Today, the Royal Air Force facility at Cosford, near Wolverhampton, England, is probably best known for its huge museum. It is home to an impressive collection of vintage military aircraft. More than fifty years ago, however, Cosford became briefly famous for an entirely different reason. At around 11:30pm on the evening of December 10, 1963 (or shortly after midnight on the 11th, according to some sources), a dome-shaped UFO touched down on the base, bathed the surrounding area in a green light, and was seen at close quarters by two young RAF apprentices. Some say it crash-landed, rather than briefly touched-down.
At least, within UFO circles that was the accepted story for more than a few years. In accordance with the British Government’s “Thirty Year Ruling,” however, the Air Ministry’s eighty-page file on the case was declassified in 1994 and was made available for inspection at the U.K.’s National Archive at Kew, England. I obtained a copy of the file shortly after it was placed in the public domain; its contents make for interesting reading.
Rumors that something extraordinary had occurred at the base surfaced almost immediately, but it was not until early January 1964 that matters escalated. On January 9, 1964 Wilfred Daniels, a UFO investigator from Stafford, England, had the opportunity to speak with Reverend B.G. Henry, who was the Chaplain at RAF Cosford. Daniels put a number of questions to Henry, all of them relative to the alleged close encounter. We cannot be sure what was actually said during the course of their brief conversation, as both men recalled their “chat” in extremely different ways. But, what we do know for sure is that a controversy was created which raged for months.
In an April 13, 1964 letter to Waverney Girvan, the then-editor of Flying Saucer Review magazine, Wilfred Daniels reported: “Flight Lieutenant Henry said that publication of his name would cause him trouble; that it was ‘more than his job was worth’ to arrange a meeting between me and the two RAF apprentices; that he really ought not to be talking to me about it at all; that security had dropped right down on the whole thing.”
For his part, Reverend Henry’s recollection were very different to those of Daniels. A letter from Flying Officer R.A. Roberts at Cosford, to the Air Ministry at Whitehall, stated that Flight Lieutenant Henry “…categorically denies all statements attributed to him.” Flying Officer Roberts further added that the chaplain was “…seriously considering taking legal action.”
Waverney Girvan resolved to get to the bottom of the mystery, and fired off a barrage of letters to both RAF Cosford and the Air Ministry. As Girvan pointed out to the staff at Cosford, several contradictory explanations had been offered by the authorities to explain the encounter: “Nothing at all,” “two drunk apprentices,” “a hoax,” and, somewhat amusingly, “a British Railways steam train” were the various theories mooted by the Air Ministry in its attempts to explain away the case.
Smelling a rat, Girvan gave the incident significant page space in the next issue of Flying Saucer Review, and wrote a lengthy article on the case in the Kensington News and West London Times. Commenting on the Government’s “self-contradictory explanations,” Girvan asked: “What is it that the Air Ministry is trying so desperately to hide?” Maybe it was something; maybe it was nothing at all.
Preferring to keep its head down, the Air Ministry fumed behind closed doors. To the Air Ministry’s frustration, the media persisted in promoting the case: “…the Express and Star of Wolverhampton, in spite of seeking the Station’s views, reported the boys’ claim….,” grumbled the Air Ministry in an internal memorandum of March 12, 1964. By May of that same year, the controversy had begun to die down and normality returned to RAF Cosford. The pro-UFO factions continued to champion the case, while the Air Ministry was more than happy to play the matter down.
So, what exactly did happen on that long gone winter’s evening in December 1963? Waverney Girvan was sure something strange took place. In addition, Wilfred Daniels had served in the military at the level of Captain – a credible source, in other words. Moreover, it is a proven fact that Air Ministry staff did offer a variety of contradictory explanations in their attempt to dismiss the case. Very likely, however, they just wanted to get a bunch of UFO researchers off their backs.
The negative aspects of the case have to be addressed, too. Flight Lieutenant Henry was adamant that he had been misquoted by Wilfred Daniels; the possibility of Henry taking legal action was extensively discussed in inter-departmental Air Ministry memos. Furthermore, a hand-written note which originated with the Air Ministry – and that may very well get to the absolute heart of the matter – stated that with respect to the two apprentices who reported seeing the UFO: “I believe the two boys in question wanted to get out of the service – and we should not have been sorry to see them go.”