Dec 23, 2022 I Nick Redfern

The Rendlesham Forest UFO Incident(s): Some of the Top Secret, Lesser-known Parts of the Story

It won't be long, at all, before the 42nd "anniversary" of the Rendlesham Forest "UFO landing" will be upon us. That's right: forty-two years ago. At the time, I was 100 percent oblivious of the affair - after all, I was still at school and a teenager. I was also still a teenager when the story was revealed by the media in 1983. I'm not going to make this article an overview of what happened. Or, that didn't happen. Rather, I'm going to share with you some lesser-known aspects of the Rendlesham event. With that said, let's begin. Rendlesham Forest has a long history of ghostly encounters. Witchcraft and occult-based rites and rituals have been performed late at night in those dark woods. So-called “Alien Big Cats,” or “black panthers,” as they are mostly named, have been seen roaming through the woods on more than a few times. One of the earliest, credible cases on record is that of Jimmy Freeman, whose close encounter with a big cat occurred while driving past Rendlesham Forest late one night in the mid-1970s. While the precise date has been lost to the inevitable fog of time, the details are as fresh in the mind of Freeman today as they were on the night the incident occurred. Given the fact that the encounter had occurred around 11:15 to 11:30 on what was a dark, cloudy and slightly misty night, Freeman was driving slowly and had his lights on full-beam as he negotiated the dark and winding roads. As a result, when something large and shadowy charged across the road in front of him, Freeman could not fail to see the creature for what it was. Long, sleek and black in color, Freeman is in no doubt that for a split second or two he had a brief sighting of a huge cat. Today, he says firmly: “If I live to be a hundred, I will tell the same: Rendlesham Forest has big cats.”

(Nick Redfern) Royal Air Force Bentwaters: no longer what it was

Now, to something that relates to Rendlesham, but on a very different level: It was in January 2001 that the then-retired - and now late - British Admiral of the Fleet, Lord Hill-Norton, decided to get into the Rendlesham Forest controversy. Much of it came from the late Georgina Bruni, who dug deep into the story. Having had an interest in UFOs for decades, he used his considerable clout to try and figure out what occurred on those nights in 1980. It was hardly an easy task for Hill-Norton to achieve. Of specific interest to Hill-Norton were the claims of a connection to the activities of the Porton Down staff - Porton Down being a highly classified facility in Wiltshire, England, that did a lot of controversial, top secret work. He wanted to know “...whether personnel from Porton Down visited Rendlesham Forest or the areas surrounding the Royal Air Force Watton in December 1980 or January 1981; and whether they are aware of any tests carried out in either of those two areas aimed at assessing any nuclear, biological or chemical hazard.” Hill-Norton got a response from the government he had dutifully worked for. It was not, however, the reply that he hoped for. The reply came from Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean. She spoke on behalf of the MoD, who provided nothing but a concise comment that didn’t really advance the investigation into the case at all. The baroness said: “The staff at the Defense Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) Chemic and Biological Defense (CBD) laboratories at Porton Down have made a thorough search of their archives and have found no record of any such visits.” 

(Nick Redfern) Rumors still circulate of connections between the Rendlesham Forest event and Porton Down.

The genesis of the next part of the story dates back to 1986. That was the year in which the late Graham Birdsall – who ran the popular and successful U.K.-based UFO Magazine – had a notable conversation with a man named George Wild. Back in the eighties, Wild was employed as a prison officer at a U.K. facility called Armley Prison. Built in the 19th century, and located in Leeds, England, it is a “Class C” jail, which means the prisoners are considered those who “cannot be trusted in open conditions but who are unlikely to try to escape.” George Wild quietly confided in Birdsall something highly disturbing, something that he had learned from a fellow officer: that on the night of December 27, 1980, the U.K. government’s Home Office was hastily readying local law-enforcement personnel to evacuate several prisons in Suffolk. Wild said that he knew for sure one of the prisons was HM [Her Majesty’s] Prison Highpoint North. It is situated in the village of Stradishall, Suffolk, which is approximately forty-four miles from Woodbridge. As for the primary role of the Home Office, its staff state that: “The first duty of the government is to keep citizens safe and the country secure. The Home Office has been at the front line of this endeavor since 1782. As such, the Home Office plays a fundamental role in the security and economic prosperity of the United Kingdom.” The inference was that the planned evacuations were due to what was happening at Rendlesham Forest.  Why, apparently, there were plans for evacations of prisoners held in various areas during the Rendlesham events, no-one really knows.

It’s interesting to note that Jenny Randles has revealed something that may be connected to all of this. In July 1985, Randles was approached by a man who she called “Tommy Doyle.” Randles chose to give the man a pseudonym because, at the time, he was in prison. For burglary. Doyle wrote to Jenny, after he read Sky Crash; a copy of which just happened to be in the prison library. Doyle claimed knowledge of the Rendlesham incident. He even claimed possession of a certain, secret file on the controversy. It was said to have been a file that was confiscated by prison officials when it was found that Doyle had it. Randles was open-minded on what Doyle had to say, but understandably guarded, too. She received one phone call from Doyle after he completed his sentence some months later – and that was it. No more communication. Of course, relying on the words of a burglar might not be the wisest thing to do. There are, however, a couple of points that do make me wonder on the scenario of Doyle knowing at least something of the activity in the forest. First, there’s the fact that Doyle was definitely in prison. We know that because Jenny corresponded with him by mail and while he was still behind bars. And, we also know – thanks to Georgina Bruni, Graham Birdsall and George Wild – that there was a significant prison-based connection to the whole case. Could Doyle have learned something about that prison link to the 1980 incidents while he, himself, was incarcerated? Maybe so. Now, onto yet another lesser-known part of the overall Rendlesham event(s).

There is another very interesting story that few know about, but that may be relevant to the above. Still on this matter, there’s a story that surfaced on July 31, 1994. The source of the story? None other than Charles Halt. In a lecture at the city of Leeds, U.K., he revealed that only a few hours after the first night of activity in the woods, a C141 Starlifter aircraft, which was used in operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, arrived. A number of what were intriguingly termed “special individuals” exited the plane and made their quick way to the East Gate of Royal Air Force Woodbridge. Not even Halt knew what was going on. The team was in the woods for a number of hours, after which they left the woods, took their seats on the plane, and got the hell out of Dodge. Georgina Bruni theorized to me that the team may have been there to remove any and all materials relative to the deployment of the hallucinogens the night before. Yes, it was only a scenario on the part of one of Georgina’s informants, but, it certainly made a lot of sense. Rumors suggest that radar tapes were taken from RAF Watton by U.S. Air Force personnel who wanted to examine the alleged UFO evidence and see what, exactly, the tapes showed. This part of the story began in January 1981 with a writer named Paul Begg. It turns out that Begg knew a serviceman who was aware of something of the UFO incidents. It wasn’t long before Jenny Randles was able to speak with this particular source. Not wanting to jeopardize the man’s career, Randles chose to refer to him as “David Potts.” It was Potts who was able to put the pieces together. 

(Nick Redfern) Rendlesham: Aliens, Time-Travelers or a series of Top Secret experiments.

Potts told Randles that it was on December 29 when the Americans turned up at RAF Watton. Jenny learned that they took not just the radar-based data, but even the logbook for the relevant time. There was a very strange facet to all of this: the U.S. agents openly stated to their Royal Air Force counterparts that they needed the material because a craft from another world had come down in Rendlesham Forest. And they had orders to secure and scrutinize whatever material was available. While there is no reason at all to think that Potts was lying, the fact is that U.S. intelligence operatives simply would not stroll into a U.K. military base and loudly spout off about a crashed UFO. That’s not how the military works. And it’s certainly not how secrets are kept. Clearly, and obviously, the Americans were there to further sow the seeds of the UFO story that had been created to hide the truth of the December experiments. No doubt, they knew that those who worked at RAF Watton, and who had been told the story by their American colleagues, would have a hard time keeping quiet on a hot potato like that! And, as history has shown, David Potts did not stay quiet. He went on to become a significant figure in the radar-based angle of the story. While the more sensationalized RAF Watton story has never been vindicated, there is proof that the base was involved to some degree. In October 1988 I was informed by Squadron Leader E.E. Webster of RAF Watton: “Our log book for the period does indeed say that a UFO was reported to us by RAF Bentwaters at 0325 GMT on 28 December 1980 but that is all the information we have.” There is, however, more to come.

On October 2, 1983, the News of the World newspaper reported that, “The first sighting of the craft over England was recorded on a radar screen” at RAF Watton. The NOTW added that, “Radar operators followed the progress as it flew over the East Coast until it disappeared.” Moving ahead, in July 2015 the BBC took a look at the radar-driven side of all this. They told their readers: “New evidence has been gathered to back up claims a UFO landed near a U.S. airbase in Suffolk, a former deputy commander has claimed. Col. Charles Halt told the BBC he saw unidentified objects at Rendlesham Forest in December 1980. He says he now has statements from radar operators at RAF Bentwaters and nearby Wattisham airfield that an unknown object was tracked at the time.” The BBC got to the heart of the matter, as it relates to radar. They quoted Charles Halt as saying: “I have confirmation that (Bentwaters radar operators)... saw the object go across their 60 mile (96km) scope in two or three seconds, thousands of miles an hour. He came back across their scope again, stopped near the water tower, they watched it and observed it go into the forest where we were," said Col Halt. At Wattisham, they picked up what they called a ‘bogie’ and lost it near Rendlesham Forest. Whatever was there was clearly under intelligent control.”

With so much data in hand – suggesting that radar played such a significant role in this story – you might say to me: “Isn’t this proof that aliens really were flying over Suffolk in late December?” I say “No!” Why? Because, there is something that can turn everything on its collective head. It shows how the radar tapes didn’t monitor anything of a UFO kind. Just like the military personnel in Rendlesham Forest who thought they were encountering something extraterrestrial, those who were working on the radar side of things were also manipulated to accept something that wasn’t real. They were led to believe that something strange and unearthly was in the sky when, in all actuality, nothing was caught on radar. It just appeared to be the case. Yet again, things are not what they seem to be – which is just about the theme of this whole story. 

(Nick Redfern) The Rendlesham affair was a mystery then. It's still a mystery now.

Back to Georgina Bruni: her final source told a most sinister tale. It concerns a military base situated in the county of Norfolk, England. It borders the county of Suffolk, where the Rendlesham events happened. Royal Air Force Watton is a now-closed-down RAF facility that opened in 1939. It wasn’t until 1998 that the Station was sold, by which time it was in a very run-down state. The Airfield remained and still remains in the hands of the Ministry of Defense.” On October 25, 1988 Squadron Leader E.E. Webster of RAF Watton wrote me the following, after I raised questions about RAF Watton’s claimed connections to the Rendlesham Forest case: “Our log book for the period does indeed say that a UFO was reported to us by RAF Bentwaters at 0325 GMT on 28 December 1980 but that is all the information we have.” Apparently, though, it actually wasn’t “all the information we have.” Someone – or an agency - was being decidedly economic with the facts, such as those facts were. Nick Pope revealed that Georgina Bruni’s RAF Police sources knew of a far greater story concerning RAF Watton than the brief one provided to me by Squadron Leader E.E. Webster in 1988. Apparently, on the very same night that staff at RAF Watton recorded the presence of a UFO (on December 28, 1980), a pair of military dog-handlers were patrolling the facility when something very strange happened. The pair was shocked and baffled to see just outside the perimeter fence a number of figures. No, they were not aliens. They were all too human: they were dressed in NBC (Nuclear, Biological and Chemical) outfits, head-to-foot. One of Bruni’s police sources revealed that he and his comrades were interviewed, questioned, and warned to remain silent with regard to what they had seen on that cold, winter’s night. Or, rather, who they had seen. And, no surprise: there are still new revelations surfacing.

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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