UFOs in Rendlesham Forest
Located near the town of Woodbridge in Suffolk, England, Rendlesham Forest has become one of Europe’s most famous UFO hotspots. The forest is home to two major sighting events: in December 1980 and again in December 2017.
The first event took place at a Royal Air Force (RAF) base known as RAF Woodbridge: close to the town of Ipswich. This area was once earmarked by the US military for possible use during World War II but was built instead by the British as a wartime airfield for aircraft operations during 1943-1945. The base was then taken over by the Americans in late 1945.
The story begins at about 3am on December 26, 1980 when military personnel based at RAF Bentwaters (a sister base to Woodbridge) observed a strange light in the Rendlesham Forest. The object moved rapidly from the south-east to the north-west. It was tracked on radar and two F-4 Phantom jets were scrambled from their base in England’s West Country to intercept and identify the object. These F-4 fighters followed it into Rendlesham Forest. One of these planes had its weapons bay illuminated with a green light (normally indicating a malfunction).
The pilots reported they were able to lock onto the UFO’s radar signature. They also reported hearing a low frequency radio signal emanating from the object. The aircraft followed the UFO for over an hour. Then, at about 4:30am, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Halt saw a brightly lit object hovering near the ground in Rendlesham Forest. The base security officer informed his superior officer and together they watched as this unidentified object hovered over two large trees located near the base’s “Blip” radar site.
The light then retracted into a larger object and disappeared into thin air. Early in the morning of December 27, military personnel from all three bases investigating this phenomenon went to the location of the sighting. They found traces of radiation and luminous impressions on the ground.
They also found three landing marks in an adjacent field. The impressions measured 2 feet 9 inches by 1 foot 9 inches and were located 6 inches deep into the ground. The impression material was analyzed as “indistinguishable from that of a man- made craft”.
The second sighting took place on December 26, 2017 at 10:50pm. A witness described seeing a “triangular shaped craft” hovering over Rendlesham Forest. The object then moved backwards causing the witness to look away. When he looked back he saw a “large tree” blocking the object’s view of him and keeping it in his sight. He was unable to see where it went but felt an intense low frequency magnetic resonance that remained after the object had gone.
The research team examined archives from all three bases involved in the 1980 Rendlesham Forest incident: RAF Woodbridge, Bentwaters and RAF Mildenhall. They found photographs of area residents who reported seeing “a small crescent shaped craft” near a cottage on December 26, 1980 (the very night of the first sighting). The craft was reported to have emitted a beam of light.
The team also found an account of a sighting at Rendlesham Forest from an unnamed source who claimed two small “men” sheathed in silver suits had approached her and touched her. The witness’ three children saw the two creatures but were not touched. This report was taken by police officers from the RAF Police office at Woodbridge and filed as a UFO report with the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
The research team also uncovered files relating to numerous UFO sightings at RAF Bentwaters-Woodbridge are located. Their records include a report of an unidentified “filament” seen crossing the sky above Woodbridge on November 20, 1980.
The researchers also discovered that in late 1979, British scientists had investigated the area where the first World War II-era airfield had stood. They found unusual levels of radiation at this site. The scientists noted in their report that “there is a significant possibility” that there had been UFO activity in Rendlesham Forest since at least 1945. This is supported by radiocarbon dating tests indicating unusual levels of radiation were present in wood from trees around this time. It is also noted in the report that in 1947, American scientists investigating U.S. nuclear detonations at bases in England found radiation levels twice as high as normal.
The researchers also found a report from an unnamed American Air Force officer who was stationed at RAF Woodbridge and witnessed “hundreds of UFOs” over his base during the late 1970s. He reported seeing “a round UFO with an orange-red light on top” hovering near RAF Woodbridge on several occasions. He went on to mention seeing small objects descend to his base’s ground near RAF Woodbridge and making contact with local residents by using their car radio receivers (a standard feature at that time).
The claims and allegations from the 1980s case have received criticism from UFO researchers who state there is no evidence that a UFO crashed in RAF Bentwaters Forest, or anywhere else in Britain.
The 1980 case (as well as the 1953 Roswell incident) are often cited as examples of the “British cover-up” in UFO research. UFO researcher John Greenewald has called the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) “the last official government department to stay silent on the subject of UFOs”, with his British-based blog “The Black Vault” referring to them as “the world’s greatest UFO cover-up cabal”.
In a 2013 interview, David Clarke, a retired senior police officer who was an expert in radiation and explosives, stated that the MoD office was set up at Woodbridge in July 1980 at the request of Lt Col Charles Halt from Bentwaters Air Force Base. Clarke also said that he had been sent back to England to investigate the case. He found two documents, one from MoD and one from the American Air Force, that stated “that there had been a series of visual encounters with UFOs in Rendlesham Forest by a single four-person US military team on December 26, 1980, matching the PX-119 sightings at Bentwaters/Woodbridge”.
In a 2014 interview with Channel 4’s UFO Hunters program, UK UFO Researcher Nigel Watson said that the case was “a classic example of military secrecy preventing the truth [from] being disclosed”. Watson concluded that “the British government, to this day , are continuing to cover up these sightings in the most shameful way, with huge obfuscation and lies. It is the current situation which is an utter scandal. The British government’s failure to investigate these sightings is a national disgrace.”
The 1980 case (and others similar ones) ignited some interest outside of UFO research communities; for example, several media outlets ran articles on the case and it was covered by the popular talk radio programme “The Moral Maze”. In 1991, ten years after the incident, a novel based upon it, “The Woodbridge Incident”, was written by Ian Ridpath and Andy Roberts. The novel helped to perpetuate the belief that there was more to the case than a series of misidentifications of commonplace phenomena. Alan Dean Foster’s 1994 book “War in the Woods” is also about this case.
A TV movie called “UFO Coverup: Live” produced by Granada Television and broadcast on ITV on 25 May 1995 dramatised what allegedly happened at Rendlesham Forest. It was rerun on British cable channel Bravo in early 1997. The episode featured British actors Martin Shaw and Stephen Moyer as the USAF colleagues of the witness, and also Fiona Hampton as one of the witnesses. The UFO chase scenes were filmed on location near RAF Woodbridge and at Cardington village.
In 1997, Rendlesham Forest appeared in a season 4 episode of “The X-Files” entitled “Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man”. An event similar to the Rendlesham Forest incident was described by a character in this episode. The line spoken by the character states: “In 1980, during my hiatus from government, I went to Britain for rest to visit some friends in Royal Air Force Bentwaters. It was winter, so we went to Rendlesham Forest.”
In 2008, Chris Everard released the book “Rendlesham – Case for the UFO” and described the incident as a verified cover-up. A dramatised version of the encounter, titled “The Witness”, aired on ITV1 in September 2009. In November 2012 a leading documentary film-maker’s documentary “” was released which detailed a new theory of what happened at Rendlesham Forest.
The witness statements from 28 December 1980 are available online. Government files concerning the incident remain secret under UK law.