It didn’t crash. It landed.” – Sergeant Bud Steffens
The Rendlesham Forest incident is widely considered the most famous UFO incident to ever take place in Britain. Also dubbed Britain’s Roswell, this case is one of the best documented UFO encounters and was witnessed by dozens of United States Air Force personnel.
As with the Roswell case, the government officially stated that nothing out of the ordinary happened in Rendlesham Forest and that the national security had not been threatened. However, subsequent evidence showed that the Ministry of Defence had documented an extensive file on the subject, leading many to believe a cover-up had taken place.
Let’s take a look at the event.
Rendlesham is a 6 square miles pine forest located east of the town of Ipswich in Suffolk. Near Rendlesham are two former military bases, RAF Bentwaters in the north and RAF Woodbridge which extends into the western side of the forest. At the time of the incident, the bases were leased to the USAF and under the command of Colonel Gordon E. Williams.
The event began on December 26, 1980 at around 3:00 a.m., when two USAF security police patrol men spotted a set of strange lights outside the perimeter of RAF Woodbridge. Believing they had seen an aircraft crashing down into the forest, they requested permission to investigate. Three patrolmen were allowed to proceed on foot.
They reported seeing an unknown glowing object in the forest and described it as being “metallic in appearance and triangular in shape, approximately two to three meters across the base and approximately two meters high.” The object lit up the entire forest with a white light. It had a pulsing red light on top of it and a row of blue lights underneath. It is unclear whether the object was hovering or on legs. When the patrolmen approached the object, it maneuvered through the trees before disappearing. It was reported that at the time of the sighting, animals at a nearby farm had become agitated. An hour later, the object made a brief appearance near the back gate of RAF Woodbridge.
In a later statement, one of the servicemen at Woodbridge, Sgt. Jim Penniston claimed to have seen the “craft of unknown origins”, touched its “warm” surface and written down the symbols that were engraved on its outer shell. He mentioned that the craft was resting on a triangle-shaped landing gear. When Penniston underwent regression hypnosis in 1994 he said that the craft’s occupants were time travelers visiting from the future rather than extraterrestrial beings. However, these aspects do not appear in the report he filed shortly after the incident took place.
I estimated it to be about three meters tall and about three meters wide at the base. No landing gear was apparent, but it seemed like she was on fixed legs. I moved a little closer. I had already taken all 36 pictures on my roll of film. I walked around the craft, and finally, I walked right up to the craft. I noticed the fabric of the shell was more like a smooth, opaque, black glass,” said Penniston.
One common factor regarding cases such as this is that over the years, witnesses come forward with new testimonies that sometimes contradict previous statements. As it turns out, Jim Penniston was accompanied into the forest by John Burroughs and their accounts differ:
As we went down the east-gate road and the road that leads into the forest, the lights were moving back and they appeared to stop in a bunch of trees.[…] Also, the woods lit up and you could hear the farm animals making a lot of noises, and there was a lot of movement in the woods. All three of us hit the ground and whatever it was started moving back towards the open field.[…] We got up to a fence that separated the trees from the open field. You could see the lights down by the farmer’s house. We climbed over the fence and started walking toward the red and blue lights and they just disappeared,” Burroughs said.
When morning came, servicemen returning to the scene noticed three impressions one and a half inch deep and seven inches wide where the object had rested. The nearby trees had burn marks and broken branches. Plaster casts of the imprints were made.
On December 28, several servicemen returned to the clearing where the object had landed. They were accompanied by Lt. Col. Charles I. Halt, who has since played a key-role in ulterior investigations. A radiation check was performed and if we are to trust Halt’s memo, the readings indicated that the unknown craft had irradiated the area.
Beta/gamma readings of 0.1 milliroentgens were recorded with peak readings in the three depressions and near the center of the triangle formed by the three depressions. A nearby tree had moderate (0.05-0.07) readings on the side of the tree toward the depressions,” Halt’s memo read.
Later that night, a bright light was seen pulsing and moving through the forest. It appeared to emit glowing particles end eventually broke off into five distinct white objects that ultimately disappeared. Right after that, three star-like lights were seen in the sky, two to the north and one in the south, at an elevation of approximately ten degrees relative to the horizon. They traveled at high speeds and were capable of making sharp angular turns. During movement, they changed their colors from red to green and then to blue. When viewed through an 8-12 power lens, the objects appeared to be elliptical in shape.
The northern objects disappeared after about an hour while the one in the south remained visible for two or three more hours while intermittently beaming down a ray of light. It is believed the USAF had filmed the incident. If such a tape exists, it has not been made public.
I believe the objects that I saw at close quarter were extraterrestrial in origin and that the security services of both the United States and the United Kingdom have attempted – both then and now- to subvert the significance of what occurred at Rendlesham Forest and RAF Bentwaters by the use of well-practiced methods of disinformation,” Halt said in a 2010 notarized statement.
Penniston and Burroughs were diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after the incident. Some would argue that PTSD cannot be faked, thus lending some credence to their accounts. In the book co-authored with Burroughs and UFO investigator Nick Pope, Penniston said:
I left the forest a different man… I was in awe of the technology and yes, knowing that it was not an aircraft which could have been manufactured in 1980 or even now.”
Almost 35 years later, we’re no closer to unraveling the mystery of the Rendlesham Forest UFO incident.