UFO Sightings Over The British Isles & The Unexplained "Landing" Craters That Followed
During a period of time in the 1960s a series of UFO reports were followed by mysterious craters appearing on farmland throughout the United Kingdom. These cases still remain unexplained to this day.
In 1967 a Sunday newspaper headlined a story: "UFO RIDDLE OF DAMANGE TO FARMERS' CROPS". The story began. What caused the damage in two farmers' barley fields on the Isle of Wight? For weeks agricultural experts and aeronautical scientists investigated the strange whirling patterns left in crops flattened along a narrow strip three quarters of a mile long. Now the scientists, led by Mr Leonard Cramp, an aeronautical technician with the British Hovercraft Corporation claim: "It was, without doubt, the path of an unidentified flying object as it was coming in for a touchdown".
The farmers who owned the damaged fields, it was said, were not impressed by this notion. They did not believe in flying saucers. On the other hand they could not supply any alternative explanations. They had neither seen nor heard anything to account for the damage. There were no people, animals or farm gear which could have flattened the barley in the vicinity at that time and there had not been any storms or even a little wind and rain.
Mr Cramp speaking for a team of UFO investigators said: "We checked everything else it could have been and drew a complete blank". But it was not entirely from a process of elimination that a flying saucer was blamed for the crop damage, for in the course of their inquiries the investigators found out that just before the damage was discovered an unidentified flying object had been seen by two boys attending Whippingham Primary School near Newport, Isle of Wight. The date was July 10, 1967. The boys were lining up to go into school. It was a quarter to nine on a fine cloudless morning. Suddenly one of the boys nudged his friend and pointed high up at the northern sky. In the distance a milky-white disc was hovering. They could not look at it for long because they were already moving forward to enter the school building but when they came out for a break at 10.30 a.m. they peered up at the sky again. At first they could see nothing except the sky itself. Then - there it was again, or a similar object, away to the west. Other boys were now watching them. Altogether a dozen saw the strange object which they estimated to be "larger than a bus" moving westward. A moment later they saw it begin to fall, fluttering down like a leaf as though out of control; then, when it was almost on the horizon, it seemed to correct itself and began to climb again but was almost immediately lost to sight behind some trees. There was nothing more. The object was not seen again on that day or any day following, but on his way home on the evening of the sighting one of the boys looking out from the top of a bus saw the strange marks in a barley field bounded by the Newport-East Cowes road. And in the report he subsequently wrote on the whole affair, Mr Cramp said: "Investigations of this site revealed large areas (up to six yards wide) of damage, in the form of depressed and flattened stalks, which made an almost completely circular pattern. The damage had a very mechanical appearance in a vortex parrern, sometimes clockwise and sometimes anti-clockwise, but predominantly clockwise. The centres of some of the vortices had tufts with broken stalks and others had nothing - obviously the roots and stalks had disappeared completely.
In these areas the heads of corn had been denuded and looked (to quote one farmer) "as if they had been thrashed". At first it was assumed that the damage was restricted to the area near the school, but aerial photographs showed that it was much more extensive, continuing through three fields and roughly parallel to the roadside hedge. Towards the end of the run the damage was appreciably less, suggesting that at that point whatever had caused it was no longer in as close contact as it had been to begin with. What seemed particularly significant to the investigation was that the length of the run appeared to correspond with the distance the boys thought the object had moved westwards from the time it had fluttered down to the time it regained control and started up again.
"When the extent of the damage to their fields had been seen by the local farmers," wrote Mr Cramp, "they could not accept the idea that the weather, which had been very fine preceding the discovery of the damage, could have caused such effects. They agreed, individually, that the damage was too localized to be the result of any natural causes known to them, and one farmer said: 'It looks as though a mad thing has gone through there'."
The possibility that the damage might have been caused by straying cattle was quickly ruled out by comparison with a nearby field in which cattle were known to have strayed. There was not the slightest similarity between the two effects. The sight of dogs gambolling through the barley, which sprang up again immediately after they had passed, just as quickly disposed of the notion that smaller animals, even had there been herds of them, could have been responsible. There remained the possibility that freak winds might have caused the damage but a professional meteorologist who was consulted about this said it was out of the question, especially in view of the fact that not only did the damaged area run parallel to the hedge but made some precise right-angled turns and even neatly skirted a dilapidated hut. Apart from this the barley had been attacked with such violence that a wind causing it would have been an extremely noisy wind.
In the course of searching the area for clues the UFO investigators found a number of stones, some quite large, strewn along the trough made in the barley fields. They also collected a total of a hundred and thirty feathers from a wood pigeon, suggesting that the bird had come to a violent end. But there was nothing which pointed to an ordinary explanation for the damage. Nothing indeed fitted the facts more readily than the notion an aircraft of some kind had come down in difficulties, skidded along by the hedges, recovered and taken off again. Had it been a helicopter or any other familiar aircraft this surely would very soon have been discovered.
The strange assault on the Isle of Wight barley fields was not the first event of its kind to mystify people in Britain. Four years earlier, in July 1963, something very odd happened in a potato field at Charlton near Shaftesbury, Wiltshire, which got a lot of publicity when the police and an Army bomb disposal squad were called in. One morning a farmer, Mr Roy Blanchard, arrived to work in the potato field and found among his crops a crater eight feet in diameter. There was nothing to show what had caused the crater. It looked as though it had been scooped out by an enormous spoon. Mr Blanchard seems to have been in no doubt that the crater was formed by a spaceship that landed in the field. "I didn't actually see it," he told reporters, "but what else could it have been? Obviously some craft from outer space since it sucked out my barley and potatoes when it took off." This may not be the first explanation that would have occurred to anybody coming across a hole in a field but Mr Blanchard was sufficiently convinced, it appears, to put it forward to the Bomb Disposal Squad at Horsham, Sussex. No doubt they took it with a pinch of salt but they came and spent quite a few hours digging in the crater in search of metal which had been detected by their instruments.
The investigation of the Charlton crater was then unexpectedly complicated by the arrival of a gentlemen described as an Australian astro-physicist who claimed to have discovered two other marks in adjoining fields. It was clear to him, he said, that a flying saucer had landed in difficulties, bounced along and taken off again from Mr Blanchard's field. The marks were similar to marks found in Australia in 1954 and 1955 and in France in 1958. He himself had seen the marks in Australia and believed they were caused by a space craft. According to a Daily Telegraph account of the Charlton mystery the Australian was a Dr Randall who had been called in by the Army to give expert advice. he had expressed the opinion that the saucer was five hundred feet wide, weighed six hundred tons and had a fifty man crew. It was Dr Randall also who drew attention to "burned" grass and ash-covered leaves in a corner of a hedge abounding the potato field. This, apparently, was where the spacecraft had crashed through the hedge on taking off. The telegraph quoted him saying: "... we think these craft are coming from somewhere in the region of Uranus. Each one would take several years to make the return trip. They would be due about now after the last one in France.
We think their mission is peaceful and exploratory. They may well be worried or curious about our atomic explosions for their stability may depend on ours. They are not more than a hundred years ahead of us scientifically. The type of spacecraft of which we have evidence is a kind which we can comprehend and will quite likely be making ourselves inside a century."
This was splendid stuff. But, alas, further investigation ruled out the notion that the hedge and grass had been "burned". The blackened it appeared was actually due to nothing more sinister than mildew. The Army then issued a statement calling for "a note of sanity" in the whole business, and surprisingly declared that Dr Randall was unknown to them. His assistance had not been sought and he had no official standing. Because metal had been detected by their instruments the Army team went on digging. The crater may have been caused by a bomb - that was their main interest in the excavation - and if so some evidence of this might be found. Otherwise the only "reasonable" suggestion was that a meteorite had caused it - a suggestion favoured by most orthodox scientists at the time. And when eventually a "fused-looking" half pound lump of rocky substance was dug up the matter seemed settled.
Not everyone was satisfied, however, and on 29 July 1963, Major Patrick Wall, Conservative MP for Haltemprice, asked the Secretary of State for War what had been the findings of the Army team and whether there was any evidence to justify the notion that the Charlton crater was made from an extra-terrestrial source.
Mr Godber: "The Army Bomb Disposal team which excavated the crater at Charlton have found no conclusive evidence regarding its cause. The small object which was initially thought to be a meteorite appears in face to have been a piece of local rock and was not the cause of the crater."
Major Wall then asked what were the findings of two Royal Air Force officials who investigated the crater and whether investigations were continuing. The reply: "From my inquiries I have no reason to think that anything happened in the area which could justify further investigation by the Air Ministry." On 1 August, Major Wall tried again. He asked whether the crater was still of interest to the Army. Mr Godber replied: "The Army was concerned to discover whether the crater could contain an unexploded bomb. Nothing of this nature was found and the Bomb Disposal unit left the site on 26 July."
From the foregoing it is evident that the authorities were only too anxious to wash their hands of the Charlton affair; but what is interesting to other people, particularly those with a bias in favour of flying saucers, is the admission in the Commons that "no conclusive evidence" was found to account for the crater. This admission was considered "highly un-satisfactory" by the late Waveney Girvan, founder and former editor of Flying Saucer Review, and easily the most persistent investigator and critic of Whitehall policy on UFOs of his time. The crater, he wrote, in a detailed report, was a complete mystery - and that was official.
It was Girvan who published the first full description of the crater. It was no simple hole in the ground apparently. "The marks comprised a saucer-shaped depressed or crater eight feet in diameter and about four inches in depth. In the centre of this depression there was found a three feet deep hole variously described as from five inches to one foot in diameter. Radiating from the centre hole were four slot marks, four feet long and one foot wide." Mr Girvan, who also interviewed Farmer Roy Blanchard, "a man of sound common sense", attributed to him these words:
There isn't a trace of the potatoes and barley which were growing where the crater is now. No stalks, no leaves, no roots. The thing was heavy enough to crush rocks and stones to powder. Yet it came down gently. We heard no crash and whatever power it used produces no heat or noise. I believe that we have received a visit from a spaceship from another world."
In this connection, Girvan drew attention to the fact that a local policeman, PC Anthony Penny, had reported seeing an orange object flash through the sky on 10 July and vanish near the field in which the strange marks were found. As regards the half-pound 'meteorite' (which he never believed to be a meteorite in the first place) Girvan reported that it had in fact been found to be a piece of common or garden iron stone which could be found buried all over Southern England. It had been identified as such by Dr F. G. Claringbull, Keeper of the Department of Mineralogy at the British Museum. "The importance of the piece of iron stone nowbecomes apparent," he wrote. "If ordinary iron stone is widely distributed and highly magnetic, the Bomb Disposal Unit's detector would not be of much value. If violent reactions were obtained from the Charlton object then it must have been magnetized in some way, perhaps, by the proximity to a force field. This proves, in the first place, that the whole affair was not a hoax. Some evidence would surely have been apparent on the surface of the field, but nobody can suggest that the iron stone had been planted: the British Museum suggested that it had been buried in the ground for some time ...
"I would say that in all probability a machine of unknown origin landed in Farmer Blanchard's field some time in July and then took off again. The behaviour of the Army goes a long way to support this theory. The sense of the matter rests with Farmer Blanchard who, when faced with conventional explanations, replied: 'But where have my crops gone?'"
Girvan was highly critical of the part played by "Dr Randall" whom he seemed to think had been deliberately introduced to bedevil the Charlton inquiries. His idea was that if you produced somebody whose authority seemed beyond question who was later strongly suspected of talking nonsense, then the whole investigation could be put in ridicule and the true facts of the case conveniently obscured. The reason, he pointed out, that the Uranus theory was given so much publicity was because Randall seemed to have been "adopted" by the Bomb Disposal Unit. Sergeant James Reith had declared that he had met Randall at Woomera and had said of him: "You can take his name as an authority on flying saucers". But Southern Command at Salisbury had later explained this curious endorsement as being due to the excitement of the moment.
"It is interesting to ask," Girvan commented, "if excitement on what the Army describes as a routine job leads to a misinterpretation of this magnitude, what would happen if the men of the Bomb Disposal Squad got really worked up?"
In his search for the truth of the Charlton story Girvan looked around for (and found) other instances of holes and craters appearing mysteriously in the British Isles. There were in fact several which had been discovered either just before or just after the Charlton crater. Of these probably the most significant was at Flamborough Head. A young man cutting hay on his father's farm had come across a ten feet wide shallow hole which had not been there when the land had been top dressed in the spring. The hole had been reported to the police but neither they nor anybody else could suggest anything to account for it satisfactorily. The hole had jagged edges and was surrounded by cracks. In addition earth had been scattered around it. On the slopes of Dufton Fell, Westmorland farmers Bill Richardson and John Rudd had discovered two craters, one of them about sixty yards across and about two feet deep. There was evidence in this case that soil had been washed away along a narrow gully but some local people had recalled that similar craters had appeared on the fell tops, mystifying their parents, more than half a century ago.
At this time also a park area in Bristol had been roped off for Bomb Disposal men to investigate a hole in the grass discovered by employees using a mower. It was believed that a meteorite was responsible. And on 27 July the BBC Scottish News reported: "Three more mystery craters. A bomb disposal squad have been having a look at them in a field near Sanquhar, in Dumfriesshire. No trace of metal or explosives has been found. The craters are similar to those found on a hillside in East lothian; scientists were having a look at them today."
To town dwellers accustomed to walking on concrete, asphalt and granite, the notion of holes suddenly appearing in the ground may seem more than a little odd, even though subsidences do occur in towns from time to time. Water, possibly from a leaking supply or drainpipe, loosens the subsoil and the surface gives way. But out in the open country the surface is often anything but firm and easily weakened and washed away by heavy rainfall. Therefore, one should not, I suggest, be unduly surprised at the discovery of a hole in a field, even a pretty big hole.
Out in the open also, a meteorite falling from the sky could leave its mark without anyone seeing it happen. Animals too may rough up the ground without leaving any special clue to incriminate themselves.
However, it does not appear, either in the case of the damaged barley fields on the Isle of Wight or in that of the Charlton crater, that any ordinary explanation will do. Neither animals, the weather, nor meteorites seem to have been in any way responsible. At the moment both cases remain unsolved and the choice is to forget about that (as most people will do) or keep them on file (as a few will do) in the hope that further evidence will turn up.
Not the least bizarre feature, common to both incidents, is the way crops disappeared as though rooted out and carried away by a mechanical excavator. But however the crops were removed, one can be pretty sure that it was not due to the ground giving way under them; otherwise some evidence of this would have been discovered, especially in the case of the Charlton crater. So the possibility that the damage may have been done by flying saucers which came down with engine trouble and then took off again when all was well is probably no less fanciful than any other solution one might care to put forward. Now you have read about the mysterious UFO sightings and landing craters throughout the UK, make sure you check out the report of UFOs, Cattle Mutilations and Alien Contact from Colorado.