February 04, 2005
How Britain's X-Files said that UFOs were just a waste of time
By David Charter
Secret committee dismissed reports of flying saucers more than 50 years ago
THE truth is out there somewhere . . . but it has taken the Ministry of
Defence 54 years to release secret papers ruling out the existence of UFOs.
Minutes of the Government’s Flying Saucer Working Party have finally been
made public in answer to the ultimate request under the Freedom of
Information Act — do aliens exist?
In the document, marked “Secret” and “Discreet”, officials rejected
sightings of UFOs by RAF personnel as well as a series of reports of
“luminous bodies” by members of the public.
The working party concluded: “We consider that no progress will be made by
attempting further investigation of uncoordinated and subjective evidence
and that positive results could only be obtained by organising throughout
the country, or the world, continuous observation of the skies by a
co-ordinated network of visual observers, equipped with photographic
apparatus and supplemented by a network of radar stations and sound
“We should regard this, on the evidence so far available, as a singularly
profitless enterprise. We accordingly recommend very strongly that no
further investigation of reported mysterious aerial phenomena be
undertaken, unless and until some material evidence becomes available.”
With that, the Flying Saucer Working Party dissolved itself in June 1951,
never to meet again.
But in the absence of any details of its deliberations, UFO sightings have
continued unabated over Britain as shown by the recent release of reams of
reports from members of the public. The latest MoD document shows that 91
sightings were recorded last year in places as far afield as Peterborough
in Cambridgeshire (“four dull red lights”), Paignton in Devon (“long
single black cylinder”) and Honley in West Yorkshire (“looked like a
jellyfish flying in the sky ”).
Last September was a busy month for UFOs, with a “silver disc” in Glossop,
Derbyshire; a “bright light at first then looked like a box kite” in
Barry, South Wales; “two silvery objects pulling apart and moving
together” in Holywell, Flintshire; and “a great bright light like a big
ball of fire” over Iwerne Minster in Somerset.
The area with the most frequent mysterious activity has been West
Kilbride, on the southwest coast of Scotland. The MoD received a dozen
reports during the year of increasingly dramatic visitations, from “one
sphere” on April 2, “five bright spheres” on May 30 to “at least 25 yellow
spheres flying in groups of five” on November 26.
None of them would have passed the stringent examination of the Flying
Saucer Working Party, however, which was quick to dismiss the flurry of
reports in 1950 which followed early publicity surrounding an original
“flying saucer” in the United States in 1947.
Although the group praised a “careful and accurate” observation by a
locomotive fireman of a luminous body travelling at high speed over Derby,
it was “undoubtedly a meteorite”.
The evidence of a Flight Lieutenant Hubbard, an experienced pilot, was
also discounted in trenchant terms. Hubbard reported “a flat disc, light
pearl grey in colour . . . executing a series of S-turns and oscillating”.
But the working party concluded: “We conclude that Flight Lieutenant
Hubbard was the victim of an optical illusion or that he observed some
quite normal type of aircraft and deceived himself about its shape and
Britain’s UFO spotters are as unimpressed with the Government’s
disclosures as officials were then with Flight Lieutenant Hubbard. Judith
Jafar, the chair of the British UFO Research Association, said: “It is a
pointless exercise because the Government is not going to release any
files that are contentious in any way. The files they are releasing now
are not going to take us anywhere that we have not been before.”
However, in a letter accompanying the release of the report, the MoD
states: “The MoD does not have any expertise or role in respect of
UFO/flying saucer matters or to the question of the existence or otherwise
of extraterrestrial lifeforms, about which it remains totally open-minded.
Copyright 2005 Times Newspapers Ltd.