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The Rendlesham forest incident of Christmas 1980 is probably one of the most remarkable UFO incidents on record. It has been dubbed the "British Roswell" but in reality is probably a far more intriguing case. Like the Roswell incident this one occurred close to several top secret military establishments including two air bases. As such the case profile couldn't be higher yet getting at the truth has never been easy. The full answers may never be known, but varying accounts from different people make for a story that is never anything less than sensational. A story that seems to leap straight from the archives of the most exciting X - files episode.

Boxing Day 1980

Although every aspect of this case has been subject to claim and counter claim, the undisputed fact is that on Boxing Day night of 1980 strange events happened close to the Woodbridge and Bentwater air-bases just eight miles north-east of Ipswich. At that time a party was in progress at one of the air bases which was then leased to the American Air Force. In the early hours of the 27th of December news went around that something strange was happening.

Full Alert.

An unidentified object was tracked on radar in the vicinity of the bases and a state of full alert was declared. After awhile however it became clear that the object, whatever it was, posed no direct threat to the bases yet continued to cause the most intense excitement. Witnesses spoke of bright revolving lights circling in the sky as the object hovered over a nearby pine plantation called Rendlesham Forest.

Patrol Investigates.

For awhile confusion prevailed as no-one seems to have known what they were dealing with. According to some reports a bright ball of light seemed to crash into the nearby forest. A patrol was promptly dispatched to the vicinity and finding their way blocked by a farm gate, were forced to continue the search on foot. From the farm gate a narrow path led directly to the forest. Following this for approximately half a mile the astonished servicemen eventually came across a conical metallic object hovering over a clearing in the trees. Above them a pulsating beam of light sent out a rotating circle of red and blue light. The object-whatever it was also appeared suspended in a haze of yellow mist through which one of the men recalls seeing the vague outline of triangular shaped landing gear.

State of confusion.

By this time the object seems to have been fully aware of the servicemen's presence. It began to back away but giving chase the airmen eventually came so close to it that one of them was reported to have climbed on top of the object to confirm its solidity. The growing unreality of the situation was making the patrol members feel unusual. At least one of them had to be physically dragged from the forest in a trance-like condition, and the others were left in a highly confused state of mind. At the same time local farm animals as well as domestic pets became possessed with wild fear and panic. Cows went into a complete state of frenzy stampeding onto nearby roads where they were run into by a taxi, though without serious consequences.

Strange Visitors.

At this point the exact sequence of events becomes harder to verify. Varied accounts speak of strange lights that continued to plague the vicinity throughout that night and of a landing in the woods during which small beings immersed in light were seen to emerge from a peculiar shaped craft.

Apparently the craft remained on the ground long enough to be approached by Base Commander Gordon Williams who is said to have attempted to communicate with the aliens through sign language. An eye witness claimed to believe that the beings - possibly robots - were carrying out repairs to the craft that appeared damaged from its descent through the trees. Once these repairs were complete the visitors were observed to take off again in a brilliant burst of light.


The following day the whole site was subjected to intense investigation. Small indentations, thought to have been where the landing legs stood, gave off above normal readings of radiation. In addition overhead branches and leaves were torn away and parted as if some massive object had plunged through the trees.

Tape recording.

The excitement concerning the incident was heightened even further by the release of a moment by moment tape recording of the foot search through the pine woods. This was of a highly dramatic nature though ufologists have always doubted its authenticity. It is also widely believed that the entire episode was filmed on video by a USAF officer, though needless to say nothing of this tape was ever made public. Ace UFO investigator Jenny Randles is quite sure of the existence of this secret film. In her book The UFO Conspiracy she claims: "There is also ample evidence that film was taken of the object and subsequent damage, and flown to Germany, for USAF analysis."

Continuing events.

Even in the days that followed the incident strange events continued to occur in the area. A local man putting his dog in his shed for the night saw a fluorescent green object pass over his house and disappear into Rendlesham Forest. Mysteriously the dog became ill and died soon afterwards, apparently from an unidentified poison! In addition a plane flying overhead was unaccountably damaged by flying debris from an unknown source.

After the incident a veil of secrecy hushed up all mention of the strange events. Questions from reporters were met with persistent denials, and the revolving lights were explained in terms of a nearby lighthouse. Jenny Randles condemned this secrecy as a crime against "the rights of British citizens", adding: "This was the most audacious conspiracy ever perpetrated on you (the British Public). It is time that you knew about it"

Years later the American base commander, now retired, went on British television and confirmed many of the details of what transpired that night. Several former airmen also backed up his story, insisting that whatever they had seen was impossible to explain in any ordinary way.

Official Verdict.

Just over a year after the incident, deputy commander of the Bentwater air base, Lt. Col. Charles Halt issued the following report to the MOD: "The object was described as being metallic in appearance and triangular in shape, approximately three metres across the base and two metres high. It illuminated the entire forest with a white light....As the patrolmen approached the object, it maneuvered through the trees and disappeared. At this time the animals in a nearby farm went into a frenzy. The next day three depressions were found where the object had been sighted on the ground."

Cover Story.

Although the Rendlesham incident has traditionally been explained in terms of a UFO encounter not everyone accepts this version of events. In fact some local residents believe it was a cover story for a nuclear accident. For her part Jenny Randles is on record as believing that a Russian spy satellite might have been deliberately brought down to Earth near the site - hence the need for a plausible cover story to deflect unwanted attention.

Whatever the truth may be about the Rendlesham incident, like Roswell it continues to gather impetus as one of the most remarkable UFO accounts on record - a story that truly is a legend in the making.
Lt. Col. Charles Halt official report on the Rendlesham incident

Summary: This is the official report filed by USAF Deputy Base Commander Lt. Col. Charles Halt concerning the UFO incidents in Rendlesham Forest, near the Bentwaters/Woodbridge RAF bases.

Department of the Air Force Headquarter 81st Combat Support Group (USAFE) APO NEW YORK DY735

13 Jan 81 Reply to Attn of: CD Subject: Unexplained Lights

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 and 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 manoeuvred though the trees and disappeared. At this time the animals on a nearby farm went into frenzy. The object was briefly sighted approximately an hour later near the back gate.

2. The next day, three depressions 1 1/2" deep and 7" 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 (.05 - .07) readings on the side of the tree toward the depressions.

3. Later in the night a red sun-like light was seen though 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
The Bentwaters Rendlesham Forest Incident

Cosmic Conspiracies

Summary: One of Great Britains most significant Military-UFO incidents happened at Rendlesham Forest in Suffolk on three consecutive nights in late December 1980. An overview of the incident.

One of Great Britains most significant Military-UFO incidents happened at Rendlesham Forest in Suffolk on three consecutive nights in late December 1980. Rendlesham is a vast pine forest east of Ipswich that is near Orford Ness. There is a prominent lighthouse (of which we will discuss later),as well as some other buildings that were situated on this island. In 1980, they were rumoured to be operated by the National Security Agency (NSA) - one of the US's most covert intelligence units. Stories of Top Secret experiments were rife, although the official function of the buildings was given as a site for research into 'over the horizon' radar. Gordon Levitt lived in an isolated house on the edge of the forest in Sudbourne. On December 26th, 1980, he had been out in the garden with his dog when he suddenly looked up and spotted a peculiar object flying towards them. The UFO looked like an upturned mushroom with a greenish-white glow.

The craft soon silently passed them and carried on towards the twin NATO air bases of RAF Woodbridge and RAF Bentwaters. The next morning, Levitt's dog became ill - cowering in its kennel as if afraid to come out. Its condition worsened and it died a few days later.

By the east gate of RAF Woodbridge that night were US Air Force security patrolmen John Burroughs and Budd Steffens. They soon spotted the strange craft and at first thought that it may be a plane about to crash, however they soon realised that the craft was hovering downwards and eventually landed in the woods. They could see a pulsating mass of coloured lights, described by witnesses as looking like a Christmas tree. Burroughs quickly phoned the base. It was 2 a.m. and there should not have been any aircraft in the vicinity. Within minutes, security patrol sergeant Jim Penniston was on his way by jeep, driven by Edward Cabansag.

Once they arrived, they too saw the strange craft, lights were flickering through the trees and Penniston, who took command, tried to persuade Burroughs and Steffens that a plane had crashed and was blazing out of control. But the two patrolmen knew that what was out there had landed and not crashed.

Budd Steffens stayed at the gate while the others entered the forest. There was some kind of strange electrical field pervading the woods, the radio contact with the base began to break down. Penniston ordered Cabansag to stay back near the road so they could use him to relay messages to the main base. Penniston and Burroughs continued deeper into the forest, it was at this point that the air became alive with energy - crackling as if within a thunderstorm, even the mens hair stood on end, and their skin began to tingle.

Penniston has said since the incident 'It was definitely not in the Jane's book of World Aircraft,'. He described it as a conical object about the size of a small car, floating on beams of light (others reported seeing thin legs) only 30 cms or so above the ground. It had a strange, misty aura and on its side were black marks that could have been writing.

As the men tried to get closer to the object they described it as like trying to walk through treacle, as they could not seem to close in on the object. Suddenly, there was a flash of light, and the craft soared up into the air.

Penniston and Burroughs claim they came close to an object that was like nothing they had ever seen before. As Airman (later Sergeant) John Burroughs insisted 'I do not now whether this was some kind of machine under intelligent control or a fantastic natural phenomenon - some rare kind of energy. What I do know is that it was nothing mundane. There are no words that can adequately describe the wonder of what we saw'

The UFO Returns

The following morning signs of the UFO's presence were found in the forest. Many trees had their tops broken and three holes were found in the frozen soil in a triangular formation, matching the location of the legs seen beneath the UFO the previous night. An A-10 plane which flew over the site at dawn picked up infra-red radiation pouring from the forest.

That night there was an officers' party at RAF Bentwaters. Not long into this event Lieutenant Bruce Englund entered the room and told the base commander Ted Conrad that 'it' was back. As Conrad was just about to present an after-dinner speech, he asked his deputy, Lt Col Charles Halt, if he could sort out the matter. Deputy Base Commander Halt (later promoted to Lt Col Halt) gathered a team of skilled men, including Sergeant Nevells of the 'Disaster Preparedness' team and took a Geiger counter to measure radiation. Halt also took a dictaphone to help him make notes. Englund gathered light-alls (gas-powered arc lights), and the small party of men ventured out towards the edge of the base.

A security cordon was set up around the perimetre of the woods to prevent any curious airmen or local villagers from getting in the way. An hour earlier a security patrol had spotted strange lights floating in the sky above the forest. But these lights had quickly disappeared. On entering the wood, the colonel was told that the UFO was no longer visible. However, the light-alls seemed to keep cutting out and he had to send someone to get more from the base.

The team's radio communication (transcribed further in this article) both to the base and with each other were showing static interference, similar to that experienced the night before. Burroughs - hearing what was happening - decided to to join the group. But there was nothing unusual to see, except for a few stars and the pulsating light of the Orford Ness lighthouse and the Shipwash lightship further to the south. The men took several soil and tree bark samples as well as making radio observations of what they found.

Out of nowhere all hell broke loose. Noises could be heard in the background as Halt cut in sharply telling his men to 'slow down' and take it carefully. The UFO was back. It had been spotted at 1.48 a.m. by a group of men who had ventured deep into the forest, which included John Burroughs and Sergeant Adrian Bustinza - who describes how the glowing light rested on a pillar of yellowish mist and split in the middle like a rainbow produced by a prism. Halt and his team had spotted the craft by now and said he initially considered mirages or weather-induced temperature inversions. Now the area of light resembled a huge eye with a dark centre. The group of men followed the light through the woods, crossing a farmer's field and stumbling through a small brook.

They chased it for more than an hour when, suddenly the object shot skywards, Halt reported 'Now we observe what appears to be a beam coming down towards the ground - this is unreal.' Soon after, tired and wet, Halt led his men home. Strange lights were still seen above the Woodbridge base, flashing laser-like beams down into the security area of the base. Hundreds of personnel were said to have witnessed them. Local residents - such as Sarah Richardson, whose bedroom overlooked the base - saw them too. She later described them as 'bands of rippling colour.'

Radiation Readings

Files detailing the Geiger counter readings taken at the scene were shown to experts by Nick Pope in 1994 who asses radiation levels for the government. According to Pope, they expressed surprise at the recordings and confirmed that the figures were ten times the expected background levels.

Nuclear Base

Suspicion centred on the presence of nuclear weapons at RAF Bentwaters - which was denied by the base and the British government at the time. More than a decade later, it was admitted that this denial was untrue.

Larry Warren

Larry Warren, a member of the US Air Force Security Police, was posted to England on 1st December, 1980. Just a few weeks later, he was involved in the bizarre encounter that occured in Rendlesham Forest. He says ' I was taken off my post to the forest, with a number of the other personnel who were bringing lighting equipment out used to illuminate large areas, but it wouldn't work because of a mechanical malfunction. We still had no idea what we were up to. A dim red light, opposite the Orford lighthouse, stopped over a strange mist on the ground.

It quickly transformed into a triangular object covering approximately 30 feet (10 metres), going to a sharp pyramid about 20 feet (6.6 metres) in height. It had a solid structure, with a rough surface. Some of the group ran away, others stayed put, like myself. I couldn't move - i don't know whether it was shock or if it was outside influence. It was dreamlike... i think time was distorted and perceptions were intentionally affected by this intelligence. There was one reality and in front of you was another. I felt slower on that night. Everything was on half speed and something was wrong - something was out of place.

Caught On Radar

East Anglia has always had extensive radar coverage, ever vigilant for a possible invasion from across the North Sea. This ensured that the object seen on 26th of December was detected. At RAF Neatishead, an unidentified object appeared on the radar and created panic in the control room. It returned no signal and was outperforming the RAF's finest aircraft. As they lost it off screen at a phenomenal speed, the matter was subject to a major investigation. The Neatishead radar tapes and those from nearby RAF Watton were requisitioned three days later. Remarkably, when USAF intelligence officers visited Watton to collect the film, they claimed that a UFO had crashed into the forest. Senior officers from a nearby USAF airbase witnessed the event, they said, and they had even seen aliens floating in beams of light underneath the spacecraft. Incredibly, the radar officers were not even told to keep this extraordinary story secret.

Blanket Of Silence

By the end of 26th of December, US Deputy Base Commander Charles Halt and his British liaison officer - Squadron Leader Donald Moreland - were in discussions with their respective governments. A 'stand-up' meeting involving senior staff was held, and it was decided not to make any public revelations about the case. Soon, top-secret flights were arriving at the twin bases of Bentwaters and Woodbridge, and staff from covert US intelligence agencies were involved. Officers Burroughs, Penniston, and the other witnesses, were cut out of the loop. So too were seniot personnel at the base - even deputy base commander Charles Halt was not allowed to know what was going on.Had the cover-up begun?

Some sceptics have suggested various explanations for this event, including the lighthouse being seen from the forest, an experiment to see what the mens reaction would be to a threat close to a nuclear base, and even a meteor. If this is indeed the case, how can they explain the radar sightings?

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