RAF AIR DEFENCE MUSEUM Newsletter No 22 (1999) The Lakenheath Incident of 1956
By F.H.C. Wimbledon
(A question frequently asked by visitors to the Museum is, "Has Neatishead ever seen any Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs)" to which we have to answer "No" , not for any security reasons, but because there do not seem to be many around these days. So we were pleased to receive the following article from Freddie Wimbledon, to put the matter straight - Editor)
One of the most bizarre happenings at Neatishead was the interception of a UFO on the night of 13/14 August 1956. Some time after 23.30hr Air Traffic Control at the USAF base at Lakenheath in Suffolk rang Neatishead to report a bright light "buzzing" the circuits at Bentwaters and Lakenheath alternately at speeds between 400 and 600 mph, then remaining stationary or moving very slowly. This activity was clearly seen on Neatishead's radar, by observers on the ground at Lakenheath and by the pilot of a C-47 transport aircraft at 10,000 ft who reported that a bright light had passed underneath him.
The 12 Group Sector Operations Centre at RAF Horsham St Faith were informed of the happening and a Venom NF2A night fighter from 253 Squadron at Waterbeach, Cambridge, was scrambled for control by Neatishead. It was vectored towards the object and the Venom pilot called "Contact" followed in a short while by "Judy" (which meant that the Radar/Nav had the target on his airborne radar and needed no further ground assistance). But then he called "Lost contact, more help." He was then told that his target was now behind him, and it remained glued in that position, following the Venom's every move. A second Venom was scrambled but it never got within 20 miles before the target sped off in a north-easterly direction, climbing at terrific speed and was soon out of range of Neatishead's radar. As to what really happened during the interception led to differing views; the controller and his crew believed that the target had looped to get behind the Venom, but the pilot of that aircraft has since said that he overshot the target because it suddenly stopped in front of him.
This was all reported to HQ Fighter Command at RAF Bentley Priory as it happened, and a very senior RAF officer arrived at Neatishead the next day to interview the personnel involved, stressing absolute secrecy.
Unknown to those at Neatishead, a NCO at the US Air Traffic Control Centre at Lakenheath had followed the action on his radar and listened to the R/T conversation. He reported his version to the 7th Air Division Command Post in London and it was duly entered in the USAF "Blue Book", wherein all unexplained incidents were recorded.
And there it remained until the same NCO twelve years later wrote about the incident, claiming that he had controlled the RAF fighter. A hurried search through the "Blue Book" was instituted and sure enough there was a reference to the incident in the original report.
Years later, when so much more information was released, and it had been proven that given the type of radar available to him, the NCO could not possibly have controlled an interception, and he admitted that this was so. He also withdrew his remarks about monitoring the R/T by saying that he did not really understand the English accents of the Venom crews or the jargon they used.
In the United States, when the NCO's version saw the light of day, many of the leading physicists, scientists, UFO buffs and |quote me-toos" wanted to say their piece. However as they tried to get confirmation from the Air Ministry, Air Attaches or even Malvern, the reply was always "We have no knowledge of this incident." As a result, numerous books have been published in the United Kingdom about the incident using the American version, which is, of course, 10% fact and 90% fiction.
The Chief Controller at Neatishead when this incident took place was one Flight Lieutenant Freddie Wimbledon, who until now has resisted all efforts to give interviews, or to appear on television; yet statements attributed to him with all the details keep appearing in various books, without his permission, and without his ever meeting any of the authors. So much information has come to light over the years, such as finding three of the original Venom aircrew with their log books, the Parliamentary Private Secretary to Sir Ray Cochrane has put on record that he was shown the camera gun film of the target object, witnesses on the ground, and an official statement that the relevant papers had been "accidentally destroyed" (which means that they had originally existed) all show that there can be little doubt that Neatishead's UFO existed. But what was it really? No aircraft then or since has shown the flight envelope demonstrated by that object. Are we so arrogant as to think that we are the only intelligent life in the universe.
(Makes you think. We once went to Loch Ness to see the monster, but while we were there it was at the other end of the loch. And we believe in the Deity, though we have never seen him. It is no bad thing to keep an open mind. -Editor)