There can be very few people within the field of UFO research who haven’t heard accounts of significant material on UFOs going “missing.” We’re talking about the likes of certain files on the Rendlesham Forest UFO event of 1980, and on the Roswell controversy of 1947. There’s also a very intriguing – but far less well-known – affair from the 1950s. It’s one that I have taken a personal interest in, but which still remains unresolved.
The late Ralph Noyes retired from the British Ministry of Defense in 1977. In an interview with UFO investigator Timothy Good, Noyes revealed that, back in the 1950s, the Royal Air Force had secured “gun-camera” footage of UFOs over the UK. The footage – seen by Noyes at the MoD in 1970, along with a dozen or so other individuals – wasn’t overly spectacular (Noyes described it as “unimpressive”). But, it certainly showed something anomalous and fast-moving. Noyes (whose account you can find in Good’s 1987 book, Above Top Secret) confirmed that he saw the footage while in the employ of the MoD, as did representatives from the Meteorological Office, the Director of Air Defense, and a number of personnel from the Air Staff. A theory was offered that the phenomenon may have been “something obscure meteorologically.”
In the latter part of 1993, I approached the Ministry of Defense and inquired about the then-current status of that same gun-camera footage. Certainly, it was not available for study at the National Archives. So, where was it? That’s a good question. One of those I spoke with on this matter was Nick Pope. Between 1991 and 1994, Pope worked in one particular Ministry of Defense office that handled UFO reports, Secretariat (Air Staff) 2a.
Pope told me: “I liaised with our archivist people, who are the sort of middlemen between us and [the National Archives]. They made a number of checks and, basically, a check was made of any place where this material might have ended. Now, that includes [the National Archives]. It also includes anything that might have got lodged in a halfway house of archiving. They checked the Imperial War Museum and, I think, the RAF Museum.”
Pope continued: “No-one is disputing that Ralph Noyes saw this footage and that it existed. That’s not in dispute, as far as I’m concerned. I think it’s unfortunate, but I suspect that one of two things happened. Either it got lost or destroyed somewhere, because it wasn’t seen as being of public interest at that time. Or, old film deteriorates; it becomes unstable and you have to destroy it before it becomes a health and safety hazard. But, I think Ralph himself said that the footage wasn’t that spectacular. We did have a thorough look for it and unfortunately it didn’t turn up. Given that we’ve now had a proper look, I think it’s unlikely it will turn up. All I can say is, we gave it our best shot.”
While I have absolutely no doubt that Pope was being entirely honest and sincere in his statements, I find it odd that such footage would have been routinely destroyed – and without copies being made for possible, future reference. After all, whether it was a craft from “somewhere else” or, as Noyes suggested, a strange meteorological phenomenon, the fact is that it was caught on film by a military pilot (or pilots), in British airspace, and remained unidentified.
A study of the available and now-declassified UFO reports of the Ministry of Defense shows that, across the decades, it preserved thousands of reports submitted by the general public. Many of those reports described nothing stranger than sightings of mere lights in the sky. Yet, they were all carefully kept on file. But, evidence obtained by the military was seemingly destroyed. To me, that doesn’t make sense. Unless, of course, there’s another explanation: that, to this day, the footage remains classified and far away from the prying eyes of Ufologists. And even from employees of the Ministry of Defense, too.