As a person who writes regularly on the topic of unidentified flying objects, I am often asked something along these lines: "How did you get involved in the subject?" I figured that with the question posed on what is a fairly regular basis, I thought that it might be a good opportunity to provide one of the several answers. It was 10:30 p.m. on a dark night in late 1978 as I walked with my dad, Frank Redfern, through the largely deserted streets of the town of Walsall, England. A biting wind sliced through the air and I buried my hands in my coat pockets in an unsuccessful attempt to keep warm. We headed for a nearby car-park. We had just been to see Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. During his three years in the Royal Air Force (RAF), and before returning to his regular job as a carpenter, which he held until his retirement at the age of sixty-five, he was trained in the field of, and worked on, radar. It was towards the end of his service that my dad was involved in several radar-based UFO encounters, all of which occurred at the height of a September 1952 NATO operation, called Exercise Mainbrace.
On each occasion, fast moving objects of unknown origin were tracked on the radar-screens, fighter planes were scrambled, and the ominous and official stamp of secrecy came firmly down on just about everyone and everything. Certainly, my dad didn’t tell me about this most weird affair until I was in my very early teens, around 1978, if memory serves me correct. It was an event that got me deeply interested in UFOs, and set me on a path to seek out the truth concerning all things saucer-shaped and flying. And it’s a strange and conspiracy-filled path that I’m still on today. And, arguably, those September 1952 events left a deep and lasting impression on my dad, too, since – if asked - he is still willing to talk about them to this very day.
With all the above information now avalaible in the public domain, let's have a look at what happened over those few days back in 1952, when my dad was in his early twenties. Let's begin with the "Topcliffe" affair. As part of the British Royal Air Force's involvement in Mainbrace, 269 Squadron - which was based at RAF Ballykelly, Ireland - was posted to RAF Topcliffe, Yorkshire, England. It was at Topcliffe, on September 19, 1952, that one of the most historically important UFO sightings was reported by serving members of the RAF. A September 20, 1952 document written and signed by Flight Lieutenant Dolphin of RAF Topcliffe - and sent to Headquarters, No. 18 Group - states: "In accordance with your instructions, herewith a report on the unidentified object which was seen over the station earlier today." The report referred to by Dolphin was prepared by one of the main witnesses, Flight Lieutenant John Kilburn, who revealed the following:
"Sir, I have the honour to report the following incident which I witnessed on Friday, 19th September, 1952. I was standing with four other aircrew personnel of No. 269 Squadron watching a Meteor fighter plane gradually descending. The Meteor was at approximately 5000 feet and approaching from the east. [Flight Officer R.N.] Paris suddenly noticed a white object in the sky at a height between ten and twenty thousand feet some five miles astern of the Meteor." Kilburn continued: "The object was silver in colour and circular in shape, it appeared to be travelling at a much slower speed than the Meteor but was on a similar course. It maintained the slow forward speed for a few seconds before commencing to descend, swinging in a pendular motion during descent similar to a falling sycamore leaf...After a few seconds, the object stopped its pendulous motion and its descent and began to rotate about its own axis." Then, Kilburn noted, something amazing happened: "Suddenly it accelerated at an incredible speed towards the west turning onto a south-easterly heading before disappearing. All this occurred in a matter of fifteen to twenty seconds. The movements of the object were not identifiable with anything I have seen in the air and the rate of acceleration was unbelievable."
The major American presence in Mainbrace was the huge aircraft carrier, the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt. On September 20 (just one day after the incident at RAF Topcliffe), an American press-photographer, named Wallace Litwin, was on board the Roosevelt to photograph U.S. planes taking to the skies from the aircraft carrier. It was while securing the pictures that Litwin sighted a circular, silver object maneuvering above the American fleet. Litwin, who was shooting with color film, managed to obtain three photos of the UFO. Significantly, all the photos had the Roosevelt in shot - something that gave the pictures depth of field and assisted in determining the size of the UFO, which, according to Litwin's report, was considerable.
Then there is the testimony of William Maguire, formerly of the RAF. During Mainbrace he was posted to RAF Sandwich, Kent, England where something seriously strange was going down. In Maguire's own words... "My memory was that everything was in a complete flap. Normally, in a military situation everything is ordered, regular and set out. But here was a situation that was plainly out of control. Mechanics were flying about all over the place.” As Maguire got his bearings, and the situation was revealed to him in its starkest form, the reasons behind the blind panic became staggeringly clear: a huge, unidentified aerial object was being tracked on the radar-scopes high over the English Channel: “The mechanics were being blamed for not calibrating the instruments properly; we were being blamed for not interpreting the readings correctly. Every single instrument on the base was showing this enormous object sitting up at an unbelievable height. It was the size of a warship and it just stood there.”
There's no doubt that the UFO events that occurred during NATO's Mainbrace operation in 1952 altered the mindset of the U.K.'s now- defunct Air Ministry (it's now the Ministry of Defense). And, in a very strange way, they led me to where I am right now.