Letter to Dave Clarke from Pilot Officer Graeme Hobson, Neatishead Interception Controller.
(Received from Dave Clarke 16.03.02)
"Dear Dr Clarke
Thank you for the most interesting material you sent me [he was sent copies of Freddie's 1978 statement to the Sunday Times plus a copy of Gordon Thayer's account of the case in Story's UFO Encyclopedia ].
"I have read the text thoroughly and have racked my brains to recollect the incident. It will be a disappointment to you, but I cannot recall the occasion, although the details as recalled by Freddie Wimbledon ring absolutely true and to my mind the account is completely accurate. However I will comment briefly on the letters and give you a little insight into daily life at RAF Neatishead.
"I was called up for National Service aged 25 having completed an MSc at University College London. Hence I was rather older than my contemporaries at Neatishead, most of whom had come straight from school and prior to going up to a university. I therefore had more in common with Freddie Wimbledon than most, and we often worked as a team, he as Chief Controller (CC) and I as Interception Controller (IC). We would work shifts and would be on duty for morning, afternoon, evening or night watch, as RAF Neatishead was on 24-hour duty under 'Exercise Fabulous.' During a typical night watch, only one IC would be on duty, with either a Flying Officer or a Flight Lieutenant as CC. I strongly recollect that Freddie was particularly steady and unflappable under pressure, utterly reliable and not remotely given to excesses or exaggeration.
"As part of my duties as a junior officer, each month I had to get together material for the Station Diary (form 540), an account of the day to day happenings at Neatishead, both operational and social. Hence, even if I was not present on the night in question, I should have been informed of the incident so that an appropriate entry could have been made in the log. But if a security blanket on the observation were imposed, then it would have been relatively easy to gag the CC, IC and cabin crew, and nothing would have appeared about the extraodinary echoes in the log. Maybe the station diary for 1956 is still preserved, and if so then you will probably have checked this.
"I clearly remember being involved in several 'out of the ordinary' trials of the equipment. One was to assess how far away the vapour trails from jet aircraft could be detected by eye on moonlit nights and reasonably clear visibility (answer, about 70 miles). Another was to establish the range over which an aircraft could pick up an 'rt' (radio telephone) message so that verbal instructions could be passed and not just the carrier wave detected (answer, about 200 miles at above 30,000 ft). Only once was I personally involved in investigating a rogue echo with a pair of fighters - which turned out to be a Russian 'Bear' bomber probably probing our radar cover over northern England and southern Scotland, obviously at extreme range from Neatishead.
"I must say how sorry I am that I have so little to add to the account by Freddie Wimbledon. His narrative strikes me as meticulously accurate, in contrast to the Thayer account. For instance, Thayer states on line 13 of p 201 that "the UFO continued to follow the Venom for about one quarter mile" This would mean that an aircraft flying at 450 knots would cover this distance in 2.5 secs! However, I can confirm that spurious echoes did appear fairly frequently on our radar screens, but these were assumed to be aircraft that had not filed flight plans or were meteorological balloons. Anyway, it was the job of the Reporting Branch (Supervisors) to sort these out.
"You will be able to confirm that Wg Cmdr Sinclair was the CO of Neatishead when I arrived  and was replaced by Wg Cmdr Ramsden later on. Sq Ldr Horsfall was Operations Officer, but the other names do not mean much to me. The only other colleague from Neatishead I keep in touch with is Alan Coombes, and I could, if you wish, send him copies of this correspondence. He may have been the Pilot Officer on duty with Freddie on the night in question!
Congratulations on tracking me down!"
Graeme E. Hobson, DSc, FRSC.