When a UFO program spread panic and Ministry of Defense got the hiccups


Highlights from newly released British MoD UFO files

In 1972 the Ministry of Defence was agonising about a televised debate on UFOs, fearing it would encourage the British public to believe in little men from outer space. Documents released at the Public Record Office reveal official anxiety as to what would happen if the Royal Air Force took part in a BBC programme about unidentified flying objects.

On one hand they feared they would fuel UFO hysteria – but on the other hand they feared conspiracy theorists would have a field day if they refused to take part in the show.

When an official did give an interview to the BBC, it just sparked more controversy – with one letter writer requesting to meet the government’s expert in languages from outer space.

During the 1960s and early 1970s, there was a huge growth in sightings of apparently unidentifiable flying objects, many of them near to RAF bases.

One of the best cases from England is from 1971 Oxfordshire UFO sighting.

The film was shot by an ATV camera team on 26th October 1971 in Oxfordshire with a length of 50 sec.

The object was seen by a six-man camera team in the clear sky above Oxfordshire, who at that time were shooting a film about life in Cotswald. It was a bright, apparently, round object that left behind a broken contrail.

The film shows the apparently stationary object at a height of several kilometers, which then began to move at great speed and produced a contrail. Thereupon it stopped again almost instantly. The film ends with the “shooting” of the object at a speed that the camera could not follow.

Mr. Kilby said, “No known airplane could behave like this object, we did not hear a sound, I guess it was between 13000-16000 meters high, the object was bright orange The Midlands, in the evening in the program “ATV-today”.

Watch the full UFO film HERE

In 1971, the BBC’s current affairs programme Man Alive decided to investigate sightings over Banbury, Oxfordshire, and asked the Ministry of Defence for assistance. This was not such a straightforward request as it would seem. Air Commodore Anthony Davis found himself nominated as the ministry’s official UFOs spokesman – though his colleagues had deep concerns as to the whether he should take part in the programme at all.

“We do not know who will be in the audience,” wrote Air Commodore Brothers.

“Mr Davis could well be the target for cranks and fanatics and others who profess to believe in ‘little men from outer space’.”

“Unless you have any other thoughts on the matter we propose to tell the BBC that we are only prepared for Mr Davis to take part in a filmed interview.”

Ministerial rethink David Filkin, the programme’s producer, urged the ministry to think again and he won round the top brass. “On balance, it would be better to do this and face up to the possible difficulties of dealing with a hostile audience of cranks and fanatics rather than the alternative risk of leaving the field to the fanatics and giving the impression that we are afraid to stand up to questions,” concluded officials.

Having decided to take part, the ministry was so determined to quash UFO rumours, officials arranged for RAF Lightnings and one US Air Force Phantom to be filmed flying in formations that they said were the basis for the rumours. “Good colour film taken [by the BBC] at dusk should show the fire-cones of their jet effluxes in re-heat, apparently hovering and then moving sharply away, as often described in UFO sightings,” Air Commodore Davis told the ministry. “On UFOs, I found both the producer and interviewer apparently fully in sympathy with the MOD point of view; they have probably had their fill of the cranky ufologists whom they have already interviewed at length.

Gordon Creighton, a foreign diplomat from the Ministry of Defence

The man from the ministry came away satisfied that the MOD has quashed the rumours for good – not least after his successful performance during the subsequent studio discussion. Do you speak Uranian? Unfortunately, that did not turn out to be the case and the letters kept coming in to the ministry – including one from a Mr Gordon Creighton of Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire. Not a contributor to the BBC programme Like many UFO enthusiasts, Mr Creighton thought the program was a seminal moment in the battle to prove the existence of extraterrestrials.

“It was not only epoch-making for its treatment of the subject but that the star performer of the evening was a gentleman who, if my memory is not at fault, holds a government certificate of proficiency in the more exotic branches of xenoglossy and speaks fluent Uranian or Plutonian,” he wrote.

Mr Creighton said he and other enthusiasts desperately wanted this official to appear as a guest-speaker at UFO clubs around the country. “I have made several unsuccessful attempts to locate him – could you be so good as to put me in touch with him or indicate how he may be contacted?” Unfortunately for Mr Creighton, the men from the ministry denied they had a chap conversant in alien languages.

“This department has no knowledge of the person you mention,” came the terse reply. “I can only suggest that the staff of the BBC programme may be able to assist you.”

How much MoD material has been released so far?

209 files and around 52,000 pages of documentation have been released so far. This is in addition to a number of UFO files that had already been released under the old Public Record Act, the best-known provision of which was the so-called 30-year rule, which said files could be considered for public release 30 years after the date of the most recent document contained in them.







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