The Secret Files: The Unidentified > [prev ¦ 1 ¦ 2]


By the end of May 1977 someone at the MoD may have suspected UFOs were taking special interest in Britain’s V-bomber force. For just five days after the Waddington sightings, the crew of a Vulcan bomber reported a spectacular “close encounter” with a UFO at 43,000 feet over the Bay of Biscay. Five crewmen, including the captain, co-pilot and navigators all saw an object approach their aircraft in the early hours of 26 May. It appeared to turn onto the same course slightly above them at a distance estimated to be around 40 nautical miles. At first the UFO resembled landing lights “with a long pencil beam of light ahead” but as it turned towards them the lights appeared to go out leaving a diffuse orange glow with a bright fluorescent green spot in the bottom right hand corner. Then suddenly, both the captain and co-pilot saw an object “leaving from the middle of the glow on a westerly track…climbing at very high speed at an angle of 45 degrees.”

As they watched the navigator noticed interference on his radar screen from the direction of the UFO which continued for 45 minutes as the Vulcan turned back towards the UK. On return the camera film from the aircraft’s radar was examined by RAF experts. Although they only found “slight” evidence for the interference reported by the navigator, they did find the camera had recorded a “strong response” from the direction of the sighting. On the film the UFO appeared as “an elongated shadow” indicating an object of “large size” at a similar height to the Vulcan.

An intelligence report sent to MoD later the same day says the crew “were unable to offer a logical explanation for the sighting” but some details resembled “surface or sub-surface launched missile firing.” A report was then passed by S4 (Air) to two “specialist branches” of MoD who were in fact the real UFO investigators. One of these, a Defence Intelligence section known as DI 55, has since become well known to UFOlogists as the branch responsible for reports deemed to have “defence implications.”

Curiously, a MoD official noted that S4f (Air) – the only branch which the MoD publicly admits to having an interest in UFOs – “would not know the outcome of their [DI 55’s] enquiries” into the Bay of Biscay incident. I found more evidence for this policy of departmental concealment in the minutes of a meeting between staff of S4 and DI55 held at Whitehall in May 1976. It notes that “since investigations into the defence implications of alleged UFO sightings might involve highly classified material it was agreed that S4(Air) has no ‘need to know’ about enquiries made by any specialist branch in the course of an investigation.”

Conspiracy fans will love the caveat added to the report, which reads: “It followed that detailed reports on such investigations could not be included in the files which would ultimately be disclosed when UFO reports were opened to the public.”

These cases are just a tiny sample of the many fascinating, and unidentified, UFO incidents received by the Ministry of Defence during 1977 and 1978. Occasionally, close encounters reported by civilians were so bizarre that RAF investigators were asked to pay visits to witnesses. This was the case in November 1978 when a 29-year-old man reported a “close encounter” with a UFO on playing fields near his home in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire. David Pointer said he saw the “tank-like” object descend close to the ground whilst he was walking his dog on 5 November (Bonfire Night) and drew a detailed sketch which has been preserved in the MoD records.

Pointer told an investigator from RAF Wyton the UFO had a dome-shaped structure and coloured lights on top. It was around 12 feet away from him when a “sort of telescopic probe” appeared from its metallic, dome-like structure which appeared to search the ground. “At this junction the object turned round and faced him,” the report reads. “[Mr Pointer] was petrified and in his own words ‘nearly had kittens’. The probe then retracted and the object made off at speed.”

Questioned further, it emerged that Pointer, who was described as “perfectly normal”, also saw letters embossed on the side of the UFO which read: “VAWCON.” He also noticed weird attachments which swivelled “like those on a Harrier [jump-jet] and small wings “like stabilisers” which were constantly in motion. Pointer claimed he saw the UFO on two other occasions and overcame his fear to the extent that he had even gone out with a camera looking for it. In a letter he wrote: “I am not doing this as a hoax and I don’t want any publicity whatsoever. If it goes to the Press I will deny everything.”

Taking advice from DI 55, Flt Lt Chapman from RAF Wyton carried out a detailed investigation but – as in other similar cases – was unable to reach a conclusion. Deep in the corridors of Whitehall, his report was filed away with hundreds of others marked “no defence significance.”

Copyright David Clarke 2005

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