May 10, 2023 I Nick Redfern

How Did the Rendlesham Forest "UFO Landing" Become Known? A Non-Stop, Dedicated Team of Three

Situated in the county of Suffolk, England, Rendlesham Forest is just like about any other large area of woodland. It’s a place that provokes a sense of tranquility and a feeling of relaxation – but also, at times, an air of distinct, quiet eeriness. Deer, foxes and badgers run freely and wildly through the forest. The woods are filled with the inviting chirping of birds, such as buzzards, red kites and nightjars. This particular forest, however – that runs to more than 1,400 acres, and that is largely comprised of Corsican and Scots pine trees - can boast of being somewhat different to most forests; in fact, it’s almost unique. You know why.The forest itself sits adjacent to what used to be the United States / Royal Air Force complexes of Bentwaters-Woodbridge. Personnel at both bases played significant roles in the Second World War to help defeat the Nazis. Certainly, without the American presence it’s almost certain that Hitler and his collective scum would have overwhelmed the U.K.

In the aftermath of the war, and particularly so when the Cold War began, the bases continued to retain their strategic and important position in the country. Until their closure in 1993, Woodbridge and Bentwaters both served as front-line defenders of the U.K.’s security. At their peak there were more than 13,000 U.S. service-personnel at the twin facilities. Rumor has it – but has never been fully confirmed – that a sizeable number of nuclear weapons were held there for an unclear period of years. In addition, several thousand American military personnel lived off-base, in rented cottages and houses scattered throughout the welcoming communities of Woodbridge, Alderburgh, Wickham Market and more. No-one knew that one day, the area – and particularly so a certain, large area of woodland that is at the heart of the story – would become famous all across the world. Incredibly, though, that is precisely what occurred. To understand exactly what occurred in the woods on those fateful nights, it’s important that we go back to the beginning: (a) the events themselves; and (b) a near-legendary memo on the incidents that was carefully prepared by Lieutenant Colonel Charles Halt. At the time, he was the Deputy Base Commander at RAF Bentwaters. On January 13, 1981, Halt prepared the following report; it was sent to the U.K. Ministry of Defense (MoD) for scrutiny. It gives a fairly brief – but certainly detailed – account of what happened:

(Nick Redfern) The Rendlesham Forest affair: still provoking intrigue

1.  Early in the morning of 27 Dec 80 (approximately 0300L) two USAF security police patrolmen saw unusual lights outside the back gate at RAF Woodbridge. Thinking an aircraft might have crashed or been forced down, they called for permission to go outside the gate to investigate. The on-duty flight chief responded and allowed three patrolmen to proceed on foot. The individuals reported seeing a strange glowing object in the forest. The object was described as being metallic in appearance and triangular in shape, approximately two to three meters across the base and approximately two meters high. It illuminated the entire forest with a white light. The object itself had a pulsing red light on top and a bank(s) of blue lights underneath. The object was hovering or on legs. As the patrolmen approached the object, it maneuvered through the trees and disappeared. At this time the animals on a nearby farm went into a frenzy. The object was briefly sighted approximately an hour later near the back gate. 

2.  The next day, three depressions 1.5 inches deep and 7 inches in diameter were found where the object had been sighted on the ground. The following night (29 Dec 80) the area was checked for radiation. Beta/gamma readings of 0.1 milliroentgens were recorded with peak readings in the three depressions and near the center of the triangle formed by the depressions. A nearby tree had moderate (0.05–0.07) readings on the side of the tree toward the depressions. 

3.  Later in the night a red sun-like light was seen through the trees. It moved about and pulsed. At one point it appeared to throw off glowing particles and then broke into five separate white objects and then disappeared. Immediately thereafter, three star-like objects were noticed in the sky, two objects to the north and one to the south, all of which were about 10 degrees off the horizon. The objects moved rapidly in sharp, angular movements and displayed red, green and blue lights. The objects to the north appeared to be elliptical through an 8-12 power lens. They then turned to full circles. The objects to the north remained in the sky for an hour or more. The object to the south was visible for two or three hours and beamed down a stream of light from time to time. Numerous individuals, including the undersigned, witnessed the activities in paragraphs 2 and 3

Charles I. Halt, Lt Col, USAF , Deputy Base Commander 

(Nick Redfern) the Rendlesham Forest mystery remains

On the issue of how Ufology learned of the story, there’s no doubt at all that it was the team of Brenda Butler, Dot Street and Jenny Randles that got the ball rolling. They were the authors of the very first book on the mystery, Sky Crash, which was published in 1984. There is also no doubt that without their combined investigations, our knowledge of the incidents would be nowhere compared to where we are today. Possibly, even, without those three persistent investigators the truth behind those incidents would have remained hidden and locked away. Forever? I would not bet against it. That gives you some idea of the depth and determination of Dot, Jenny and Brenda to get the answers. A bit of background for you on how the story began to surface: Brenda lived not at all far from the forest and had more than a few contacts in the region.

Notably, that included friends who were employees of the U.S. military. It wasn’t one hundred percent inevitable that Brenda would hear tales of something strange having taken place just outside the confines of RAF Woodbridge. It was, however, highly likely that such a thing would eventually occur. And as the history books have shown, such a thing did occur. Dot and Brenda were friends and decided to take a deep and careful look at the story. Jenny Randles joined their team soon after, in early 1981. The three were soon hot on the trail of the story – and barely a month after Lieutenant Colonel Halt had put his memo together for the U.K.’s Ministry of Defense. And, the three never looked back. It was a story that suggested, just maybe, a spacecraft from a faraway world had come down in the woods. In the world of Ufology, this was a development that could not have been envisaged just a short period earlier. 

An important informant: one of the key sources for the story who the three women relied on - and whose unforgettable words galvanized the trio to look ever deeper into the story - was the pseudonymous “Steve Roberts.” Such was the sensitivity surrounding the man and his story, he was careful to mask his real name. A lot of water has gone under the bridge since the very early part of 1981, however. Today, we know so much more. That includes the real name of that prime, early source. Gary Heseltine is a former Royal Air Force Police officer who went on to have a twenty-four-year-long career with the British Transport Police, serving the majority of the time as a detective. Heseltine, who has spent a large amount of time studying what happened in Rendlesham Forest, says: “Surprisingly to this day, many people don’t realize that the mysterious ‘Steve Roberts witness’ has been identified for many years as J. D. Ingles. Ingles was on the base at the time of the incident, a Sergeant in the Reports and Analysis section of the 81st Security Police Squadron.”

It was, to a large degree, the words of their source that caught the attention of Street, Butler and Randles. They did a very good, solid job of pursuing the story. It was soon published. Sky Crash makes for fascinating reading. Shadowy characters, Ministry of Defense chicanery, sinister goings-on in the woods, tales of extraterrestrial visitation, and military figures hiding their real names for fear of what might happen to them, were just the start of things. In the weeks and months that followed, the Ministry of Defense proved to be highly close-mouthed when it came to discussing the December incidents with members of the public and the media. No surprise. They were even more cautious about chatting with an energized team of UFO sleuths who weren’t going to give up. That’s Jenny, Dot and Brenda, of course. In some ways, the MoD was unable to do very much about it, as wild rumors of the startling events were already seeping out. Eventually matters would develop into a chaotic torrent. To demonstrate how incredibly careful and determined the MoD was to try and keep matters under wraps, it was not until April 13, 1983 that an official admission was made to Jenny Randles that a handful of “lights” had been seen in the vicinity of Rendlesham Forest and that remained “unexplained.” That’s right: two years passed before the rumors of something very strange and non-human having been seen in Rendlesham Forest began to unravel in the world of intelligence and the military. Those who were hiding the truth were now in the dangerous position of losing control of the situation. 

(Nick Redfern) Somewhere, there must be a large amount of files that tell the full story

Almost two months later to the day, a copy of Lieutenant Colonel Halt’s memo was declassified in accordance with the laws of the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. It was provided to a now-deceased American UFO investigator, Robert Todd. In a June 14, 1983 letter to Todd, Colonel Peter Bent – who, at the time, was the Commander of the 513th Combat Support Group (CSG) – made an amazement statement. He said: “It might interest you to know that the U.S. Air Force had no longer retained a copy of the 13 January 1981 letter written by Lt. Col. Charles I. Halt. The Air Force file copy had been properly disposed of in accordance with Air Force regulations. Fortunately, through diligent inquiry and the gracious consent of Her Majesty’s government, the British Ministry of Defense and the Royal Air Force, the U.S. Air Force was provided with a copy for you.”

It wasn’t long at all before Brenda, Dot and Jenny found themselves in a runaround. Curiously, during the course of an interview with MoD spokeswoman Pam Titchmarsh on August 18, 1983, Randles was told that – contrary to the statement made by Colonel Bent – the Ministry of Defense had not supplied the Americans with a copy of Halt’s memorandum. Notably, Titchmarsh was very wary about discussing the case with Randles, who had made a trip down to London with Street and Butler. “I wouldn’t know,” was Titchmarsh’s uneasy and succinct reply when Randles asked her if the MoD’s “operational staff” had built up their own files on the case. Nevertheless, since a copy of the Halt memo had been released to Robert Todd by U.S. authorities, Titchmarsh was – at the very least - obliged to admit that her department in the MoD (Defense Secretariat 8) did have a copy of Halt’s report on file. Despite that, the Ministry of Defense denied that the events of December 1980 were of any kind of defense significance. It was a stubborn, mule-like stance from which the Ministry of Defense has never, ever wavered. The MoD just loves that mule. Always has, always will.

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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