THE WESTALL SCHOOL SENSATION
Two days after the Burkes Flat incident Victoria was the setting
of another UFO sensation. This time there were numerous witnesses and the sighting occurred in daylight. Despite the extraordinary nature
of the incident only fragmentary details emerged and it has been
suggested by some witnesses and researchers involved in the case that there were attempts to prevent details of the case emerging.
At about 11 am, April 6th, 1966, numerous schoolchildren and some
teachers at Westall High school, in Clayton, a Melbourne suburb,
observed a UFO which apparently landed nearby.
An account by one of the students appeared in the school
magazine, "The Clayton Calendar", which was produced by pupils of
"I was in class when the disturbance occurred outside. I didn't
take any notice and when the bell went for morning recess my
classmates and I went to our lockers and then walked out into the
yard. we noticed that all the girls who were doing Physical Education
were gathered right down near the end of our playing field. Suddenly
the school came alive with excitement and everyone began running down towards where the girls were. I was among the surging mob. I had seen something that looked very unusual in the sky.
"As I looked up I saw a dazzling, silvery object flying around
some pine trees which grew on a ridge about a quarter of a mile
directly behind the school. It then flew across some open paddocks
also behind the school and returned to the pines. On the other side
of the ridge there is a small field. The thing hovered over the pines
and descended behind them and must have been directly over the field.
I then lost sight of it because of the pines.
"As the thing was out of sight I began to notice many private
aircraft mainly Cessna, flying towards the pines. It was then, the
thing reappeared and rose to the level of the approaching aircraft.
This enabled me to get a rough idea of its size. It was a silvery
object as long as one of the Cessnas, but very thin.
"As the aircraft approached the thing tilted on about a 45 degree
angle and started to move into the distance, gradually gaining height.
The planes increased their speed and began to follow it, but the
object streaked away leaving the planes far, far behind. The planes
turned back, but we all stood hoping it would return but it didn't, so
we all went into school, fifteen minutes late.
"After school two friends and I went to the field where the
object had descended. In a few minutes we were crawling under a
barb-wire fence which surrounded the field at a height of about four
feet. We waded through the waist-high grass making for a gap in it.
Suddenly we were there. We found ourselves standing in a spot where the grass had been utterly crushed against the earth. It was an area of about 25-30 feet in diameter. Cows could not have done it because the fence was barbed, and also cows would have left a track through the grass. There was no track. The object had descended over the field; could it have done this? It all leads back to the same question. What was the object? Some people say it was a weather balloon, but do weather balloons go up and down quickly, crush grass and fly across the skies faster than reasonably speedy aircraft? Otherwise, your guess is as good as mine."
The proceeding statement by a male student at Westall High school was
released by the science teacher, Mr. Andrew Greenwood. Mr. Greenwood said of the student, "I taught him some years ago and found him intelligent and well balanced, and certainly not given to making irresponsible statements."
The "Dandenong Journal", a local newspaper attributed the
following information to Mr. Greenwood:
"He said 5 light aircraft were circling the object and were
flying at a relatively low altitude. The aircraft had played a `cat &
mouse' kind of game with the object. He described the object as like
a thin beam of light, about half the length of a light aircraft. It
was silvery-grey and seemed to thicken at times.
"The thickening was similar to when a disc is turned a little to
show the underside. The object was never really stationary. It seemed
to move from side to side and up and down.
"At first there was one plane apparently observing the object.
Later, Mr. Greenwood noticed 5 aircraft which attempted to follow the
object as it Occasionally accelerated back and forth from east to
west. Mr. Greenwood first saw the object when it rose into the air
from behind pine trees near the school. After about 20 minutes (at
about the end of morning recess) Mr. Greenwood looked away, and when he looked back it had disappeared."
The Journal indicated that one pilot, Mr. Bob Ford, indicated he
had been flying "somewhere in that area" at the time, but did not see
anything unusual. No other pilots were found who indicated they had
been in the area and saw something.
Another student, Marilyn Eastwood, described the object as
"round, with a hump on top and round things underneath." Still
another, B.A. described to me how she had seen 3 UFOs that day.
According to her two of them had landed, and that she had seen two
large circles of flattened and burnt grass. She indicated their width
was about 50 feet across. She recollected how, the military
(ostensibly all three services - Air Force, Army and Navy) had arrived
at their house the next day. Her mother, and K. her brother, went in
a truck with her to the landing site. They were told to stay in the
truck while the military investigated. They took samples of earth.
B. recollected overhearing hearing one of the military, a RAAF
officer, saying that the earth must have been subjected to extreme
heat, as the earth itself had been burnt. The military were insistent
that the family say nothing about what they had witnessed. While her
mother had since died, her brother K. partially confirmed the story.
He had been about 3 years younger than his sister, and was attending
the adjacent primary school. Mrs. A. apparently also saw the UFOs
since she was serving in the tuck shop at the time of the commotion.
B. A. also described how 3 students, who had talked to the TV station
Channel 9, had been given detention.
A school prefect years later described to Dr. Ian Gordon (who was
then working in the Victorian Education Department curriculum
development section), how he had been in a chemistry class during the
incident. He had seen, out through the windows, along with many
other students and some teachers, both inside and outside class rooms,
what seemed to him to be an object of a "classic flying saucer shape",
silver blue in colour, come down behind a group of pine trees in an
undeveloped area, not more than 200 metres from Fairbank Road. There had been two objects according to what he had heard but he only saw what seems to have been the first of these.
All of a sudden everyone in the sports class took off in a south
west direction, including some of the teachers, like there was a mass
evacuation of the school, all "after a flying saucer". According to
the prefect the thing had come down behind a group of pine trees. A
large area of flatten grass was found there, perfectly circular in
shape, about 30 feet in diameter, with 3 scorch marks. The grass was
very dry, but it hadn't started a fire. In a westerly direction
from the site, a man approached the school group, and told them all
"to piss off" because it was private property. The property had been
standing idle for many years. The man walked through the area of
flattened grass and seemed to "ignore its existence", according to
the prefect. When he was told by numerous screaming children that a
flying saucer had come down there, he said "bull shit" and various
other things. The school children eventually returned to the school,
accompanied by a number of teachers who had "followed the mass exodus".
The prefect was berated by the school principal for being
"irresponsible" in following the rest of the students (and teachers).
Students were forbidden to talk to the press. Some students were
interviewed in Rosebank Avenue, near the school. There was a phone
call to the principal. He made an announcement that no such thing had
been seen and put it down to "mass hysteria".
There were allegedly a couple of unmarked planes, aluminium
coloured, seemingly silent, flying over the area at the time, very
slowly. The prefect indicated that from the time of the thing coming
down to when the school group arrived at the landing site, had been
little more than 5 minutes. It was gone when the group arrived. The
prefect indicated there had been a secondary mark with no scorch marks to the south of the main site, which suggested that a second object, apparently seen, may have landed. That object had been seen coming down very shortly after the first. The site was not flattened right down like the main one. It appeared to be just a swirled pattern in
the grass in an anti-clockwise direction. It was understood that one
of the teachers, a science teacher, may have taken photos of the site.
Some students said they saw the object take off after it had come
down, but most seem to have only seen something come down and later
sighted the ground traces. There was apparently talk with some
teachers, according to the prefect, that the craft had obviously, been
some sort of secret air force test weapon.
Ray Fischer of the Victorian UFO Research Society revealed to me
that they had interviewed a man who came on the scene at about 5 pm of the day of the sightings. He saw a "a perfect circle of flattened
grass, flattened right down to ground level, in grass that was about
two feet high. This man recollected that he thought the area was
about 30 feet in diameter. He returned a few days later to find a
team of "military or air force people" going over the site. A couple
of technical looking vans were parked outside. He saw that people in
uniform were examining the circle with what he took to be radiation
detectors. Officials there told him he couldn't go into the field and
to move on. This gentleman returned to the site a third time, only to
find that the paddock had been burnt out.
Several other events are alleged to have been related to this
fascinating affair. Some witnesses described seeing a cow in the
paddock, where the UFO came down. It was alleged to have been in such a distressed state that it eventually had to be put down. There have been persistent stories that one schoolgirl, the first student to
arrive at the landing site, was found be in a dazed, trance like
state, as if she was very shocked. There were unconfirmed rumours
that this girl never fully recovered from this experience and spent
some time in a hospital at Kew. The teacher who took photos of the
site, was allegedly told by the headmaster that "if you want to keep
on teaching you have to keep your mouth shut and we want the film."
The film allegedly ended up in the hands of the RAAF or Army, but
predictably there has been no confirmation of that detail. A woman
claimed the UFO involved in the Westall school landing, h ad hovered
over her house, above trees, before it landed behind the school. The
UFO was allegedly above the trees for 5 or 10 minutes before it
landed. The woman claimed the UFO "was trying to find a place to
land." She states she followed it, but that "it started to get a bit
spooky". She started to return home, but then went back, only to be
allegedly turned away by police. One source indicated that 200 to 300
kids raced down to the fence where the UFO had landed. There was
"some guy walking around in white overalls and he was telling everyone
to keep back and another guy appeared and he had some sort of uniform
Both men had overalls - one was fully white - the other had a dark
uniform, but it had an emblem or a logo on it." According to that
source, these men were normal looking, and seemed to be walking
around the UFO on the ground. "One of the guys disappeared into the
aircraft - the one on the ground - they didn't see where the other one
went - the last they saw, he was around the other side of them. They
disappeared." It was alleged by at least one source that the UFO had
"sort of crash landed", that there were 3 "aircraft" above it,
"hovering above it. They were white - they didn't have wings and they
didn't have engines ... all they did was hum. The humming got
louder, when they took off. Then within a few minutes this "flying
saucer" took off."
There is little doubt that something of an extraordinary nature
was seen over the Westall school area and that at least one of these
objects appears to have landed and apparently left behind some
physical traces. Number of witnesses confirm these basic details.
Other more exotic details vary in credibility, some seemingly
complementing each other and some apparently contradicting the
generally accepted story of events.
THE BALWYN PHOTO ENIGMA
A puzzling footnote exists on the Westall High school affair. A
colour Polaroid photo was taken of a UFO allegedly seen over the
Melbourne suburb of Balwyn, at 2.21 pm, on April 2nd, 1966, 4 days
before the school landing. The photo was taken by a local engineering
company business man who was also a member of the Victorian Flying
Saucer Research Society. He requested that his name not be used, so
he was referred to as "James Brown" in some accounts.
The weather was warm and clear. Suddenly the man's garden lit
up as if there had been a reflection from some huge mirror. Brown
looked up and saw a bright, shiny object coming towards him. He
estimated its diameter at being between 20 feet to 35 feet. The
object seemed to about 150 feet up in the air. It appeared to float
down towards the witness. The strange object resembled a big mushroom with the stalk pointing towards earth. It spun through a 180
degrees angle on its vertical axis, then the witnessed photographed
it. The object then turned slowly through another 180 degrees on its
horizontal axis bringing the stalk to face the business man. From
what seemed a virtual stationary position it shot off northwards at
great speed, seemingly accelerating to be hundreds of miles an hour
in seconds. The witness ran and got a carpenter who was working on
the house. They heard a boom similar like a sonic boom seconds later.
The VFSRS president knew the witness and interviewed him and the carpenter. The carpenter confirmed Brown's story, stating he had
Brown in sight when the photograph had been taken. The two had stood shoulder to shoulder as the Polaroid photo developed. Despite Brown's apparent inclination to keep the story quiet, the photo and story was released to the media. The incident received national press and
television coverage. Despite this, there was no public interest
apparent from official organisations.
VFSRS issued a report on the photo which indicated that the
polaroid photograph and an enlarged copy showed no evidence of a
multiple exposure, montage or any other form of tampering. The US
organisation, APRO, had their photo consultant examine the photo. Dr.
B.R. Frieden, Professor of Optical Sciences at the University of
Arizona, reported finding "a jagged line of discontinuity running
across the centre of the photo, through the cloud field, which
suggests that there are actually 2 separate photos joined together and
rephotographed to make the one." APRO therefore regarded the photo as a possible hoax. The photo also apparently "failed" the GSW (Ground Saucer Watch) computer enhancement technique. Although aware of these results, Brown still maintains the photo is a genuine one.
BALWYN FALLOUT AND INTRIGUE
Brown claims that while there was no public official interest in
his photo when it became public, there was intense clandestine
interest. He indicated that that interest was directly attributed to
the fact that his photo showed an object that was ostensibly identical
to the Westall object observed 4 days later. Brown described how all
hell broke loose when the photo was released to the media without his
permission. He claims he came under intense scrutiny by the military
and intelligence agents. He alleged that helicopters surveyed the
area repeatedly, and was interrogated by military, intelligence and
CSIRO officials on numerous occasions. Brown claims he was taken to a clandestine meeting attended by military, intelligence and CSIRO
representatives and at least two individuals noted for their high
public profile on the UFO phenomenon as advocates and witnesses. It
was at this meeting he claims to have been told about an extraordinary
film event at Dry Creek Tracking Station and Woomera during 1963.
Brown also told this story to Leonard Stringfield. Allegedly a low
level, football shaped UFO apparently caused an electrical outage and
radar blot-out at the station and at the Woomera rocket range. The UFO
was allegedly witnessed by Australian scientists. Cameramen took
16,000 feet of colour movie film of the UFO, which was ostensibly
passed onto Washington, D.C. for further evaluation. While intriguing,
none of the information could be substantiated.