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The two year investigation of the Howden Moor incident has taken many twists and turns in the pursuit of an explanation which can take into account all the many and varied facts which have subsequently come to light. The involvement of the military, initially denied, but confirmed with reluctance in the House of Commons one year later, is of crucial importance in the interpretation of what really happened that night. However, until the Ministry of Defence decide to open their files and reveal the exact sequence of events which occurred we are forced to draw conclusions based upon the evidence of eye-witnesses and that of the emergency services provided by the police log of events.
This leads us to four firm conclusions which follow:
1. There clearly was a military exercise taking place centred upon the Peak District that night, one phase of which (now officially admitted) is timed from 7.30-9.30pm, when the RAF claim all their aircraft were safely grounded and accounted for. However, the evidence from both witnesses in Derbyshire and South Yorkshire and the sonic booms recorded by the BGS suggest a covert part of this operation continued after the “booked” operation had been officially completed. Many more aircraft were involved in this exercise than has been officially admitted, as is clear from the 13 low-flying complaints lodged with the RAF on March 24 from widely separated areas of the British coastline. It is clear that a formation of Tornado aircraft travelled across the Peak District on a southeast to northwest flightpath between 9.45 and 10pm, coinciding with the first of two sonic booms recorded 12 minutes apart from the Sheffield area.
2. At least three groups of observers reported sightings of UFO-type phenomena during the course of the evening of March 24. These were the reports from 7.40 pm in Barnsley (uncorroborated), a second shortly before 10pm by a single observer in Dronfield, Derbyshire., and a third by a single witness in Stannington, Sheffield, who saw what she described as a cigar-shaped object. The proximity in time and space to the sightings seconds later in Bolsterstone of a low-flying aircraft suggests this latter observation was a misperception of a airplane flying at low altitude with an unfamiliar light configuration, as was suggested by a number of witnesses in the Bolsterstone area. Much has been made of these sightings by the ETH believers, to whom “triangle UFOs” have become an article of faith in their beliefs. However, when they are examined in context of the sightings of military aircraft quite clearly taking part in a low-flying operation after the fall of darkness, it becomes clear that the “triangles” are misperceived aircraft taking part in this exercise. These were almost certainly Tornado fighter/bombers, delta-winged Jaguar aircraft, and other smaller training craft.
3. The most specific evidence connecting the Howden Moors incident with the military are the sonic events recorded by the British Geological Survey at precisely 9.52 and 10.06 pm on the evening of March 24. The MOD have claimed they “have no record” of RAF or NATO aircraft causing these sonic booms, which were recorded in the Sheffield area by three separate seismograph stations in the case of the later event. However, the BGS clearly state that the explosions “could only have been caused by a military aircraft reaching supersonic speed.” Breaches of the sound barrier above land are clearly a serious offence which could result in a Military Police investigation and/or a court martial. In addition, the explosions which were recorded played a large part in the decision by South Yorkshire Police to launch a major air and land search which it is estimated cost the taxpayer in excess of £50,000. Evidence from some police sources and the statement of a senior manager atYorkshire Water suggests the RAF did admit responsibility at a later stage in the search operation. However, so far the MOD have refused to discuss whether any investigation was initiated as a result of the Howden Moor incident, and continue to deny any connection between the sonic events and the exercise which they maintain was completed by 9.30pm that night.
4. Coincidental to the military operation, it is clear from the evidence of the eyewitnesses and the police log that at least one, possibly two, light civilian aircraft were operating in the sky above north Sheffield, and northeast Derbyshire, both before and after the events which triggered the search and rescue operation, coinciding with the second sonic boom. One of these fixed-wing, propeller driven aircraft was recorded on camcorder video by witnesses in northern Sheffield shortly after 10.30pm that night, and despite a police investigation the pilot and airfield involved has never been identified. It is clear also that a second, and somewhat larger fixed wing aircraft, followed a flightpath across the north of the city shortly after 10pm, flying east to west along the Ewden Valley at an altitude below 500 feet and disappeared in a northwesterly direction over the Midhope Moors towards the Howden Reservoir. A light aircraft could not accelerate to supersonic speed, therefore there must have been two aircraft in the same area at that time. It follows therefore that the aircraft reported in the vicinity of Bolsterstone that night must have been either a civilian aircraft flying illegally in breach of CAA regulations and having filed no flightpath, or a military aircraft which was playing a role in the covert military operation which was clearly ongoing that evening.
The author thanks the following for their help and advice throughout the course of this investigation:
Police: Superintendent Christine Wallace, Det Insp Christine Wallace,
Insp Andy Howard, Inspector Jack Clarkson, PC Mick Hague, PRO Gillian
Birdsall, Graham. “The Night of the Phoenix,”
UFO Magazine, May/June 1997, pp.8-11, 58-59.
Copyright 2000 by David Clarke & Martin Jeffrey