Rendlesham: Analysis> [prev ¦ 1 ¦ 2 ¦ 3 ¦ 4 ¦ 5 ¦ 6 ¦ 7 ¦ 8 ¦ 9 ¦ next]


The Halt Tape and the US Joint Chiefs of Staff

At the end of January RAF (GE) Ops2b (RAF) again copied Halt’s memo to both Ground Environment and Defence Intelligence experts on behalf of DS8 asking “if any other department would have an interest in the attached correspondence from the USAF Deputy Base Commander at Bentwaters...we would particularly like to know whether the readings of radioactivity are unusual or whether they are within the normal background range to be expected.”

On 16 February 1981, Squadron Leader Badcock wrote back under the heading “UNEXPLAINED LIGHTS” to DS8 advising them that he had “no response” from either DI 55 or GE. He added:

“SOC/CRC Neatishead regret that the radar camera recorded was switched off at 1527Z (3.27 pm) on 29 December 1980 and an examination of the executive logs revealed no entry in respect of unusual radar returns or other unusual occurences. I have spoken with Sqn Ldr Moreland at Bentwaters and he considered the Deputy Base Commander [Halt] a sound source. I asked if the incident had been reported on the USAF net and I was advised that tape recorders of the evidence had been handed to Gen Gabriel who happened to be visiting the station. Perhaps it would be reasonable to ask if we could have tape recordings as well.”

In the event it appears that no effort was made to obtain a copy of Halt’s audio tapes because on 21 March 1983 Badcock informed DS8 that “ was considered that the tapes would reveal no better report than that already received and no further request was made [to the USAF].”

The General Gabriel named in Badcock’s note was none other than USAF General Charles A. Gabriel, the 11th chief of staff of the US Air Staff and Commander in Chief of US Air Forces in Europe at Ramstein AFB, Germany, from August 1980 to June 1982. As a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff he was a principal military advisor to the US Secretary of Defence, National Security Council and the President.

The Defence Intelligence Staff and the “radiation traces”

On 9 March 1983 - two years after the events in Rendlesham Forest - RAF (Ops) copied to DS8 two brief responses they had received from the Defence Intelligence staff at MOD.

DI 55, in a loose minute titled “UNEXPLAINED LIGHTS” and dated 2 March 1981, said they had canvassed DSTI for thoughts on Halt's report but “cannot offer any explanation for the phenomena.” DI 55 had copied DS8’s request for advice on the radioactivity to a sister branch, DI 52, who in a separate response, said they "could not offer any serious explanation for the phenomena. A defence scientist, R.C. Moorcroft at DI 52, responded on 23 February to the question on the radioactivity reported in Rendlesham forest, noted:

“Background radioactivity varies considerably due to a number of factors. The value of 0.1 milliroentgens (mr), I assume that this is per hour, seems significantly higher than the average background of about 0.015 mr. I would not expect the variation in this to be much more than a factor of two, although it might be greater for specific reasons...If you wish to pursue this further I could make enquiries as to natural background levels in the area. The way the US report is written, however, suggests that 0.1 mr was greater than they expected.”

There is no evidence in the file that DI 52’s offer to pursue the radioactivity traces further was ever followed up by DS8. However, Simon Weeden believes that officers from DI did visit Rendlesham forest to check the readings and found nothing unusual. This might explain the rumours of mysterious visitors to the forest following the incident early in 1981.

The radioactivity issue was not raised again until 1994 when Nick Pope, as Executive Officer at AS (Sec) 2a, took the matter up with Giles Cowling at the Defence Radiological Protection Service (DRPS), a branch of the Government's Defence Evaluation Research Agency (DERA). Pope’s hand-written notes of his discussion with Cowling, dated 15 April 1994, form the last enclosure in the file. They read:

“...Spoke to Giles Cowling at the Defence Radiological Protection Service, re the radiation readings recorded at the time of the Rendlesham Forest incident. 0.01 would be the general level of background radiation, so the 0.1 recording is about 10 times what would be normal...However, military radiation detectors are geared for high-level readings, so low-level readings may be difficult to record accurately, as the scale with be small at the bottom of the meter (especially if the needle was fluctuating). We don’t have the details of what instrument was used. It is just possible to hoax such an event. A university lab might well have some radioactive source with a very short half-life, and could use it so as to give readings, which would not be recorded a few days later.”

Pope - who subsequently described these notes as “the first and only official investigation into this aspect of the case” - ends his note with the comment “The level of 0.1 is completely harmless.”

In 1998 Ian Ridpath made enquiries with the UK Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) and established that the geiger counter used by Halt’s men, a PDR 27, was not calibrated for environmental monitoring at background levels. Ian also pointed out that 0.1 mr was the peak value found by Halt’s men and the average reading was much lower than this, as the tape recording makes clear. When presented with the conclusions of the NRPB Giles Cowling told Ridpath:

“ my original discussions with Mr Pope I did indeed state that the readings were around 10 times normal background levels, provided that the instrument was appropriate for measuring background radiation [our emphasis] (at the time of our discussions he did not know what the instrument was), calibrated and being used correctly. I share the NRPB view that the use of a high range survey instrument to measure (accurately) environmental levels of radiation is somewhat questionable and this must throw some doubt on the validity of the data reported.”

Strangely, in the light of his own hand-written reservations in 1994, by 1996 in his book “Open Skies, Closed Minds” Pope was describing the alleged radiation traces as “the most tangible proof that something extraordinary happened there [Rendlesham Forest.]”

As Ian Ridpath has pointed out in his analysis of the radiation readings, in order to justify such a claim, it is essential that the readings are shown to be beyond reproach. Clearly they were not!

For Ian’s analysis of these claims see: »

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