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Last updated: 14 March, 2011 - Published 14:02 GMT
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UK "foiled" Gairy on UFOs
The image of a sighting in Sri Lanka by an RAF officer
The image of a sighting in Sri Lanka by an RAF officer

British officials were dismayed when in 1977 the then Prime Minister of Grenada Sir Eric Gairy wanted to call for the United Nations to set up a unit to investigate UFOs, files from the UK National Archives reveal.

The files show how Britain was concerned the idea would drag the UN into disrepute.

"The British delegation does not think that the establishment of an agency for research into unidentified flying objects is appropriate to the functions of the United Nations," they said.

"Hopefully, a confrontation with the representatives of Grenada can be avoided, but the U.K. should not hesitate to make its views known as and when appropriate."

Sir Eric was persuaded to withdraw his proposal but went on to call for 1978 to be designated "the year of the UFO".

He was deposed in a coup the following year.

Eyewitness reports

Sketches of UFOs are also among the files released by the UK National Archives.

They also reveal that intelligence papers on a reported UFO sighting known as the "Rendlesham incident" have gone missing.

The missing files relate to a report of mysterious lights from US servicemen at RAF Woodbridge in Suffolk in England in 1980.

Officials found a "huge" gap where defence intelligence files relating to the case should be, the papers show.

UFO drawing Credits, National Archives
Crop circles provoked this sketch by a member of the public

The previously classified documents on UFOs are the latest Ministry of Defence (MoD) files on UFOs released into the National Archives which will be free to access on its website for a month.

Photographs and sketches of UFOs made by members of the public are included, as well as their eyewitness reports.

Among the documents is testimony from an airline pilot and his son who say they spent five minutes watching an object made up of three circles fly past their garden in Hellingly, East Sussex, in southern England.

The pilot reported it to Air Traffic Control in West Drayton, and an official labelled his sighting as one by "a credible witness".

"Close encounter"

But another defence official later wrote a memo saying the report "contains nothing of air defence significance".

There is also a report from a London man who believed he may have been abducted by aliens.

The files reveal that key documentation relating to the Rendlesham Forest incident has disappeared.

Sir Eric Gairy
Sir Eric Gairy believed that UFOs existed

Some UFO researchers believe the episode, which happened over two nights in 1980 is a classic example of a "close encounter".

A group of servicemen reported seeing strange lights in the trees near the base and after investigating found marks on the ground and damage to vegetation.

The files reveal the MoD received a request for its own records of the incident in 2000, but when officials looked they discovered a "huge" gap where defence intelligence files relating to it should be.

The hunt generated a series of notes, with one official speculating that the files could have been taken home by someone and another remarking that "it could be interpreted to mean that a deliberate attempt had been made to eradicate the records covering this incident".

However, among intelligence papers released in 2009, it was revealed that former Admiral of the Fleet Lord Hill-Norton wrote to the defence secretary about the incident in 1985, speculating that an unauthorised aircraft may have entered and left UK airspace at the time.

Natural explanations

This latest tranche of documents covers not just people who contacted the Ministry of Defence after seeing lights or objects, but also sheds some light on official thinking about this aspect of the paranormal.

Concern about UFOs and what they might be went up to senior level and lasted several years.

UFO drawing
Sketches of UFOs are among the files released by the National Archives

UFOs have only ever received one debate in the UK Parliament. It came in the House of Lords in 1979, at the height of the "winter of discontent", and the files show how officials laboured to prepare a government position on the topic.

At the end of the discussion the government spokesman Lord Stabolgi summed up what remains the official position now.

"There is nothing to convince Her Majesty's government that there has ever been a single visit by an alien spacecraft. As for telling the public the truth about UFOs, the truth is simple.

"There really are many strange phenomena in the sky, and these are invariably reported by rational people. But there is a wide range of natural explanations to account for such phenomena."

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