Apr 13, 2022 I Nick Redfern

Crop Circles: Government Agencies and Secret Files

There cannot be many people who haven't heard of Crop Circles. Not so many, however, know there are government files on the subject. And they go back to the Second World War, no less. Of course, the term Crop Circle wasn't around when Hitler's scumbags were trying to take over Europe. But, formations found in fields back in the 1940s were an undeniable reality. With that said, let's have a look at this Crop Circles-Second World War connection.The whole thing began with British Intelligence - namely, the agency, MI5. One of the now-declassified files begins as follows: "This account is not concerned with the activities of fifth columnists such as sabotage, capturing airfields and key points, and harassing the defending army, but in the methods used in communicating to each other and to the enemy. Reports from Poland, Holland, France and Belgium showed that they used ground markings for the guidance of bombers and paratroops (and of lights by night).” U.K.agents in Europe reported back to London: “Such ground markings might be the cutting of cornfields into guiding marks for aircraft, painting of roofs and the inside of chimneys white, setting haystacks on fire, and laying out strips of white linen in pre-arranged patterns. For guiding and giving information to advancing troops they would conceal messages behind advertisement hoardings and leave markings on walls and telegraph poles.”

Now, we get to the most significant part of the file. It notes that intelligence data coming out of Poland, the United States, and the U.K. had revealed that German agents were believed to have been contacting Nazi pilots by “beating out signs,” twenty meters in diameter, “on harrowed fields or mowing such signs on meadows or cornfields.” It doesn’t take a genius to realize that what MI5 was describing sounds very much like Crop Circles. There is something even more significant, too, about all this: the idea that the huge formations Allied pilots had seen in European fields were the work of the Nazis was simply a theory and nothing more. Moreover, it was a theory that was never, ever proved – even after the hostilities came to their close in 1945. Captured German spies and Luftwaffe pilots claimed no knowledge of the formations, even though they admitted having seen them, too, and presumed they were the work of the Allies. As a result of these curious formations popping up in Europe, MI5 kept a very careful watch on what was going on at home. 

An MI5 document, with the title of Examples of Ground Markings Investigated, reveals the following on British-based formations found in fields: “Field, north of Newquay, Cornwall: Aircraft noticed, in May 1940, strange marking in this field and it was photographed. Enquiries were made and it was found that the lines were formed by heaps of lime used for agricultural purposes. The farmer concerned was above reproach and removed the lime heaps.” A further report notes: “Field at Little Mill, Monmouthshire: In May 1941 a report was made that an unusual mark was visible amongst the growing corn. Near one of the gates was a mark in the form of the letter G, some 33 yards long. This mark had been made by sowing barley transversely through the grain.” And then there is this: “Air photographs were taken and it was seen that the tail of the marking pointed towards the Ordnance factory at Glascoed. The farmer, a man of good character, was interviewed, and admitted that he had sown the field himself. He explained that he had sold the field in April.

“Shortly after, having a drilling machine nearby which had a small quantity of barley seed in it, and wishing to empty it as he had to return it to the farmer from whom he had borrowed it that night, he turned his team of horses into the grain field and drilled it into the ground thickly to get rid of it. He did this because it is extremely difficult to remove the grain in the machine by hand, and to sow it was the quickest way of getting rid of it. He agreed to plough up this part of the field. As a satisfactory explanation had been reached, the case was carried no further.” And the reports kept on coming: “Field, near Staplehurst, Kent: In October, 1943, aircraft saw a faint white circle on the ground. Enquiries were made, and it was discovered that before the war the field was used as an emergency landing ground by Imperial Airways; the mark was made by them, and they paid a small yearly rent to the farmer. At the beginning of the war the mark was obliterated in some way, but this had worn thin. Steps were taken to obliterate it again.” Obviously, all of these particular formations had wholly down to earth explanations. It’s important to stress, however, that the investigations were prompted by the truly unknown ones found across various parts of Europe, such as the fields of Holland, Poland, and France. Now, let's jump forward two decades.

During the early part of 1995, the British Ministry of Defense declassified hundreds of pages of formerly withheld files on UFOs, all of which dated from 1964. Contained within the file was the following letter, submitted to the MoD, via the National Physical Laboratory at Teddington, England, in March 1964. The subject matter was a curious, circular area of flattened ground found on land in the town of Penrith, Cumbria, England. As the file demonstrates, on March 23, 1964, T.E.T. Burbury, the Rector at Clifton Rectory, Penrith, Cumberland, England, wrote to the National Physical Laboratory at Teddington describing an encounter which had occurred some days previously. I quote from the rector’s letter: “Dear Sirs: Does an apparent column of blue light about 8-feet in diameter and about 15-feet high which disappears and leaves a mark of very slightly disturbed earth, the same diameter, mean anything to you? This occurred about 9.30 p.m. last Saturday night about 2 miles from here. It was seen by a person who is very short sighted who would have been unable to see anything, except the light, even if it had been present. I examined the ground which is about 100 Yards from the nearest building and there are no pylons near. There was no sign of burning, either by sight or smell, the grass growing between the exposed ground appeared quite normal. There were no signs of bird tracks or droppings: the ground simply appeared to have been lightly raked over in an almost perfect circle. For your information only, I told the farmer to have a sample of the earth collected and analyzed for bacteria content, but don’t know whether he has done so. Yours faithfully: T.E.T. Burbury.”

Note the words of the rector:  “…the ground simply appeared to have been lightly raked over in an almost perfect circle.” Does this not sound somewhat familiar? Furthermore, Burbury’s reference to “the farmer” strongly suggests that the circle was found on farmland. And: what of the column of blue light? Realizing that this was out of their jurisdiction, staff at the National Physical Laboratory forwarded a copy of the rector’s letter to the Meteorological Office at London Road, Bracknell. In turn, Mr. H.M. Race of the Meteorological Office advised Burbury that: “This does not appear to be a meteorological matter and we are therefore passing your letter to a London office who may be able to deal with it.” The “London office” to which Race was referring was an element of the old Air Ministry called S4. For its part, S4 seemed largely unconcerned, even amused, by the rector’s report, as the following opening words of memorandum of 16 April 1964 from R.A. Langton of S4 to a colleague, Flight Lieutenant A. Bardsley shows: “I should be grateful for your advice on the report in the attached correspondence. Could it be Will o’ the Wisp?” Maybe it was!

The attached correspondence was, of course, Burbury’s letter. Two months later, Flight Lieutenant Bardsley stated the following in a good-humored reply to Langton: “This is quite a corker! The explanation could be one of several things, depending really, on the state of the investigator’s liver. One explanation could be aurora borealis. This phenomenon, however, is so unpredictable that it would be rather hopeless to expect someone to have seen the aurora at the same date/time as our short-sighted observer. Professor Paton at Edinburgh is an aurora expert, but I cannot really justify pestering him with this one." Bardsley continued: “Again your ‘will o’ the wisp’ theory may be correct. However whilst following this line, the Royal Geographic Society confirmed that Penrith did not exist – at least in Bradshaw’s Gazetteer. Further, information on the geological structure around Penrith again confirmed that there probably would not, but possibly could be, local ignitions of methane gas – absolutely no use these experts! Our myopic observer may possibly have seen car headlights shining up into a low cloud base. There is no mention of any sound in this report – could the observer be also deaf!” He concluded:

“One comment by the rector intrigues me: Could it be the rector thinks the object could be a phoenix?" Finally: There once was a rector of Penrith, who reported that one of his Kith, saw blue light in the night, got a terrible fright, and the rector thinks it’s a ‘myth.’” Although Flight Lieutenant Bardsley signed off his reply in fine poetic style, he did not see fit to comment on the “almost perfect circle” reported by the rector, nor did he express an interest in following up on the rector’s suggestion to the farmer that a sample of earth should be collected for study. Moreover, an examination of the Air Ministry file in question reveals no further reference to this particular case, and the entire matter appears to have been summarily dismissed – which is in stark contrast to the situation during the Second World War.

Clearly, at that time, the U.K. government was not bothered about (a) flattened, circular ground in fields or (b) bright lights in the sky. Nevertheless, the connection between officialdom and Crop Circles has continued. I have several friends and colleagues who, back in the mid-1990s, were "buzzed" by small black, military helicopters while looking at a then-new formation in the U.K. county of Wiltshire - where most of the Crop Circles in the U.K. are found. There's something else about Crop Circles and the 1990s, too. Personnel from the U.S. Pentagon attended the first European meeting of the Society for Scientific Exploration, which was held from August 7 to 8, 1992, in Munich, Germany, and that had the Crop Circle subject on its agenda. A U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency document on the meeting, now available via the Freedom of Information Act, describes its flavor: “The expressed aim of the SSE meeting was to promote the exchange of ideas, results and goals among researchers in various fields of anomalies, and inform the public of the discussion among active scientists concerning current controversial issues. Papers and communications were in English, and German language abstracts of the various parapsychology (PS) papers presented were distributed at the beginning of the meeting. The conference sessions examined PSI and other extraordinary mental phenomena, crop circles (were they messages or hoaxes), geophysical variables and their influences on human behavior, astro-psychology, the Earth and unidentified flying objects (UFO), and additional highlights, to include near death experiences (NDE).”

It's clear that the U.K. government has taken a look at the phenomenon of Crop Circles. But, MI5 aside, there doesn't seen to have been much interest on the part of officialdom. Unless, that is, you know something more.

Nick Redfern

Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.

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