This Side of the Pond
Notes from an Uprooted Englishwoman
January 7, 2021
Last week, my countrymen did absolutely nothing to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of our own version of Roswell. The Rendlesham Forest UFO is often referred to as “one of the most famous alleged alien sightings in history,” which does nothing to explain why none of us have ever heard of it.
Permit me to enlighten you, just in case we should all be keeping one eye to the heavens. At the tail end of 1980, something strange happened in a remote forest, but we’re as likely to ever find out what went down as we are to get a look at the flying saucer they’re keeping in New Mexico.
What we do know was that it took place at the height of the Cold War in 1980, and it involved U.S. Air Force personnel stationed at a NATO complex in Suffolk, England called RAF Woodbridge.
It’s probably important to note that the complex was nuclear armed and home to the Special Forces unit allegedly responsible for locating and recovering Apollo command modules and other space hardware for NASA, so they knew what they were talking about when it comes to things that fall out of the sky.
A 3 o’clock on a December morning, a security patrol near the east gate saw lights descending into the nearby forest. The servicemen thought it was a downed aircraft and headed over to assist.
However, according to the deputy base commander, what they found was a glowing object, metallic in appearance, with colored lights. As they attempted to approach what sounds suspiciously like an alien disco ball, it appeared to move through the trees and caused the animals on a nearby farm to go into a frenzy (which just sounds like cows trying to do the funky chicken, if you ask me.)
The police were called, but said the only lights they could see were from a nearby lighthouse. The next morning, servicemen found three small impressions on the ground in a triangle, as well as burn marks and broken branches.
They called the cops again, but this time the party poopers said the impressions were probably made by an animal. I’m guessing one of the heifers was trying to moonwalk.
A couple of days later, the deputy base commander returned with a group of servicemen and took radiation readings. They saw the same flashing light across the field to the east as the witnesses saw on the first night (though it’s been pointed out that the lighthouse is positioned in that same line of sight.)
Later, the deputy base commander reported three star-like lights were seen in the sky, the brightest of which hovered for several hours and appeared to beam down a stream of light from time to time.
I’m told that nobody ever properly investigated the incident because the Ministry of Defence decided it was no threat to national security, which is exactly the reaction you don’t want the authorities to have when space invaders land, even if they have just come to party. Consequently, it’s no surprise that all sorts of theories have come about.
Astronomers have suggested the lights were caused by a piece of natural debris burning up as a fireball over southern England. I wonder, though, why RAF Woodridge recorded the only sighting.
If you could see it all across the south, wouldn’t it have confused a few civilians? Surely there were still some teenagers up and around, or a couple of nurses on the night shift?
Astronomers have further suggested that the hovering lights were, in fact, stars. Some say the falling debris might have been a downed Soviet spy satellite, but there’s no actual evidence. Meanwhile, an American ex-security policeman claimed he was behind the whole thing, saying he’d been driving around the forest in a police vehicle with modified lights for no particular reason.
But my favorite theory comes from a British “UFO researcher” by the name of David Clarke, who reckons it had to do with a feud between the American personnel and their counterpart British SAS special forces at nearby RAF Benwaters.
Clarke says he has evidence that sensitive exercises were performed at the two sites aimed at testing the ability of each other’s security forces to intercept a Soviet attack on the nuclear weapons store. The USAF quietly upgraded their ability to monitor the air above their base without telling the Brits, which caused issues when the SAS mounted a covert exercise to infiltrate it.
Troopers parachuted into the forest, but were rumbled when their parachutes were detected by this new equipment. The squad was captured and interrogated by a lieutenant who hadn’t been told about the testing program, and they were understandably salty upon finally being released 18 hours later.
Apparently, the lieutenant kept referring to them as “unidentified aliens,” which is a common term over here to describe non-citizens but a lot more unusual in the UK. The Brits were feeling peevish – not to mention confused – and got their own back by playing a practical joke.
“You want aliens? We’ll give you aliens,” is what I assume one of them must have said.
They spent the fall reconnoitering the base perimeter and then rigged lights and flares in the forest and coupled black helium balloons to remote-controlled kites. They are said to have had a whole lot of fun at the expense of the baffled Americans, ruined only by the deputy base officer’s brave choice to head into the forest to investigate.
Is this theory true? I’d say it’s more likely than the idea of aliens whizzing around the woods, but that doesn’t make it fact. I’m sad that yet again we didn’t have the chance to encounter beings from another galaxy, but I think we can all agree that the pranking skills of our mutual special forces are quite simply out of this world.