Summary: The so-called Rendlesham File, now available for public inspection, is a fat catalogue of increasingly despairing correspondence between the Ministry of Defence and members of the public after the sighting of unexplained lights in Rendlesham Forest, near the RAF base at Woodbridge, Suffolk, in December 1980.
HOW UFO FEVER TAXED MEN FROM THE MINISTRY
A report of alien sightings prompted floods of letters to the
MoD, reports Alan Hamilton. New laws have made these public,
explains Frances Gibb.
While British and American defence chiefs were supposed to be
keeping a watchful eye on the Soviet threat in Europe during the
1980s, they were spending an undue amount of energy dealing with
little green men.
The so-called Rendlesham File, now available for public
inspection, is a fat catalogue of increasingly despairing
correspondence between the Ministry of Defence and members of
the public after the sighting of unexplained lights in
Rendlesham Forest, near the RAF base at Woodbridge, Suffolk, in
The story was given wing by its detailed disclosure in the News
of the World in 1983.
Soon after the alleged incident, reported by the USAF deputy
base commander at nearby Bentwaters, the MoD drew up an internal
memo: "No evidence was found of any threat to the defence of the
United Kingdom, and no further investigations were carried out.
"No further information has come to light which alters our view
that the sightings of these lights was of no defence
Nothing was picked up on radar that night, officials added, and
they concluded that the airmen had confused the lights with the
beam of Orford Ness lighthouse, distorted by trees, or a natural
But the Ministry and the RAF were bombarded with inquiries from
the public.Officials suggested that besieged officers at
Bentwaters should take the line that "there was no question of
any contact with alien beings."
They should also dismiss rumours that the UFO story was a cover-
up for the crash of an aircraft carrying nuclear material.
Still the letters poured in. Two years later an increasingly
short- tempered MoD was writing to one correspondent demanding a
full investigation: "There is no organisation in MoD appointed
soleyl for the purpose of studying reports of such objects, and
no staff are employed on the subject full-time."
It added: "We have to recognise that there are many strange
things to be seen in the sky, but we believe there are adequate
explanations for them."
Things got worse as forged letters purporting to come from MoD
officials began to circulate. One, apparently on Ministry
notepaper, claimed that a craft of unknown origin and "crewed by
several entities" had landed near Bentwaters.
The entities, it went on, were about one and a half metres tall
and wore nylon-coated pressure suits but no helmets. They had
claw-like hands with three digits and an opposable thumb. One
self-styled researcher into "cosmic conspiracy", having seen the
letter, wrote to the MoD requesting further information on the
craft which had landed for several hours to carry out repairs,
during which time the USAF base commander had conversed with its
An MoD official replied tersely: "I am afraid that it is a
forgery... I have no idea where it came from or why it was
written and can only conclude that it was intended by someone as
MPs forwarded letters from worried constituents convinced of a
cover-up. One passed on by David Alton, MP, said in part: "There
is clear evidence that British airspace and territory were
intruded upon by an unidentified vehicle on two occasions in
late December 1980, and that no authority was able to prevent
Some correspondents continued to harry MoD until officials were
driven to reply: "I suggest that there is little point in
continuing this correspondence."
The final letter in the fiel is dated July 1992, in which an MoD
official writes to the RAF liaison officer at Bentwaters asking
if the original USAF report of the sightings was genuine, "as a
number of hoaxes have been circulating for years."
Squadron Leader P. Rooney at Bentwaters had the last word: "I
have no records on this subject and the file to which you refer
has long been destroyed."
WHAT AIRMEN FOUND IN THE WOODS
A GRAPHIC description of the "unusual lights" that were
suspected of being a UFO is described in the Rendlesham file.
The lights were spotted by two USAF security police patrolmen,
according to a report dated January 1981 headed "unexplained
lights," written by Lieutenant Colonel Charles Halt, deputy base
commander at RAF Bentwaters in Suffolk.
He states: "Thinking an aircraft might have crashed or been
forced down, they called for permission to go outside the gates
"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 metres
across the base and approximately two metres high. It
illuminated the entire forest with a white light.
"The object itself had a pulsing red light on top and a bank of
blue lights underneath. The object was hovering or on legs. The
object was hovering or on legs. As the patrolmen approached the
object, it manoeuvred 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
The report goes on to describe the depressions found in the
ground and in a tree the next day. "Later in the night, a red
sun-light 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
"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 ten degrees off the horizon."
The MoD made further inquiries. No unidentified flying object
had been seen on radar at the times in question nor was there
any evidence of anything having intruded into British airspace.
One theory, it concluded, was that what was seen was the beam of
Orford Ness lighthouse, with distortions caused by its being
seen through trees. But "in the absence of any hard evidence"
the MoD remains open-minded about these sightings.
PUBLIC'S RIGHT TO KNOW EXTENDED
DETAILS about UFO sightings, clinical trials, accident
investigations and Whitehall meetings will be released to the
public under plans to open up government.
Public access to information from government bodies is to be
extended by the scrapping and amending of up to 100 pieces of
legislation, the Lord Chancellor's Department announced
The changes are being made under the Freedom of Information Act
which is being phased in over the next three years.
>From Sunday the first tranche of hitherto secret information is
released when government departments publish their own schemes
of legislation which they plan to release to the public. The
material will be made available immediately on departmental
websites or through application by post.
The Ministry of Defence achives will include information on
UFOs, including the Rendlesham File about a UFO report in
Suffolk in 1980. The Lord Chancellor's Department is to publish
the guidance given to lawyers applying to be Queen's Counsel or