Why is 'Britain's Roswell' UFO encounter still making headlines 38 years on?

Rob Waugh
In 1983, U.S. Army personnel stationed near Rendlesham in Suffolk saw a strange, metallic triangle (Picture: The Rendlesham UFO Incident)

Did American airmen in Britain really see an eerie, triangular spacecraft – with lights looking like a ‘glowing red eye’ – landing near Suffolk in 1980?

The Rendlesham Forest incident is still making headlines today – decades after the News of the World reported it on the front page saying ‘UFO LANDS IN SUFFOLK’.

It’s been the subject of multiple films and documentaries, with a new TV series planned by Sony this year – and even today, the revelation (by one witness) of ‘missing hours’ during the incident, sent shockwaves around the world.

What’s unique about the incident, sometimes described as ‘Britain’s Roswell’, is the detailed accounts by serving military personnel.

A series of real-life reported UFO sightings in Britain near an air base used by the U.S. Air Force will be the basis of a new drama series, “Rendlesham.” London-based producer Eleventh Hour Film will make the series and Sony’s international TV production arm has come on board.

The events unfolded over two nights in December 1980, in Rendlesham Forest, near RAF Woodbridge, which at the time was used by the American Air Force.

Two American servicemen, John Burroughs and Jim Penniston, claimed to have seen strange lights like a ‘huge red eye’ in the woods in Rendlesham in Suffolk.


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They approached the lights, initially thinking it was a downed aircraft, but Sergeant Penniston later described seeing a ‘craft of unknown origin’.

Retired Colonel Charles Halt made a dictaphone recording as the events unfolded, and has since claimed that RAF radar personnel also detected the craft – but were unwilling to give statements until they retired.

Doctor Who director and Da Vinci’s Demons writer Joe Ahearne is developing a UFO drama with Sony’s international production division and Foyle’s War producer Eleventh Hour Films. Sony Pictures Television has partnered with Jill Green’s UK firm on Rendlesham and the Hollywood studio will take the international rights to the series. Rendlesham is inspired by a “real-life” UFO incident, which took place at a US air base close to the village of Rendlesham, Suffolk in 1980…

Halt claims to have written statements from RAF personnel saying that they too detected an unknown craft.

Halt told the BBC, ‘I have confirmation that (Bentwaters radar operators)… saw the object go across their 60 mile scope in two or three seconds, thousands of miles an hour, he came back across their scope again, stopped near the water tower, they watched it and observed it go into the forest where we were.

‘At Wattisham, they picked up what they called a ‘bogie’ and lost it near Rendlesham Forest.

‘Whatever was there was clearly under intelligent control.’

Colonel Charles Halt made a dictaphone recording at the time, saying: ‘While in Rendlesham Forest, our security team observed a light that looked like a large eye, red in colour, moving through the trees.

‘After a few minutes this object began dripping something that looked like molten metal.’
The soldiers made drawings and descriptions of craft which resemble classic ‘flying saucers’.

Sceptics claim that the marks of the UFO’s landing are, in fact, rabbit holes – and that the lights came from a nearby lighthouse, or from aircraft.


Former Ministry of Defence UFO expert Nick Pope claims that an MOD investigation of the site showed radiation ‘significantly higher than the average background’ – as if a UFO had landed with ‘tripod’ landing gear.

Nigel Watson, author of the UFO Investigations Manual, said, ‘Even today ufologists squabble over what really happened at Rendlesham Forest in late December 1980. Did an alien spaceship land here?

‘Were the US airmen who saw the UFO fooled by the light from a nearby lighthouse? Was it a smokescreen to hide a nuclear incident or some other type of covert operation? Or was it a hoax?

Watson says that American authorities seem to have taken the incident seriously – giving
servicemen medical payouts related to the incident.

‘Health problems and lots of other weird incidents have certainly been associated with Rendlesham. US airman John Burroughs, who said he saw the UFO on the night of Boxing Day 1980, received a medical payout from the US Veteran’s Association that confirmed he had received some physical harm from this craft.

‘Ever since the incident he has had heart problems and was fitted with a pacemaker. John and fellow witness Jim Penniston both claim to have suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after seeing the three-metre craft, covered in hieroglyphics land in the woods.’

Rendlesham UFO: Βασικός μάρτυρας «σπάει» για πρώτη φορά τη σιωπή του και αποκαλύπτει τι συνέβει

Film director Daniel Simpson, director of The Rendlesham UFO Incident, said he investigated evidence including audio recordings.

He said, ‘It is my belief that the USAF did actually see something that is from another world or dimension.

‘Former witness Lt Col Charles Halt has gone on record to state this also.’

Simpson told Starburst Magazine, ‘It’s one of, if not the, biggest UFO incident ever recorded along with the Roswell case and it took place over 3 consecutive nights.

‘I think that the fascination in the case is amplified as a result of the witnesses being multiple USAF personnel, with the addition that one of those people was a Lieutenant Colonel who made an audio recording on a dictaphone as the events unfolded.’