Transcript of Interview with Ralph Noyes,
Jenny Randles Nov. 1995

Question: Why did the British government first decide to investigate UFOs?

Noyes: I don't think its quite true to say that the MoD 'decided' to investigate UFOs. UFOs were thrust upon them. I dont think there has ever been anything as conscious in the way of a policy decision - anyway in my time. I think that what happened to the MoD was that they found that they could not get rid of the UFO phenomenon. We used to get during my time - and we are going back 20 years - several hundred reports from the public during the year that they had seen things in the sky that they could not explain. And I ran a division which had, as one of its responsibilities, the job of replying to people who had kindly told us this kind of thing. In most cases those reports were not all that good. Very often we could immediately interpret what they had seen as probably being a light aircraft, or a military exercise, or a bit of meteoric debris or the re-entry of a space vehicle, or an astronomical event. But some of those reports were a good deal less explicable than that. And we also had from our own people - our own stations, our own pilots, quite remarkable reports of objects that coulde make rings round aircraft - even military jet aircraft - as far back as l953. (There was) an event at RAF Bentwaters which also involved a nearby station. Where a number of objects were seen coming in across the North Sea on coastal radar. It looked like a Russian - possible Russian - mistake. Jet aircraft were scrambled. The objects were travelling at quite impossible speeds like 4000 or 5000 mph and then came to an abrupt halt near to one of these stations not very high up. Jet aircraft picked them up on aircraft radar. The objects then simply made rings round them. An object would be in front of an aircraft and then suddenly it would be behind the aircraft (which was travelling at its own pretty hefty speed like 600 mph) and manouvering fairly abruptly. So it was a bit of a puzzle. Inevitably they led to the sort of enquiry which you would put in hand if you had any military responsibilities. Had something gone wrong with ground radar or with aircraft radar? Were experienced pilots going out of their minds? Were people having fantasies? We 'had' to investigate cases of that kind. Over the years - although there were not an enormous number of such cases - there were sufficient number to persuade me - and a number of air staff friends with whom I had to work - that something was going on - sporadically - in British airspace which we could not explain. We did not particularly have to want to make public statements about that. Not for something that that we had no explanation.

Q: What was your actual position in the MoD at this time?

N: I came into touch with the UFO stuff on two main occasions. Right back in the early l950s as a young civil servant I was given the very nice job of being the private secretary to the then vice-chief of the Air Staff Sir 'Raif' Cochran. Its a good way to blood a young civil servant. He runs the office of this very senior air staff chap. And at that stage then Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill was getting interested, because in July l952 there had been an outbreak of UFO phenomena above Washington DC. For the whole of the week radar was being bugged by targets - very high speed targets - performing impossible manouvres and then didsappearing. It happened on several days and that was following quite a lengthy period in which many less dramatic UFO reports had been occurring. Winston Churchill dropped a note to the chief of the air staff - via the secretary of state or air - who asked what the hell is going on with this flying saucer nonsense? Cochran was given the job of looking into it. He put our chief scientist on the matter and sent him to Washington. The report which came back was I am afraid dashing. The view taken by the chief scientist was that the Americans had imagined the whole thing and there was something wrong with their radar system whilst they were carrying on in a slightly sensational American manner. But from that point onward I think the Air Staff felt that they had to begin to put UFO events on file. There was an occasion during a NATO exercise during l952 (Operation Mainbrace - JR) in which from our own pilots we had very good reports of strange objects that seemed to be observing that NATO exercise in the North Sea. Some of our aircraft were followed by these objects. Again we had no explanation so we began to record the stuff. Then there was the occurrence in August (l956) of high speed objects intruding from the North Sea, detected on radar and detected by aircraft that were scrambled and other incidents that followed over the years.

Then I came into contact with the subject again when I ran an outfit called DS 8 (Defence Secretariat 8) whose main job was to supply support for the air staff. Most of our job was to get money and resources, diplomatic clearances for foreign overflights for aircraft missions of one kind or another. As what I regarded at the time as a minor and tiresome part of the job DS 8 also took on the job of responding to the public on the reports they sent us of UFOs seen in the sky. And DS 8 also naturally became the first place to which reports of things seen by our own people were initially directed. So during the period when I ran DS 8 I saw a number of the UFO reports. It has since been renamed AS 2 (Air Staff 2). Its just a change of name. Its doing virtually the same job.

When I retired (l977) I was an under secretary of state. I was at that time the undersecretary of state for logistics. I had moved out of that support for the Air Staff into more general defence duties and lost touch with the UFO thing. But up from l969 until the end of l972 I was in charge of DS 8.

Q: Air Staff 2 A or DS 8 collected reports but are they studied by the staff of scientific and technical intelligence?

N: We always took any report reaching us - either from the public or our own ground stations. We had to as the air staff under the Ministry of Defence has responsibilities for British airspace. When I was in the MoD we were, of course, at the height of the Cold War. We had to be quite sure that the Russians were not playing some silly or dangerous game like intruding into our airspace. They sometimes did. It was part of the Cold War pattern that their aircraft would come up to the edge of our airspace - almost every day - just to see that we were functioning. Sometimes they overshot that territorial limit - which always worried us. We invariably scrambled aircraft, made the right signals at them and mercifully we never had an incident. They turned back. But when we got reports of things in British airspace that we couldnt explain in those down to earth military terms we were concerned. What the hell was going on? So we always investigated every report - from wherever it came - and I cannot recall a single case in which we were able to pin down what the peculiar objects had been. In the Bentwaters/Lakenheath case in l953 (sic - one of the things I had to reshoot later to get him to give correct date -JR) fairly sensational events had gone on for, oh about an hour. They had left no lasting trace - no damage had been done to aircraft or ground stations. And it never happened again at Bentwaters/Lakenheath. We had an event the following year at a place called West Freugh in Gallowayshire - where 'massive' objects - I think 3 or 4 of them - at high altitude like 30 or 40 000 feet - were picked up on ground radar, manouvred over that base. They were described as being as big as battleships.And they moved off and disappeared. Every endeavour was made to establish what those objects had been. There were other incidents. An occasion near Tehran in the days of the Shah when Iran was Persia. We had a defence agreement and we had aircraft based as part of that near to Tehran. A famous case - well known to the public - or certainly UFOlogists know about it - occurred. Aircraft were scrambled because there appeared to be some intruding - meaning from Russia - again it was a set of mysterious objects moving at impossible speeds making rings round aircraft, moving off and vanishing. It was investigated but never explained. There must be several dozen of such incidents well recorded and never explained. So the answer to the question - yes these cases were all studied (by scientific and technical intelligence staff) but in the more sensational and strange ones that I have described we could not find any explanation.

(Asked to answer the question more precisely regarding which department handled which reports)

The main point of entry was always the air staff - particularly the directorate of operations, air defence. Whose responsibility was, of course, British air space and anything going on within British air space. So it was D of Ops (AD) who would keep the primary file. I was never quite sure how much scientific advice they were seeking but I am pretty clear that fairly extensive boards of enquiry were held at RAF stations when we had the more extraordinary events that I have mentioned.. But, beyond that, because we never had an explanation of what had happened, rather uneasily I think we came to the conclusion that there was no further defence action that could be taken. And in my time the prevailing view was that we might be seeing some unusual meteorological phenomenon and I think that most of the technical reports probably ended up with the Met Office.

Q: Okay, if we have established that these reports were studied - where was the base for these studies and why were the evaluations never released?

N: Thats two questions in one! The air staff - particularly the director of operations, Air Defence - took the prime responsibility for investigating any report of that kind. To what extent he consulted scientific colleagues I have never been clear. I think during my time that after we had failed to find an explanation and satisfied ourselves that the thing was a one-off and it hadnt shown any signs of coming back - all one could really do was to file the report. And to hope that there were not too many public questions, because we had no satisfactory answers. I think that some of the bits of evidence - like gun camera film - luminous objects caught on film by aircraft - were possibly sent to the meteorological office because they might be some kind of not yet understood meteorological phenomenon. I dont think in my day anything more systematic was being done.

Q: You mention some of these chases involving RAF jets in the 50s and 60s...

N: As late as the 70s in fact.

Q: Was there any film taken of 'these' incidents?

N: Only the lucky capturing of a visual image from film being run by one of the aircraft guns. We often installed a camera under the wings of an aircraft. And most of our air defence aircraft in fact carry such a camera gun. Occasionally those films did pick up events - something or other - never a fully structured flying saucer of the kind that UFOlogists think about. Some rather globular fuzzy object. Often self luminous or, if seen against a clear sky, rather darker - but a fuzzy object. Often behaving rather weirdly and then disappearing. But a few such events certainly exist - or did in my day. I think they all ended up with the meteorological office as being a possible meteorological or atmospheric phenomenon. But I dont know of any decisive conclusion that the met office ever reached.

Q: What did you personally see on these films?

N: I have seen very short gun camera clips - fuzzy objects, self luminous, rather dark if seen against a light sky. Never anything like a structured craft. Always globular. Capable of moving very fast. Nothing more sensational than that but quite as puzzling as that.

Q: Why were these films never released for the general public's information?

N: Oh I think for quite good reasons - or maybe you would think them bad ones. The last thing that any air force with defence responsibilities wants is to admit that it has encountered objects that have outwitted it. Its not the sort of thing which is likely to reassure the British public. Its not the sort of thing which you would like a potential enemy to know. It would reveal something about the capabilities of our aircraft. It would cause unease. And in the end we would not be able to say that we would be able to do anything about it. So the natural instinct is to hide away that stuff. To that extent you can talk about a cover up. Other people talk about a cover up in more positive terms - deliberate disinformation. There never was any such thing in my day, but we certainly kept as tight lipped as we could. Because - We dont know what the phenomenon is. But we have come to the conclusion that it is not a threat.

Q: In February l979 an F-111 pursued a UFO over Lancashire. Where would records of such events be filed?

N: I left the MoD in l977 and I have almost sighed with relief that I cannot comment as to how that particular l979 event was looked at. There should have - there 'must' have been - an enquiry conducted by strike command which is one of the two main RAF commands with responsibilities for all air operations of all kinds. It would be strike command, through its air defence sections, who would have investigated that event. There must have been a full enquiry. It presumably rests within the archives of strike command and will be somewhere in the files of the air staff.

Q: Is there a UFO monitor site at Rudloe Manor - as some UFOlogists claim?

N: I have never been able to establish with any certainty. This could be. I had no indication of it during my own official career whether Rudloe Manor - which mainly had the responsibility of the Provost Marshal - the RAFs police force if you like - as it its main job together with our own internal intelligence people - so its mainly concerned with service discipline. I never had any indication that they were logging UFO reports. However, I think they could be - may be - performing a role because I took the somewhat dubious experiment one evening of phoning up the Ministry of Defence and I am afraid faking a UFO report. I said I have seen a UFO and to whom should I tell this story. As a matter of interest I was transferred to Rudloe Manor and had to answer rather a number of questions. So maybe there is some truth in this. What interested me was that questionaire. There was nothing like it in my day. It seemed to indicate that in the six or seven years since I had left (this call by Ralph was made in l984 BTW - JR) someone was taking a more systematic interest. Somebody had devised a questionaire.

Q: Why, generally speaking, has the MoD been reluctant to release 'all' UFO reports?

N: I think for the kinds of reasons I was giving you when I was trying to explain why the gun camera film had not been released - not revealing capabilities of aircraft, not revealing as it were the lack of capability of aircraft in the face of extraordinary objects. Its a question of not creating public unease. Its a question of not letting potential enemies know what you can and cannot do. Maybe the security has been overdone. I think the MoD are a little touchy. But I think as a former MoD official I can understand why the MoD follows this policy. I think it will do unless there is some real breakthrough in understanding what these extraordinary things are.

Q: What's your belief about these 'extraordinary things' based on what you have seen?

N: My main experience consists of studying those reports from our stations and pilots. From reading the many rather low quality reports from the public. I have also had a direct personal UFO experience - sometime after leaving the MoD. I did see - and its an unforgetable memory - a very mysterious object in the sky. A triangle of lights which stood quite still - no sound, early morning, good light, clear day. I was able to guess at its altitude because I used to be an amateur astronomer. I was able to get at the angular dimensions of the three lights. They remained there for about 2 minutes and went out. As it happens that sighting had a very profound personal significance at that time because of the work I was trying to do in order to put together a book about UFOs. So I had this personal experience - and I wonder to this day if this was an early morning hallucination - I'd be perfectly happy to accept that it may have been. But it was a very powerful one. A very vivid one. And it was similar to reports that many people have made of triangular objects (triangles of light)

(Aside followed due to my own personal near identical sighting over Avebury in September l980 - just about the only really interesting UFO I have ever seen - JR)

The interview proper resumed with Ralph being asked to say what he thought UFOs were...

N: They are real. Something goes on around this planet endlessly. They are seen - sometimes over cities - usually in more rural areas. Sometimes seen by many witnesses - sometimes by a single witness - As real as any rainbow or mirage - a rainbow is after all a perfectly real thing. I am not
suggesting that UFOs are rainbows but some phenomena about this planet are relatively insubstantial - they come and go - no rainbow lasts more than a few minutes and it resembles in that respect the UFO. Where (a UFO) differs and where it comes to resemble the ghost in psychical research is that some physical effects are left by it. We know that UFOs leave landing traces sometimes. We know that a close encounter witness can suffer a burn. There are several cases of that kind. We know from good researches made in France at the space agency that chemical changes can sometimes occur in the soil after the brief landing of one of these objects that rapidly takes forth and disappears. So we are dealing with something that is real, but very brief, very transient and doesnt behave within the ordinary laws of Newtonian physics. Its like an intruder from inter-dimensional space - or something from a surrounding space or realm. And at that my UFOlogical friends get slightly cross when I make the comparison with ghosts but I think its a useful comparison and I think the kind of reasoning that people who engage in research into ghosts make just might usefully be applied to the UFO.