics. “I es­ti­mated it to be about three me­tres tall and about three me­tres wide at the base,” he said later. “No land­ing gear was ap­par­ent, but it seemed like it 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.” Bur­roughs does not record see­ing the craft, but in­den­ta­tions on the for­est floor, as well as dam­age to the trees in the area where the lights had been spot­ted, were found the fol­low­ing morn­ing by Bri­tish po­lice of­fi­cers. Ra­di­a­tion lev­els recorded at the site of the in­den­ta­tions were also un­usu­ally high. In the book En­counter in Rendle­sham For­est, which was pub­lished last year, Penniston writes: “I left the for­est a dif­fer­ent man… I was in awe of the tech­nol­ogy and yes, a know­ing that it was not an air­craft which could have been man­u­fac­tured in 1980 or even now.” As a re­sult of what they ex­pe­ri­enced, both Penniston and Bur­roughs have since suf­fered from post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der. The fol­low­ing night, on De­cem­ber 27, a dif­fer­ent set of US mil­i­tary per­son­nel ex­pe­ri­enced sim­i­lar events. On this oc­ca­sion, when the lights were spot­ted, Lt Col Charles Halt was pre­pared. A prag­matic char­ac­ter, Halt set out with a tape recorder hop­ing to dis­prove the wild ru­mours swirling around Wood­bridge and Bent­wa­ters. The sub­se­quent tape is now con­sid­ered a key piece of ev­i­dence. The tran­script of the tape runs to some 18 min­utes but in­cludes state­ments from Halt such as: “It’s back again… it’s com­ing this way… there’s no doubt about it… this is weird… it looks like an eye wink­ing at you… it al­most burns your eyes… we’re ob­serv­ing what ap­pears to be a beam com­ing down to the ground… [there is] one ob­ject still hov­er­ing over Wood­bridge base…”. Halt has since given in­ter­views in which he claims that, what­ever these ob­jects were, they were picked up by Bri­tish radar. By this stage, many lo­cal res­i­dents were also re­port­ing sight­ings. One web­site ded­i­cated to the in­ci­dent has col­lected a to­tal of 43 wit­ness state­ments. On De­cem­ber 28, Larry Warren, an 18-year-old mem­ber of the US Air Force se­cu­rity po­lice, who was not present at ei­ther RAF base on the night of the first in­ci­dent, was sent out on pa­trol with Sgt Adrian Bustinza and a num­ber of other mil­i­tary per­son­nel. At some time af­ter 11pm, the men left their trucks and headed to­wards the field where lights had been seen on the pre­vi­ous two nights. There, Warren claims to have seen “dis­as­ter pre­pared­ness of­fi­cers” with Geiger coun­ters, “go­ing in an al­most half-clockwise mo­tion around this thing on the ground”. A small red light was then seen ap­proach­ing from the di­rec­tion of the coast. “It was the size of [an] Amer­i­can bas­ket­ball. [It was] self­il­lu­mi­nated, not quite red, yet that’s the clos­est I can de­scribe it.” Things were about to get even stranger. This red light sud­denly ex­ploded and a craft ap­peared on the for­est floor. Ac­cord­ing to Warren, it had “no win­dows, no mark­ings, no flag or coun­try of ori­gin. Noth­ing. You could hardly look at it head on, and if you looked at it through the side of your pe­riph­eral vi­sion you’d get a shape of it... and there it was, clear as a bell.” At this stage, Warren and Bustinza were asked to re­treat by a se­nior of­fi­cer. From a dis­tance, they then claim to have seen Wing Com­man­der Gor­don Wil­liams ap­proach the craft and en­counter an “alien be­ing” with “what looked like eyes, fa­cial fea­tures, bright cloth­ing and some other de­vice”. Warren is clear that a “si­lent stand-off”, rather than any com­mu­ni­ca­tion, took place. At around 4.30am, Warren re­turned to base but Bustinza says he saw the craft de­part. “When it took off, it was, like, hov­er­ing. It went up and took off at about a 45-de­gree an­gle, and if you would have blinked, you would have missed it… And we got a cold draft of air that lasted about a good 10 sec­onds. You know, like when you get a good blow of dust or wind. No noise though; I do re­mem­ber that.” This was the fi­nal sight­ing that year. Maybe Suf­folk was sim­ply not what the aliens had en­vis­aged when they made the trip to Earth. De­spite claims of a cover-up, the MoD’s stance has never wa­vered. Though there is no de­nial, it states in the of­fi­cial re­port: “No ev­i­dence was found of any threat to the de­fence of the United King­dom, and no fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tions were car­ried out. No fur­ther in­for­ma­tion has come to light which al­ters our view that the sight­ings of these lights was of no de­fence sig­nif­i­cance.” Daniel Simp­son takes a dif­fer­ent view. The di­rec­tor of The Rendle­sham UFO In­ci­dent, a fic­tion­alised ac­count of the story set in the present and filmed on lo­ca­tion in Rendle­sham For­est, is con­vinced that ex­trater­res­trial life landed in a Suf­folk for­est in De­cem­ber 1980. “I hon­estly be­lieve some­thing very strange went on there and I be­lieve that some­where is the ev­i­dence to prove it but that’s hid­den away. I think it’s an ex­trater­res­trial en­counter. I do.” Could there pos­si­bly be another ex­pla­na­tion? In 2003, for ex­am­ple, for­mer USAF Se­cu­rity Po­lice­man, Kevin Conde, claimed the lights came from his pa­trol car. “You have to call into ques­tion the judge­ment of mil­i­tary of­fi­cers who can’t dis­tin­guish a UFO from a bank of po­lice car lights,” he said. Or­ford Ness light­house, mean­while, is just 14 miles away from Rendle­sham For­est. One of the Bri­tish po­lice of­fi­cers said at the time: “I know from per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence that...these beams were very pro­nounced and cer­tainly caused strange vis­ual ef­fects.” Simp­son bats all this away, how­ever. “The light­house the­ory is rub­bish,” he scoffs. “Light­houses don’t fly down into forests, split up into five dif­fer­ent lights and zap off into space at Mach-3. They don’t move through the trees and get mis­taken by up to 20 wit­nesses from the United States Air Force.” ‘The Rendle­sham For­est UFO In­ci­dent’ is out now on DVD

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