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This one’s for UFO… UK National Archives releases files on sightings. October 24, 2008

Posted by WorldbyStorm in History, Pseudo-Science.

Perhaps it’s a post-modernist joke, but the link the Irish Times provides to the latest files on UFO sightings, released this week by the UK National Archives, doesn’t work.

And that’s a pity, although it’s hardly difficult to track down the recalcitrant web pages.

I’m willing to bet that these have been amongst the most downloaded of all recent files from National Archives. For me the fascinating aspect of this – and I’ll bet anyone having some experience of trawling through RoI, UK and Stormont Government files will know what I mean – is the way in which these seem so oddly familiar. There’s the same officialise, the same coding systems and yes, even in PDF format, the same bad printing and omissions. And yet, after all, these are as valid a topic of research as any other.

Problem is, just what sort of research are we talking about? Is it historical, in the sense are these historical events that are described? Or is it anthropological or social historical? And by that I mean are these representative of societal dynamics?

I think it will come as little surprise to you that despite having read far too much literature in this area I come down on the latter interpretation. Pesky rationalism. Vile logic.

What intrigues me most are the details that are concealed behind blocks of black ink with the words SECTION 40 over them. These concern the identity of informants. For example in defe-24-1940 we learn that one sighting of an aircraft described as having a ‘strange shape of [a] “Wright” brothers era’ plane which silently flew over the informants location in Henley was made by someone with an ‘Ex-Army’ background. The informant noted ‘at the beginning of the conversation’ that ‘he is listed in Who’s-Who.’.

In a way that seems more interesting than the sighting itself. Although, on second thoughts, a “Wright brothers era aircraft…” One wonders what he saw. Or perhaps what he didn’t. Who’s-Who, bottle of gin… ex-Army. You see where this is going.

There are oddities. Significant oddities that make even a skeptic like myself pause for thought. What are we to make of the report from 1990 of six RAF Tornado jets whose crews reported ‘being over-taken by a giant UFO while on an exercise’.?

The UFO was shaped like ‘one large aeroplane’, had ‘5 to 6 white steady lights. 1 blue steady light’, and was a quarter of a mile ahead. Under ‘Other Info’ we learn that ‘another 2 Tornados seen (sic) it and possible idented it as a stealth aircraft’.

And there’s a thing. Anything can be explained in one way or another. An unidentified sighting in 1990 is probably an encounter of the Cold War kind.

Then what of omissions? File DEFE-24/1940/1 on Page 114 details photographs taken of a UFO in Scotland in August 1990. Apparently ‘six colour photographs of a diamond shaped UFO and a Harrier jet were taken by two men. The pictures were given to the Scottish Daily Record who passed them to the MoD.’

Spookily… ‘however, the file does not contain the photographs’.

As interesting is the accompanying text of a ‘Loose Minute’ cc’d to the head of Sec, DD GE/AEW, DDPR (RAF).

1. ….Such stories are not normally drawn to the attention of Minsters and the MoD press office invariably responds to questions along well-established lines emphasising our limited interest in the UFO phenomenon and explaining that we do not have the resources to undertake any in-depth investigations into particular sightings. On this occasion however, the MoD has been provided with six photographic negatives of an alleged UFO by the Scottish Daily Record and has been asked for comments almost certainly for inclusion in a forthcoming story. For this reason it is felt that US of S(AF) should be made aware of the background and the line adopted by the DDPR (RAF) in responding to the newspaper.

2. The photographs, which were received on 10 Sept, are alleged to have been taken near the A9 road at Clavine, north of Pitlochrie on the evening of 4 August. They show a large stationery, diamond-shaped object past which, it appears, a small jet aircraft is flying. The negatives have been considered by the relevant staffs who have established that the jet aircraft is a Harrier (and also identified a barely visible second aircraft, again probably a Harrier) but have reached no definite conclusion regarding the large object. It has also been confirmed that there is no record of Harriers operating in the area at the time at which the photographs are alleged to have been taken. The negatives have now been returned to the Scottish Daily Record.

it continues:

3. In consultation with DDPR (RAF) it has been agreed that the attached lines to take should be used in responding to the Scottish Daily Record. These are consistent with the position adopted in the replies to the many public and occasionally parliamentary enquiries on the subject of UFOs.

And this instruction on lines it transpires is on a typewritten sheet with the following on it…



– Have looked a photographs, no definite conclusions reached regarding large diamond shaped object.
– confident that jet aircraft is a Harrier
– Have no record of Harriers operating in location at stated time/date.
– No other reports received by MoD of unusual air activity or sightings at location/date/time.


Who in MoD studied pictures?

– All sighting reports (including on occasion photographs/drawings etc) received by MoD are referred to the staff in the departments which are responsible for air defence of UK who examine them as part of their normal duties.

Other reports of UFOs from Scotland?

– UFO reports from Scotland are rare.

Sort of begs a fair few questions – doesn’t it? For example, if confident that the jet is a Harrier, does that imply that the photograph is ‘real’? Or that the diamond-shaped object is ‘real’. And what of the non sequiter about “UFO reports from Scotland are rare”. So what? But it’s the incuriosity about the sighting which is so odd. Do they take it seriously or not? Was it a photographer who mocked up in a cusp of Photoshop age some Harriers and a fake UFO? Or what?

And so on, and so forth. You see the seductive appeal of all this. There’s just enough room between the individual facts to fashion something – unusual. Tantalising. Odd.

And yet, an interesting insight into how the state deals with questioning.

I guess I’ll keep reading every file that’s issued. The truth might just be in there…


1. Starkadder - October 24, 2008

Something I read somewhere that might explain a lot
of UFO sightings is that granite, when put under
geological pressure, creates lights that float in the
air. So many UFOs might simply be aerial versions of


2. skidmarx - October 24, 2008

Some of the discussion in the UK media has been hampered by the fact that many pundits when asked if they believe in UFOs say yes because those flying objects are unidentified


3. Nev Curby - October 24, 2008

This is a serious question for the communist movement. If there are advanced civilisations with consequently an advanced technical/scientific base to their economy they must be against the idea of “socialism in one country” such as the Chinese, Cubans, and Vietnamese (and the COMECON in the past) proclaim here on Earth.

In this sense UFO’s as a manifestation of the societies they come from will be closer to Leon Trotsky’s analysis of the preconditions necessary for international communism.

I recommend the writings of J Posadas of the Posadist IV International on the issue of possible extra-terrestrial life ans its social organisation.

Irish supporters of J Posadas have distributed RED FLAG within the trade union movement in small numbers.
The current edition of RED FLAG published by our British comrades of the Revolutionary Workers Party is available from – http://www.quatrieme-internationale-posadiste.org/archive/francais/mvtposdocs/redflag/Pdf/RedFlag455.pdf


4. skidmarx - October 24, 2008

“If there are advanced civilisations with consequently an advanced technical/scientific base to their economy they must be against the idea of “socialism in one country” such as the Chinese, Cubans, and Vietnamese (and the COMECON in the past) proclaim here on Earth.”

Well duh. But is ther intelligent life on this planet?


5. Garibaldy - October 24, 2008

Fuck me. I read about the arguments about whether aliens were socialist or not in Quite Right Mr Trotsky, but fantastic to see it in person.


6. WorldbyStorm - October 24, 2008

We aim to please…


7. Garibaldy - October 25, 2008

Speaking of which, I just noticed the quote from Orwell on the about us bit. I post here. I feel sullied.


8. WorldbyStorm - October 25, 2008

It took you this long?


9. Garibaldy - October 25, 2008

Indeed. I must have blocked it out. As I usually do with anything praising that so and so.


10. ejh - October 25, 2008

Shame they didn’t shoot him, eh?


11. WorldbyStorm - October 25, 2008

I’m fond of him, so no…


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