Back in 1991, UFO researcher Leonard Stringfield published his then-latest of many reports on crashed UFOs. I had read all of Stringfield's earlier reports, booklets and books, but this one stood out for me. The reason being that it referenced the alleged crash of a UFO, in 1964. The location was an area of woodland and fields near the Staffordshire, England market-town of Penkridge. It's a town only a short drive from where I grew up as a kid. At the time, however, I was down in the south of England, in Harlow, Essex. But, I made a note to look into the affair next time I was back in the Staffordshire area.
As for Stringfield's story, it was an intriguing one. Unfortunately, and as was the case with so many of Stringfield's informants, the name of the person who provided the story was not listed. Or, rather, it was, but in the form of a pseudonym: "S.M. Brannigan." According to the story, back in early 1964 "Brannigan" was serving in the US military aboard "...a specially rigged LST, a flagship that was attached to a naval amphibious force at an unspecified point in either the Caribbean or the Atlantic..."
Stringfield's source informed him that it was his job to intercept and translate Soviet military transmissions. One such transmission - of early 1964 - stood out. Reportedly, the US Navy monitored Soviet chatter concerning the tracking and spiraling to Earth of nothing less than a UFO. Supposedly, the malfunctioning UFO split into two segments: one coming down somewhere in Germany and the other in a wooded/field area near to Penkridge. There were rumors of "remains" and of "bodies" hastily and secretly recovered by UK and German forces.
Well, it was quite a story! But, it lacked a real name for "Brannigan." And it also lacked solid data, back-up sources, and a specific date. Nevertheless, I have found myself faced with less material to work with - and on more than a few occasions, too. I looked into it for a while, but I could not find a single piece of data to support the story. Now, we move on to 1995. That was the year in which a woman with a deep interest in UFOs, Irene Bott, established the Staffordshire UFO Group. One year later, in September 1996, Irene had a first anniversary SUFOG conference in the area, at which I spoke.
During the booze-quaffing session after the gig, I told Irene about the 1964 affair and she found it all very interesting. To the extent that she made mention of it in the local (but now defunct) newspaper, The Chase Post (which covered the towns and villages in and around Staffordshire's Cannock Chase). It was an article that led an elderly man named Harold South to contact Irene with a startling story. According to South, he was on-site shortly after the 1964 crash occurred and while hordes of British military personnel were racing around, closing roads through a particular part of the Cannock Chase, and loading a small, delta-shaped vehicle (or parts of it) aboard a large, transporter vehicle.
South also claimed he was later visited by local police, who, he believed, had seen him as he drove close to the makeshift cordon and tracked him down by the license-plate of his vehicle. He also said they confiscated his camera, which he eventually got back, minus the film - which allegedly showed shots of the crash-site. Well, that was quite as story, too! It was not until December 1996 that me and Irene were able to arrange to meet with South in person - which we did, at his small apartment in the town of Brownhills. We called him, around the end of November, to see if one particular date was suitable. It was. Then, on the morning of that particular date (December 11, 1996), we called him again, just to make sure a meet was still cool. Yes, it was.
Well, that was all good. Or, at least, we thought it was. When we got to South's apartment, his entire demeanor had changed. He didn't want to talk to us - at all. He was clearly a worried man. He did, at least, invite us in. If nothing else, that was something positive. We asked South what was wrong and, for a few moments, he hemmed and hawed. Finally, however, he told us about the reason for his sudden change of heart. According to South, in between us phoning him and arriving at his home he had received a phone call from the British Ministry of Defense, warning him not to talk to us!
Yes, you know what I'm going to say: that was quite a story too! I have heard a lot of similar such controversial claims over the years, many of which led nowhere. This one, however, was a bit different. We asked South if anyone had called since the MoD phoned. He replied, "No." So, we asked if we could use his phone and dial 1471. It's a UK service that allows the caller to obtain the number of the previous, incoming call. Providing, that is, it's not withheld by the caller.
Sure enough there was a number. We dialed it as South looked on, not unlike someone awaiting a firing squad or castration without anaesthetic. Or both. Not only did we dial, but someone answered. It was a woman who was very cagey about identifying herself by name. We were, however, able to prove the number had taken us to an operator-service that was run by the military. It was responsible for channeling calls to and from military establishments in the West Midlands and Staffordshire regions of the UK. In other words, the call to South could have come from any number of military bases in the area. But, all we had was the operator-number that called South, rather than the originating source that was connected to South by the operator.
Needless to say, it didn't take us anywhere. But something did. South added that as well as the Ministry of Defense warning him not to speak with us, rather oddly they gave him a number to call in the event that he "might want to speak with" them again. So, we asked for the number and dialed it. This one took us to an office of the Ministry of Defense Guard Service at Whittington Barracks, near the city of Lichfield.
The voice on the other end of the line was cordial (throughout the brief conversation the man at the other end genially called Irene "flower"), but careful about what he said. He gave up nothing at all and the conversation was soon ended. He clearly reacted when we phoned though, since he wanted to know how we had got an internal number at the Guards Service, rather than their main-line. Well, he told us nothing, so we did likewise and said our goodbyes. "Bye, flower," he said to Irene.
Over the next couple of years, Irene got a few more snippets of data, which collectively suggested there may have been some truth to the story that originally surfaced via "S. M. Brannigan" and Leonard Stringfield, and which was later expanded on by Harold South. It's an episode that I still occasionally think about, nineteen years after we met that worried old man. Of course, none of what happened on that freezing cold, winter's morning in December 1996 confirms aliens crashed near Penkridge 51 years ago. All I can say for sure, is that we were able to 100 percent prove that on the day in question - when we were due to speak with him about his crashed UFO claims - Harold South had a call directed to his home from a military operator-based service, and he was given an internal number at the MoD Guard Service, in case he might "want to speak" with someone about his experience.
All of this begs a couple of questions: (A) why was it made so easy for me and Irene to find the military operator's number via the 1471 service? And (B) why was South even given a number at Whittington Barracks at all? Irene and I wondered if we had a hidden whistle-blower somewhere in our midst. One who was feeding us a few snippets of data (in the form of odd but easily traceable phone calls), in an attempt to try and convince us of the validity of the 1964 crash. But, in a way that didn't compromise his or her identity.
Admittedly, I have no firm opinion on what went down on that day in December 1996, except to say it was very strange, deeply memorable, and extremely intriguing. Beyond that? Nothing but a mass of questions that are unlikely to ever be answered.