TESTIMONY OF Cpl JOHN BOWDEN,
ground radar technician at Neatishead from 1951-1957.
(Transcript received from Dave Clarke 13.03.02)
He told me that in 1956 when the new Neatishead radar site and the R3 underground control centre were open UFOs were picked up on the radar systems. In a letter of 1 August 2001 he writes:
"I was definitely informed that the GCI controllers
scrambled two fighter aircraft from the QRA airfield at
Waterbeach, near Cambridge early on the morning of 13/14 August,
"I cannot recall if I was on duty that night or if I was given the information the next day but I was told first hand by one of the operations staff that the object on the radar climbed very steeply at very high speed and was lost off the screens of the Type 13 height finding radar still travelling upwards. The Type 13 height finder was calibrated to some 50-55,000 feet and as far as I know neither we nor anyone else had aircraft capable of flying as fast or as high at that time."
Far more interesting is Bowden's recall of an earlier experience:
"I was station at RAF Neatishead from the spring of 1951 until January 1957 and was on duty on several occasions when UFOs were picked up. The earlier radar sightings were made in the old wartime above ground operations block known as the happidrome. As a technician on duty I was called to one of the GCI control cabins to look at a possible display fault. The operator pointed out radar echoes of a craft travelling at 1,500 to 2,000 knots which he thought was a fault, as he knoew of no craft at that time capable of such speeds. Certainly the separation of the echoes showed that something was apparently travelling at very high speeds. having given the matter some thought I could not diagnose any equipment problems that would give rise to such a sympton, particularly as the displays were behaving normally in all other respects. That is permanent echoes and known aircraft returns were normal. I reported to the NCO i/c my watch who went to have a look himself but he could not explain the phenomenon either. later that day or during our next watch the powers on high announced that it was interference on the radar. This I did not believe, as I was frequently involved with the servicing of the main Type 7 search radar, and was proud of that fact that I could tune the transmitter and receiver better than most people. I was also familiar with interference such as window (chaff as it is known) and anaprop (anomalous propagation) which I had experienced many times. A week or two later we were issued with a black metal hood to mount a camera onto one of the radar PPI displays to enable photographs to be taken by the operations staff when other similar radar contacts were received. I cannot recall for how long the camera and mounting hood remained on the selected PPI display but it was certainly weeks or months rather than days. I am also unable to comment on whether or not any photographs of UFO radar returns were taken as the operations personnel took care of that duty.
"I was posted to Neatishead in May 1952 after completing my training at Yatesbury. I believe this experience occured in the summer of 1954 or 1955 and there was a lot of activity about that time. I can still see the camera mounted on one of the PPI's in the old operations block. I am reasonably sure that other radar sites were also involved in this experience."