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BBC Radio 4 interview with JOHN BRADY - 23 Squadron RAF retired

April 2002, Norwich, Time: 22 minutes, 40 seconds.

JB: John Brady; GN: Gerry Northam

GN: First of all please say who you are...

JB: I'm John Brady, at the time of the incident in August 1956 I was a flying officer/navigator on No 23 Night Fighter squadron and at the time we were stationed, or not stationed, detached, to RAF Waterbeach in Cambridge.

GN: You subsequently became a squadron leader?

JB: Yes and I retired in that rank in 1991.

GN: Just describe what happened from the moment you came on duty to the moment you got the order to scramble...

JB: We were on duty in our Venom sitting on the readiness pan at Waterbeach. And we were on telescramble connected to base operations and through them to RAF Neatishead. And shortly before 2 o'clock in the morning, erm, we were scrambled and we were told to climb to 7,000 feet and when we did that we were handed over to the Americans at RAF Lakenheath.

GN: So you were placed under the control of an American officer?

JB: Yes.

GN: Was that normal?

JB: That was certainly not normal.

GN: Had it ever happened to you before?

JB: It hadn't, no.

GN: Or since?

JB: No.

GN: And what did you think was going on when you were told to scramble?

JB: Well we knew that we were going to look at something that the Americans were not terribly happy about. We didn't think it was anything absolutely horrendous, in other words we didn't think the Russians were coming, but we went off and we looked for it under their control. On our first run towards what we were after we saw absolutely nothing and overshot and the Americans said, well you better turn round and we'll send you back towards it, turn onto so and so, which we did and we flew towards it. And at a range of about five or six miles I picked something up which was quite woolly but at about the same height as us, but was a definite contact.

GN: Did it look like another craft?

JB: It really didn't look like another aeroplane...the sort of blip we would expect to see from a Venom, a Canberra or one of the early V-bombers. It didn't look like that at all. It was woolly, it was not sharp, nothing. And I watched it and I thought I can't intercept this, it's rushing towards me, it's almost stationary. And we overshot again, we reported contact on it. And we came in again at it, and exactly the same thing happened.

GN: Did you see it a second time?

JB: Yes on the second run I saw it on the radar as well. And I was convinced that this time that it was stationary, or more or less stationary. And we also saw it on the third run.

GN: So you saw it three times?

JB: I saw the blip three times, yes.

GN: And it wasn't moving?

JB: No, in my opinion it was not moving. Or if it did it wasn't going very fast about 10, 20 miles per hour. To me it was stationary.

GN: What did you decide to do?

JB: Well there was nothing we could do. On two of the runs the pilot looked out as I was giving him direction as we were flying fast, going at about 250 knots or something like that, and on each occasion he said 'I can't see a thing' and yet it was roughly the same level as us and it was definitely there.

GN: Would you have expected to see it out of the window?

JB: No. Not really no. Because it was a black night, but there was just a chance that he might just see something. We were convinced it was not really an aeroplane, but it was something. So he had a look anyway, and he couldn't see anything.

GN: Did anyone else see this from the air?

JB: The only other person I know who saw it was the navigator of another aircraft who was sent up to relieve us after about 40 minutes. And I've spoken to him on the odd occasion about this and in a BBC2 film a little while ago, about 6-8 years ago, and he saw exactly the same thing as I did, in other words something which just rushed down the tube and appeared to be stationary.

GN: When you landed, what did you do, did you report this?

JB: We reported it in the normal manner to squadron operations and that was the end of it really. A report will have been compiled at the end of the day and sent off to Fighter Command and that was the last that we knew about it.

GN: There was no kind of investigation into this?

JB: No, no investigation as far as we know. Certainly not of us. No one questioned us extremely closely on the subject at all and 24 hours later it might as well never have happened.

GN: This happened 45 or more years ago. Is there any possibility that you have mis-remembered this?

JB: I don't think so. What I' ve said is what happened. There may have been other things happened that I can't recall but I haven't altered what I knew. That's it I'm afraid. Nothing really happened after that.

GN: And what do you think it was that you were seeing on radar? Was it anything real?

JB: That again is open to question. At the time we discussed it and we thought it might be a met balloon or some sort of anomalous thing, but we couldn't come to any firm conclusions about it whatsoever.

GN: What do you think now?

JB: I still think the same thing. A met balloon or some little bit of anomalous return on the tube. But there was definitely something there. There is no question of that.

GN: Did you ever entertain the thought that there may be an extraterrestrial explanation for this?

JB: No I'm afraid I don't. I don't have much opinion of extraterrestrial objects, I don' t go along with them. I think there must be rational explanations for all these things that people see.

GN: Could you point to the entry in your logbook where you made a record of this...tell me what it is...

JB: This is the logbook which is record of all the flying I have done in my career...Well here we are. On the night of the 13/14th we are 14th August 1956, take off 0200 hours from Waterbeach. Flying Officer [David] Chambers as pilot, myself as navigator... scrambled and controlled by the USAF and we were airborne for 55 minutes from 2 o'clock in the morning. Now Ivan Logan and his pilot, Ian Fraser-Kerr had taken off some 40 minutes after us I would think.

GN: Just describe what your job was on a night like that and what you would have heard before you scrambled...

JB: Well we were sitting in our little Venom NF3 on the pan by the runway at Waterbeach and we were connected by radio, we called it a telescramble, to base operations and thence to Neatishead. We had the word scramble immediately prior to that you would hear Neatishead talking to base ops and then they would say Venom, mission so and so, scramble, and the pilot would press the cartridge start, that would whirr up, the engine would fire, I would then put on my radar and somewhere around a minute we would be rolling down the runway and off the ground. It was that quick, everything was geared to getting off the ground as quickly as possible as soon as you heard the word

Transcript copyright David Clarke/BBC Radio 4 Manchester 2002

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