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UFOs in History»
RAF Squadron Leader Tim Webb, who oversaw pilot training from the base, said the description of the suits worn by the “spacemen” did not match anything used by base personnel. By a curious coincidence Webb’s son Michael happened to be one of the youngsters who claimed they saw a UFO land behind the primary school at Broad Haven. “I believe him implicitly,” he told The Observer at the time. “I’ve yet to see a UFO but I think there has to be something supernatural or paranormal.” Heady words for an RAF spokesman who would normally be expected to debunk sightings of flying saucers!
Meanwhile, demands were increasing for an official inquiry into the West Wales UFOs. One witness, hotelier Rosa Granville, asked her MP Nicholas Edwards – later to become Welsh Secretary in Mrs Thatcher’s Cabinet – to demand answers from the Ministry of Defence. Mrs Granville ran the Haven Fort Hotel which stands in a dramatic location overlooking St Bride’s Bay. Although she was aware of a legend about a ‘white lady’ ghost haunting the grounds this did not prepare her for the events of 19 April 1977. In the earlier hours of that morning Mrs Granville was disturbed by a strange buzzing noise and, on looking out, saw an oval-shaped brightly-lit UFO and two human-like figures in boiler suits that appeared to be measuring something. The following day, she found a flattened area of grass in the area which, it emerged, overlooked a field which contained a bunker used by the Royal Observer Corps.
Within days of the MP’s intervention a Squadron Leader from RAF Brawdy visited the hotel to interview the owners. According to their account, he told them there “absolutely nothing at RAF Brawdy” that could account for the UFO. And, Mrs Granville claimed “he asked me not to say anything about the incident to anyone, as he thought it was best not to alarm the general public.” However, in his reply to the MP the Parliamentary Under Secretary for Defence James Wellbeloved, said that apart from Mrs Granville’s report the MOD had “no record of unusual activity in the area.”
But behind the public platitudes it seems a discreet investigation was indeed going on, hidden even from the politicians. For on 14 June 1977 the head of S4 (Air), the MoD branch which dealt with UFOs, took the unusual step of asking the RAF Police, in the form of the Provost & Security Service (P&SS) to make a “discreet enquiry” into events in Wales. The P&SS are responsible for policing the RAF and have a section which investigates complaints about low-flying aircraft. Early in 1977 they moved to a secretive facility deep in the Wiltshire countryside called RAF Rudloe Manor. UFO authors Tim Good and Nick Redfern have claimed that Rudloe – rather than the UFO desk in Whitehall - has for many years been the real HQ for the British Government’s UFO taskforce.
The papers released this year throw new light on claims of a conspiracy involving Rudloe Manor. While they do support the claim that P&SS were involved in secret UFO work they suggest it was hardly a priority for them. In their letter to P&SS the MOD wrote: “We have not invoked the assistance of P&SS before on UFOs…and the last thing I want to do is involve you in extraneous problems which would divert you from your more immediate work on low flying complaints.” It goes on to ask them to assess “the volume of local interest and/or alarm and whether there is a readily discernable rational explanation, or whether there is prima facie evidence for a more serious specialist enquiry.” And the writer went to some length to emphasise his request must be treated in confidence, adding: “I have not even told the Minister I am consulting you.”
Due to the covert nature of the investigation, no final report on the P&SS investigation of events in the Welsh Triangle has survived. But in December 1977, in a secret briefing on UFO policy submitted to the MOD’s Defence Intelligence Staff, the head of S4 wrote: “There is always a steady public interest in UFOs and from time to time it tends to increase unaccountably…[in the summer] there was some concern in Wales, although the RAF Police thought this could have been the work of a practical joker.”
The fact that inquiries led the RAF Police to suspect a hoaxer may have been responsible for some of the Welsh UFOs fits with a strong local rumour which persists to this day. Hilary Evans, who debunked some of the more exaggerated stories in an article published in 1982, heard that two members of a round table club were responsible for the sightings of “spacemen” at the Haven Fort Hotel and Ripperston Farm. They came up with the idea after borrowing silver-lined asbestos suits worn by local oil refinery workers for a fancy dress evening in Broad Haven shortly after the children’s sighting.
In 1996 BBC presenter Ray Gosling tracked down one of the jokers for a Radio 4 documentary on the West Wales flap. Shortly afterwards Glyn Edwards, a member of Milford Haven’s Round Table confessed his part to the Western Mail. He described the spaceman outfit as having: “… a solid in-built helmet so I would have looked about 7ft tall. Alien sightings were all the rage, so I took a stroll around for a bit of fun. I remember when I visited the garden of a certain lady, who later called the police, that I had to dive into a hedge because she appeared to be aiming a rifle or a shotgun at me.”
But despite all Gosling’s attempts to persuade the witnesses from Broad Haven school to confess, the boys – now in their forties – stuck doggedly by their story. One of them, David Davies, told him: “I did see something unexplained that day and I will stick to that story for the rest of my life.” The Welsh Triangle may hold onto its secrets for some years to come.
Copyright 2005 David Clarke