Interview with Ivan Logan, Kent Jan l996
Q: Jenny Randles, A: Ivan Logan
Q: Ivan, in l956 you were with 23 squadron and there's something interesting in your log book about what happened at the time. Tell us about it.
A: Yes, I was a navigator with 23 squadron and we were detached to Waterbeach as we were perhaps once a year on defence exercise. On the night of the 13th we were scrambled (it was actually the morning of the 14th but in my log book it appears as the 13th). We took off at about 2.40 and we were scrambled in the Lakenheath area. The odd thing about the scramble was that we didn't go to the normal height for an interception scramble which would be say 40,000 feet to the east. Instead we went to the Lakenheath Area at 2 or 3, perhaps 4000 feet. Which at the time did not seem to be what we were expecting to do.
Q: Did you have any idea what you were being scrambled to find?
A: It is a long time ago - of course - 40 years ago - and its difficult for me to remember everything but as I recall we were scrambled to intercept an unidentified target. I seem to recall that it was the Americans that were controlling us but I'm not sure.
Q: You were operating the radar aboard?
A: I was the navigator on the venom - and it was a mark 21 radar (actually an American radar) that we had at the time. The interception was not quite how I would have expected it. I didn't get to pick up an interception as I would with a moving aircraft target. We had difficulty - in fact we could not turn behind this contact - and to all intents and purposes it appeared that it was a stationary target - something like perhaps a met balloon or a barrage balloon - something of that nature.
Q: But you had an object on the radar?
A: We had a blip - an indication on the radar - which came down the tube extremely quickly - which would indicate that the target wasn't moving or it was flying directly towards us. At the time it certainly looked to me like the target wasn't moving.
Q: Did you try and close in on it?
A: We tried, obviously, to get behind it as you would with an aircraft contact, but that didn't work out. In effect we were unable to intercept it. We did not get a visual but we had a radar contact.
Q: What did you decide to do at that point?
A: After we tried unsuccessfully to intercept it - after we had been airborne for 40 or 35 minutes we were getting very short of fuel -as you would if you were flying low level - so we returned to base.
Q: And you saw nothing at any time?
A: I didn't - I wouldn't - but the pilot saw nothing visual so far as I can recall.
Q: And what was your view of the incident? Did you think it was at all unusual?
A: We didn't attach too much importance to it. It certainly was unusual.At the time we thought - as I said - that it was a barrage balloon or a met balloon. I certainly did not put it down to atmospherics or interference. I didn't think it was anything like that.
Q: So you think it was a solid object?
A: I think it was an object on the radar, but whatever it was I don't know. It might have been a helicopter perhaps.
Q: Were you aware that there was any ground radar tracking of this object?
A: I think we were aware of it because the people who were controlling us were the Americans at Lakenheath. I don't think we were being controlled by our normal - Neatishead - radar.
Q: When you decided to return to Waterbeach there was a second venom scrambled, wasn't there?
A: Another venom was scrambled and I remember later in the evening talking to the (crew) but I cant recall much about it. But certainly there was another aircraft involved.
Q: Did you ever fill in a report or get debriefed?
A: We would have filled in an operations report afterwards but certainly we didn't have any verbal debrief. There wasn't anything out of the ordinary. We filled in a normal report as we would do after a scramble.
Q: Would you expect this to be located somewhere in the RAF files or at the Public Record Office?
A: It might well be but I doubt if you'll find it. I have got proof in here (my log book) that I was scrambled on that date. But no more than that. I expect my report would have been filed. Whether its available now I would doubt. That report would have gone to command. Whether it could be traced now I doubt. But there was a report somewhere.
(A lot of filming of the log book follows during which Ivan and I retake several shots just to get a good image of him pointing to the appropriate pages in his log book. I re-ask several questions during this)
Q: Can you take us through it? What actually happened on that night.
A: Yes, I was on 23 squadron and we were normally stationed at Coltishall but were then detached to RAF Waterbeach on a defence exercise when we were one of two aircraft of permanent standby to intercept anything that was coming towards the East Anglian coast. On that occasion I was one of the crews who was sitting in the aircraft and we were scrambled to intercept a target in the Lakenheath area. The odd thing at the time was that we were not scrambled to our normal 'maximum angels' (maximum height) to the east Of the North Sea as we expected to be done. We were scrambled to the Lakenheath area at 3 or 4000 feet.
Q: Ordinarily in such a scramble would you be going after potential Russian aircraft?
A: That and aircraft that were simply unidentified. But we would normally have warning at first from Dutch radars who would then hand the target over to us. Then we would be scrambled and be expected to intercept them out at sea.
Q: So did 'you' detect anything on your radar?
A: We did pick up a contact - allbeit at fairly close range - I don't recall picking up anything at more than 7 or 8 miles on this occasion.
Q: And was this a clear contact?
A: I had a good contact on the radar but it did not behave like an aircraft target would have done. It behaved more like a stationary target.
Q: What did you think it was?
A: I have no idea. Certainly I would have expected the target to allow us to turn behind and give us a visual indication. But we were not able to do that. We tried for perhaps a quarter of an hour or so. All we saw was a blip which rather indicated a stationary target. Now what that target was - a balloon - perhaps a helicopter - I don't know. We saw nothing visual at all and so were unable to complete a successful interception.
Q: Are you sure it was not some kind of anomalous propagation effect on your radar?
A: I am fairly sure of that because it would not appear in that way. You would have general interference on the tube. You wouldn't have a clear - or fairly clear - blip.
Q: So you think this was an actual object in the sky?
A: Yes, I had an indication on the radar of something - whatever it was I do not know. But at the time we did not worry too much because it was likely to be a balloon or something like that. But I had never seen anything like it before and I have never seen anything since.
Q: Was there another venom scrambled?
A: I am sure there were two. I think we were the first aircraft and I think the other one went after us. I remember talking to the pilot - I think it was Dave Chambers - when he got back. And Dave I understand had problems as well.
Q: Did you put in a report?
A: We would have put in a written OpRep as we did after every scramble to the command in the normal way. But I wasn't interviewed afterwards and we did not put in any special reports subsequently. But all our flying was recorded and somewhere there would have been a record kept.
(We re shot one of the answers again to get different angles and backgrounds)
Q: What was there about this particular intercept that made it unusual?
A: It was unusual because we were not scrambled to the east to climb to our maximum height of 45,000 feet but we were scrambled to the middle of East Anglia and only at about 3 or 4000 feet. If it was an enemy aircraft we would not have expected it to get that far. Somebody would have failed and we would have been a little worried had it got that far without anybody seeing it beforehand.
Q: Did you come upon any other incidents like this during your time at the RAF?
A: Perhaps, umm but I couldn't really comment on those. I cannot recall. At the time we didn't really see it like that (as a UFO). It was just a very odd incident and that was it really.