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Science
BRITAIN'S X-FILES / THE NEW X-FILES
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Monday 3 November 2003, 8.00-8.30pm

In the post War years, RAF pilots and navigators began to report sightings of unidentified flying objects over the UK. The air crew were trained and rational observers, and their testimony was sounding alarm bells among military chiefs.

Radar

Programme 1:

The concern was not that Britain was about to be invaded by aliens, but that the Russians were gaining the upper hand in the Cold War and had developed a new fighter aircraft that could outpace anything the West had developed.

The evidence wasn't only coming from pilots. On a number of occasions, RAF radar stations tracked fast-moving objects over Southern and Eastern England.

A top-secret working party was established at the heart of Whitehall to investigate the threat these UFOs posed to our national security. For fifty years, the Ministry of Defence has denied the existence of a specialist team of UFO investigators. But social historians Dr. David Clarke and Andy Roberts have discovered hitherto classified documents that piece together Britain's military response to this strange aerial phenomena.

And while the concern of senior military commanders may have been the threat from the Eastern bloc, there were others in the British establishment who believed the UFOs were in fact other life forms trying to communicate with us on Earth.

Listen again to the programme Listen again to Britain's X-Files

Programme 2:

Social historians David Clarke and Andy Roberts, whose research formed the basis of our previous programme, have unearthed lots more - both from the United States and from the Public Records Office here - on the secret Government inquiries into reports of suspicious sightings in the skies above England right up until the 1990s.

One story offers a flavour of the material. It concerns events at a US air base in East Anglia, where in 1981 there were reports that a UFO had in fact landed in woodland that bordered the airfield. The event was kept a closely guarded secret for two years before details eventually leaked out, and there was press hysteria. The investigation by Clarke and Roberts shows a divergence of opinion between the Ministry of Defence and US base commanders who were unswerving in their belief that something strange had happened.

The deputy commander of the base wrote a report insisting they'd seen a metallic object with flashing lights. His report was passed to the MoD, where it remains a classified document. But a copy of it was released in the US two years later under the freedom of information act where it provided UFO enthusiasts with what they were waiting for - a confirmed sighting of a UFO. An RAF radar operator also came forward and said on the night of the UFO landing, strange radar blips had been picked up off the East Coast, and that US military police had seized the recordings of the radar trace.

Questions were asked in the House of Commons. But the MoD maintained that the events at Bentwaters-Woodbridge had not posed a threat to the security of the UK and therefore were of no interest. However it now emerges that the MoD did investigate. So what really happened that night? The MoD had seized on the evidence of two civilian police officers who had gone to the base on the night that the UFO had reportedly landed. They concluded that the only light they could see was that from the Orford Light House as it swept through the woods. A simple, and according to the MoD, plausible explanation - one that perhaps seemed too straightforward for the US base commanders... but typical of the rumours and conspiracy theories that fill the X-files.

Listen again to the programme Listen again to The New X-Files

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