In Depth

Rendlesham Forest: did UFO really land in Suffolk?

US veteran claims to have new evidence to verify 1980 UFO landing dubbed 'Britain's Roswell'

A former US Air Force commander claims to have gathered new evidence that proves a UFO landed in Rendlesham Forest, near a US airbase in Suffolk, in 1980.

Colonel Charles Halt, 75, says the new evidence from radar tachnicians contradicts official reports from the time and suggests "there was something of a cover up", reports the BBC.

The Rendlesham Forest incident remains Britain's "most tantalising sighting", says the Daily Telegraph, and has been dubbed 'Britain's Roswell' after the 1947 "flying disk" crash in the town of Roswell, New Mexico.

The incident accounted for almost half of all UFO inquiries from the public to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in the UK, according to a 2013 report. But Dr David Clarke, senior journalism lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, told the Telegraph that the chances of finding out what really happened at 'Britain's Roswell' were slim. 

"It is the one case that is outstanding, from all the sightings going back 40 or 50 years," he said. "There is no way you will be able to get to the truth of what happened because like a snowball rolling down the hill, the stories have been more and more embellished."

What happened in Rendlesham Forest?

On 26 December 1980 a security patrol at RAF Woodbridge – used by the US Air Force during the Cold War – saw lights descending into Rendlesham Forest. Two servicemen on patrol, John Burroughs and James Penniston, went to investigate what they thought was a downed aircraft, but instead saw a glowing object, metallic in appearance, with coloured lights. But when local police later arrived at the scene, officers reported that the only lights they could see were from Orford Ness lighthouse, some way away from Rendlesham Forest.

Weeks later, Colonel Charles Halt, deputy-commander at the base, wrote a memo to the MoD in which he described the incident. He said the patrolmen had seen an object "hovering or on legs" and that as they approached the object it moved through the trees and disappeared. "At this time the animals on a nearby farm went into a frenzy," he wrote. Halt said that he had personally seen three depressions in the ground where the object had been sighted, as well as "three star-like objects... moving rapidly in sharp angular movements" in the sky. The MoD investigation into the incident at the time declared that the case posed no threat to national security and as such was of no defence interest.  

What do people believe happened?

In the three decades since the incident there have been many theories about the origin of what was seen in Rendlesham Forest. Colonel Halt insists the incident was a genuine UFO sighting and that there has subsequently been a military cover-up, while the MoD has repeatedly contended that it investigated the claims but found there to be no threat to the UK.

Both Penniston and Burroughs collaborated on a 2014 book with former Ministry of Defence employee Nick Pope, in which they claim the object they encountered “transmitted a long binary code by electronic telepathy" to Penniston's brain. According to the book, the code apparently suggests that time travellers from Suffolk in the year 8100 have been attempting to make contact with the past through the use of UFOs and “complex pictures in English fields".

Those sceptical of the claims have found evidence to suggest the incident may have been a misinterpretations of nocturnal lights. Ian Ridpath, a former journalist, who reported on the case for the BBC and The Guardian, has set up a website dedicated to the incident, on which he claims: “I know that the first sighting coincided with the burn-up in the atmosphere of an exceptionally bright meteor, and that the airmen who saw the flashing UFO between the pine trees were looking straight at the Orford Ness lighthouse."

What new evidence has been gathered?

Colonel Halt's new claims are based on information he has gathered from radar technicians situated at nearby RAF Bentwaters at the time. Halt told the BBC: "I have confirmation that [Bentwaters radar operators]... saw the object go across their 60 mile scope in two or three seconds, thousands of miles an hour, they watched it and observed it go into the forest where we were." Halt explained the delay in releasing the evidence, saying that the technicians were only willing to disclose this information once they had retired.

The Daily Mirror reports that Colonel Halt recently told a UFO conference: "There is no doubt in my mind we are not alone and there are some people [in power] who know this, but even Mr [Barack] Obama won't get through to them."

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