Letter from F.H.C.Wimbledon
to G. David Thayer
23 Sept 1978
Dear Mr. Thayer,
Thank you for your most interesting letter and enclosures; please accept my apologies for not being able to type and for being so long in replying. I take your point that a bit of detective work would connect me with the Sunday Times letter but would appreciate still remaining "anonymous" at this juncture. In this country, as a retired officer in Her Majesty's Forces, you remain subject to the Official Secrets Act until you die!
Now I will try to anser some of your questions - somewhat difficult in view of the elapsed time and the fact that until Ridpath's article in the Sunday Times I wasn't the slightest bit interested in UFOs and had dismissed ther whole incident as "one of those things."
(1) I think it was about half an hour to one hour after going on watch that Lakenheath first rang me. From then until the final disappearance of the object was probably no more than 2 hours. I see from your letter that GCA continued to track objects when we could see nothing, which returns me to my scepticism of much of the early reports. I know only too well how tricks can be played on the mind, especially in the early hours of the morining in that area. Responses would show up, disappear, turn up again many miles away and it only required a little imagination or over-enthusiasm to connect one with another. Strange as it may seem, one of our Technical Officers was able to eliminate many such by the simple expedient, after experimenting, of a few yards of chicken wire on the ground about 100 yards from the Radar aerial! A sharp kick on the panel of one of the PPI consoles in the right place produced the similar effects. So are the Boffins confounded!
(2) The Radar was AMES Type 7, which was the type in general use at that time at all our static Control stations just prior to the introduction of the Marconi Type 80. Height finders were Type 13. Sweep rate was, I think, 6 RPM, but I cannot remember the PRF, wavelength or other details.
(3) The target appeared to "give up the chase" as though it had achieved its objective and more or less "melted". My own theory is that it either went straight up at very high speed or down to ground level under our radar cover. East Anglia is notoriously flat and not much above sea level.
(4) I cannot understand at all the reports of alleged conversations or the fact that Lakenheath listened to my Interceptor Controller. I have already mentioned in my letter to FSR that they were extremely unlikely in a GCA unit to know or have the radio frequency in use. Your theory may be right in that by judicious searching on the radio they may have found the channel. They most certainly would not have been told by me. The Venom, by the way, was using VHF not UHF at that time.
(5) As I cannot now remember their names, it would be almost impossible to trace either the pilot or navigator of the first Venom or even the personnel working with me that night, although in this connection I have put an advertisment in the next issue of "Air Mail", a journal published 3 times a year and read mainly by ex-RAF types, asking for anyone on watch at a certain RAF station on that particular night to contact me. We can only hope!
(6) If the Lakenheath or Bentwaters GCA personnel thought that the vectoring of the Venom was done by the RATTC [sic] Radar, they were singularly ignorant of the procedures for Interception and Control!
(7) Without a track recording of the interception, it would not be possible to say if the positions shown on the various radars would coincide.
(8) AI is an acronym for "airborne interception". It was common practice to refer to the apparatus in the aircraft as A.I.
I still feel consoderable reserve judgement on the early "sightings", but there is no doubt at all in my mind that something solid was in the air at Lakenheath that night and it wasn't a Russian, no aircraft at that time being able to perform as this object did and with the capability of crossing several hundred miles of water at nought feet under the Radar cover and return to base. It certainly wasn't one of ours, nor one of yours! What was it?
Well, I hope I have been able to be of some help. No doubt you will be comparing notes with Stan Friedman. Wouldn't it be nice if we could all meet?
s/ Fredk H C Wimbledon