Guest blog: UFO Desk – Closed

After five years of a rolling disclosure programme the contents of Britain’s ‘UFO files’ are no longer a secret.

Note from Sir Winston Churchill, July 1952

Sir Winston Churchill - July 1952 (catalogue reference PREM 11/855)

In total 209 files and approximately 52,000 pages of information on unidentified things in the sky, collected by the Ministry of Defence, has been made available to the public by The National Archives at nationalarchives.gov.uk/ufos

But what have we learned from the mountain of paperwork that has slowly emerged into the public domain since the project began in May 2008?

Do these documents prove that we have been visited by creatures from outer space in flying saucers? And has that fact been covered up by the governments of the world?

And if the answer to those questions is an emphatic ‘no’ then why were they closed from public scrutiny for so long? Why is the government releasing them now? And how can anyone be sure they contain the real truth?

Well it is worth pointing out this unique project involved the largest release of documents younger than 20 years in the MoD’s entire history. Their aim in opening them ahead of their normal release date was greater openness.

Letter congratulating Prime Minister on releasing UFO Files

Letter congratulating Prime Minister on releasing UFO Files (DEFE 24/2629/1)

They believed this would help to counter what they described as ‘the maze of rumour and frequently ill-informed speculation’ that surrounded their involvement, both real and imagined, in the investigation of UFOs.

This commitment to openness has been appreciated by the public as the statistics collated by staff at The National Archives proves. Since the first UFO document release over 4.7 million pages have been viewed by more than three million visitors from over 160 countries around the world.

Furthermore, the blanket media coverage of the ten file releases brought news of the project to an estimated global audience of 25 million people.

In all, more than 3.9 million documents have been downloaded, and one UFO Policy file from 1997 – that contained formerly Top Secret documents – has been downloaded more than 250,000 times.

Letter about UFOs from schoolchild

Letter about UFOs from schoolchild (DEFE 24/2457/1)

So in my opinion the success of this open government programme lies in the fact that, whatever you believe about UFOs and alien life, you can now see for yourself what constitutes the ‘evidence’ and make up your own mind. This is Freedom of Information working to inform and educate the public.

The files contain details of around 6,000 separate observations reported to the British authorities since 1984. On average between one and two hundred sightings were logged by the ‘UFO desk’ each year, but some years broke records. For instance in 2009 until November, when the MoD closed their UFO hotline for good, 643 sightings were recorded.

Was this and similar spikes in numbers recorded in 1978 and 1996-97 the result of aliens stepping up their surveillance of the Earth? Or is it more likely that people’s awareness of the subject, raised by press stories and movies like Close Encounters or The X-Files, made them more inclined to report their experiences officially?

If the latter is true, and I believe the evidence is overwhelming, then we have to accept UFOs – whatever their ultimate origin may be – are a social and cultural phenomenon. In the absence of any convincing evidence for the existence of aliens, they are a mystery that has more to do with what we as humans want to believe about our place in the universe.

And if the contents of the files teach us anything, they demonstrate that in the vast majority of examples, UFOs turn out to be IFOs – Identified Flying Objects.

Chinese lanterns and balloons, aircraft (both civilian and military), bright stars and planets, meteors, space junk, unusual weather and rare natural phenomena can explain more than 95%. And as for the remaining 5% we should always remember that the U in UFO stands for ‘unidentified’, not ‘alien spaceship’.

Image of Ball Lightning, Scotland

Image of ball lightning, Scotland (DEFE 24/2625/1)

The sheer number of sightings raises the question of why after 60 years no solid, conclusive evidence has ever been produced that could be verified by scientists. Despite mass ownership of advanced digital cameras not a single convincing photograph of a flying saucer or artefact of extra terrestrial origin has been produced.

Image of alleged UFO near Stonehenge

Image of alleged UFO near Stonehenge (DEFE 24/2451/1)

Of course there are those who will continue to believe the government has concealed ‘the truth’ in even more top secret files hidden elsewhere. But I think most rational people will accept the truth about UFOs and the people who see them is actually here, in these files, and not somewhere in outer space.

As the MoD’s last UFO desk officer wrote in 2009 the public was ‘…starting to get a more accurate impression of our role in UFO matters [and] I sense that realisation is also starting to dawn amongst some UFOlogists that we do not have hordes of investigators scurrying around the countryside…and that our interest is really quite minimal.’

He added: ‘Naturally a section of UFOlogists will never be convinced of that, but frankly, whatever we say, they will choose to believe whatever they believe and we will never convince them otherwise.’

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Dr David Clarke

Dr David Clarke

You can learn more about the complete history of British investigations into sightings of unidentified aerial phenomena – that date back to before the First World War – in the second edition of Dr David Clarke’s book, The UFO Files, co-branded by The National Archives and Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

22 comments

  1. Jason Chapman says:

    The Truth is still out there.
    Jason Chapman
    The Angel Committee
    Tales From Majestic

    1. Afraid to speak up person says:

      It certainly is. Or at least there is some fairly substancial evidence.

      Canadian Minister of Defence. May 2013.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDuqZbjxB_E

  2. Black Plaques says:

    Great post David!

  3. JACK says:

    David,
    where are all the videos that were sent in over the last 10-15 years? I believe 100s were sent to the MoD ; are they being released?

    And what about the 1980 rendlesham incident where the US army testified there were ufos on the ground at a Nuclear air base? If that isn’t a ‘defence issue’ what is?

    Isn’t it time for a serious debate when thousands of people see something which is never explained? Every news report I’ve heard on this story focuses on the joke/nutter stories to ridicule even the mention of ufos. Yet there is proof of unexplained objects on a daily basis from army, place , pilots and they re never followed up. What’s the story David? Is it ignore it or joke about it ?

    Wr

    1. James Carlson says:

      See above:

      “Of course there are those who will continue to believe the government has concealed ‘the truth’ in even more top secret files hidden elsewhere. But I think most rational people will accept the truth about UFOs and the people who see them is actually here, in these files, and not somewhere in outer space.

      “As the MoD’s last UFO desk officer wrote in 2009 the public was ‘…starting to get a more accurate impression of our role in UFO matters [and] I sense that realisation is also starting to dawn amongst some UFOlogists that we do not have hordes of investigators scurrying around the countryside…and that our interest is really quite minimal.’

      “He added: ‘Naturally a section of UFOlogists will never be convinced of that, but frankly, whatever we say, they will choose to believe whatever they believe and we will never convince them otherwise.’”

  4. Norbert Neel says:

    I am sure that if you saw a long salmon colored UFO following a passenger jet in broad daylight like I did on 10/10/10, you would surely be in shock and wonder why no one seems to care about this. The media never got back to me nor did Mufon after I submitted my report. WHAT THE HELL!
    When people explain away these as imagination or something naturally explainable it just makes me scream “Go to Hell”! For real.

    1. James Carlson says:

      See above:

      “Of course there are those who will continue to believe the government has concealed ‘the truth’ in even more top secret files hidden elsewhere. But I think most rational people will accept the truth about UFOs and the people who see them is actually here, in these files, and not somewhere in outer space.

      “As the MoD’s last UFO desk officer wrote in 2009 the public was ‘…starting to get a more accurate impression of our role in UFO matters [and] I sense that realisation is also starting to dawn amongst some UFOlogists that we do not have hordes of investigators scurrying around the countryside…and that our interest is really quite minimal.’

      “He added: ‘Naturally a section of UFOlogists will never be convinced of that, but frankly, whatever we say, they will choose to believe whatever they believe and we will never convince them otherwise.’”

    2. Afraid to speak up person says:

      I agree. There are UFO’s as i’ve seen one myself. I personally thought it to be man-made. A grey cylindrical object that was near the Caldbeck Fells, Carlisle, on a days hiking in the mid-90’s. It looked similar to a Cruise Missile (or a flying submarine torpedo) with a middle and rear tail-fin/wing (i don’t know the correct term) for guidance presumably. It was able to perform immediate angle turns. I saw it perform perhaps a 70 degree immediate turn to fly directly towards a light Cessner aircraft. It made no sound. It was in broad daylight. It then disappeared from my sight as it flew past some trees to my left, obscuring my view. I ran to the end of the tree line (5 or 6 seconds maybe) and it had dissapeared – however, the Cessner was still visible. The cylinder object looked military to me which is why i did not report it for fear of seeing something i should not have. This is why i agree it is very frustrating that many eye-witness accounts are ridiculed. I do not necessarily believe that UFO’s are aliens, but Unidentified Flying Objects, as in aircraft that are unidentifiable, do exist.

  5. Helen says:

    I’m afraid that I have to agree with Norbert. I don’t believe in ufo’s I know they exist because I’ve seen one. In 2004 my husband and I had a giant triangle the size of a football field fly very slowly and silently over our house at a height of about 100 ft. I too reported the sighting to Mufon and Nuforc and no one got back to me either. It seems to me that since these “vehicles” can fly willy nilly in any national airspace that they choose that they should be considered to be not necessarily a threat but at least something of concern. I do feel though that even if the governments did start to take notice that it wouldn’t matter as there isn’t seemingly a darn thing that they could do about it anyway. And as Jack noted; when thousands of people see these things surely it’s time for the powers that be to take this seriously!

    1. Paula says:

      I agree totally with Helen & Norbert….I know that there are UFO,s as I have had two sightings, one in 2001 & my eleven year old daughter was with me & witnessed it(she is now twenty two!) she remembers it clearly & vividly as do I. I had another sighting in 2012 in August at 4.55am in the morning when I actually saw six silver/white spheres hanging in the sky very low down in two rows of three just above the rooftops of the houses oppossite my flat…they were enormous,appeared to be very close to the houses & sparkled so brightly in the bright sunshine that I think they must have had a mirror like coating on them as it was really dazzling! I was awake I was not dreaming & I dont do drink or drugs! I only wish that I had taken photos but I was totally “Gobsmacked!” it was the very last thing that I expected to see.I reported this incident & have had no feedback at all, I would be very surprised if these objects were man made as they hovered there silently for at least 40 minutes!

  6. Julius says:

    JACK:
    Thousands of people seeing strange things is just what’s to be expected when it comes to a social and cultural phenomenon.

    Norbert and Helen:
    Your statements are exactly of the same type as the ones people who believe in, for example, ghosts and bigfoots make. Is it your opinion that we should believe anything you claim, even if there is no evidence for it? Do you really think your words alone are enough? It is possible that your stories actually were investigated, however without finding any support for them.

    1. Grant says:

      Hey Julius,
      If a stealth bomber isn’t detected by radar, does it exist?
      Because you haven’t seen a Coelacanth in the flesh with your very own eyeballs, does it not exist? The existence of this fish was phoo-phooed for ages. Sure there are people crying out for attention for the sake of attention or perhaps even medical reasons, but what if … what if … in this awesomely huge and old universe something else exists with intelligence … could the average Joe and Joline rationally deal with it if someone shares their experience?

      Do stealth bombers exist Julius?

      1. Julius says:

        Hello Grant.

        Yes, stealth bombers do exist. But that is irrelevant. And yes, something else with intelligence probably exists in the universe.

        But what you should do is look at the evidence ( or lack of evidence ). What you see is a social and cultural phenomenon ( that is at least what I and scientists who have taken an interest in UFOs see ).

        There is no reliable evidence whatsoever for alien spacecraft visiting Earth.

    2. Afraid to speak up person says:

      Julius – like everyone on here your opinion is your own and is as relevant as anyone elses so none of what i say will change your mind – but i need to divide the topics of UFO’s and Aliens. I think there is often a confusion between people reporting UFO’s and people reporting Alien Spacecraft. As soon as someone mention UFO’s, it is often interpreted that people are stating – “i have seen Alien Spacecraft – we are going to be invaded – i never enjoyed ET the movie etc”. That is not the case is my witness account. I saw an Unidentified Aircraft of some kind that i personally believe was NOT Alien – and was in fact man-made. Both me and my hiking partner saw it and concluded the same thing. We decided it was military and did not report it for this reason. It was cylindrical, cruise missile-like, made no sound, turned at immediate angles. There have been many reports of this in North-West England, South-West Scotland, where we witnessed it.

      I am not discounting other peoples’ witness accounts of course. If you haven’t seen any object then i completely understand your position, as this was my position for the years prior to this encounter. I am a total sceptic too. Generally

  7. Wendy Winter Bowman says:

    I guess one needs to be careful what one wishes for in case it comes true – but in this case I wish I could witness a spacecraft and it’s intelligent life for myself. However, they may not be at all friendly, and even if friendly may be quite toxic. So I will enjoy my outdoors and the beautiful uncomplicated night sky instead.

  8. audie agoston says:

    Hello David.I live in Canada and applaud you for the stupendous work you do, please keep it up and as well applaud your government for having the foresight to let the public see for themselves and to let them form there own opinions. I have always been a believer since I can remember and have had my own experience when I was very young boy. To this day I believe what I saw was real and not a dream or imagination. David keep up the awesome work you do. Cheers

  9. netti says:

    well i have seen 2 ufo and yes i have photographic evidence and the second ufo is big with alien beings on it but who wants to believe me when you tell people they think you are some nut. it was a full moon and the sky was clear it was 9.05 pm i could see 4 bright stars next to the moon so i decided to take photos so i put night vision on when suddenly they shot of to the right at great speed i took several pictures the next day i wrote down what i had seen i then downloaded my pictures onto my computer which show 2 red cigar shapes with white triangles at the base so i decided to zoom in and i was shocked at what you can see the cigar shape nearest bottom right of the picture shows what looks like a big ship you can make out an alien being in what must be a see through dome touching some sort of controls and in the triangle type smaller ship they look like they are wearing space suits in the upper left corner of the picture is another red cigar shape ship with the same except you can clearly see aliens beings looking out of windows and lots more i have not shown anyone my pictures only my daughters one believes me the youngest daughter thinks i have edited the pictures but believe me i have not ‘ what i need is an expert to look at the pics for themself who can do anything they like with them to prove they are real and guess what others must have seen them. i am 49 years old and look after elderly people i have a diploma and live in the uk and i am of sound mind and i dont care if anyone believes in ufos and alien being i know the truth. 2013

  10. Karthik says:

    i have seen 2 UFO incidents live and the same were shown on TV NEWS. I live in India and once i had seen a Blue light in the sky… thought it was a star but it came closer n closer to a bit bigger size and vanished. It was atleast bigger then most stars or Venus (Brightest object after moon) . The second incident was when I was walking home from Tuitions in the morning in 2012, August and the time was approx. 7:50 am and there was a silvery object that stood still for a long time but nobody in the block noticed. I reported this to my parents, friends and neighbours but all they did was debunked it, so never made the effort to make it to any news or something. The news channel showed people talking about the blue light in the night sky which I told about earlier, a few days (maybe 6) after the incident. I am trying to find an answer or a reply to what I saw…. please… someone out there… I have been researching a lot on UFOlogy and Extraterrestrials from scientific theories to Mythology (The Bhagavad Gita).

  11. davidrhodie says:

    if there is nothing in all those sightings then are all those people stark raving mad or just attention seekers?.if the goverments of the world too scared to speak out about this?do they think the people can’t handle the truth?tell us all and shame the devil

  12. Andy says:

    Hi,

    I wonder if you could help me – How do I order copies of the last three files? The ones released Jan 1st 2018.

    Thanks

    1. Liz Bryant (Admin) says:

      Hi Andy,

      Thanks for your comment. First you need to find details of the records that interest you in Discovery, our catalogue: http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/

      You’ll be able to see whether there are digital copies available to download. If not, you can request a copy to be made and sent to you. Go to http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help-with-your-research/record-copying/ to find details on how this works.

      If you need help with your research, or in finding the right records in our catalogue, please go to our ‘contact us’ page at http://nationalarchives.gov.uk/contact/

      This will give you details on how to get in touch with our record experts via phone, email or live chat.

      Best regards,

      Liz.

  13. Anita Davies says:

    Anita – N. Wales. Approx 55 yrs ago I witnessed together with my Mother, Father and Husband a large cigar shaped object with a red light at one end, the sky was perfectly blue and the object shone silver and looked like heavy metallic. It could be perfectly still (not that far above us) or could suddenly move for a short distance forwards, backwards and to either side. We did not seem at all afraid but more in awe of what we saw. It was above us for at least 5 mins and then suddenly moved off and disappeared within seconds. My husband, an ex RAF pilot said best not to report it (as I had suggested) as nothing would be done. I understand that whilst in the RAF two pilots could sometimes be sent up to investigate “something unusual”, but were often too slow to keep up. In later years I met someone else in N. Wales who described the same object.

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