The Outspan Magazine - January 1, 1954



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Outspan Magazine January 1, 1954


This is the record of the sightings and reports of flying saucers over South Africa during the past three years which culminated recently in a radar contact with six saucers over Cape Town.  They were shown to be travelling at the fantastic speed of over 1,200 miles an hour.  This is an accumulation of evidence by expert and reliable witnesses; men and women who are not likely to be panicked into “seeing things.”  It is not a full record of all the inexplicable things which have been seen and reported, but of the most mystifying of them reported by the most reliable witnesses, many of whose reports have been added to the U.D.F.’s own “Flying Saucer File” at Defence Headquarters and which have been exchanged for information from the British military authorities.

ON the morning of May 23rd, 1952, a class of N.C.O.s from various branches of the U.D.F. (Union Defence Force) were taking part in a radar instruction course at the radar school, Youngsfield, Cape Town.

High over Cape Town and its southern suburbs, two noisy Harvard trainers, from near-by Ysterplaat Air Station, droned monotonously to and fro across the Peninsula.  They were flying at set altitudes on set courses and speeds. In the radar school, pupil operators took turns at the set, watching the pointer as it swept around the plan position indicator screen.  Every time the pointer, representing the invisible beam of high-frequency radar impulses being sent into the sky, tracked over Table Mountain, it left a bright “clutter” of fluorescence on the screen.

Looking higher, I saw the light moving from north to south, west of the field and fairly high.  I agreed to investigate it.

When the beam swept over one of the aircraft it left a sharp pinpoint of light, a “blip” which slowly faded away, to be renewed on the pointer’s next round.  They were engrossed in the progress of their tracking exercise, noting the path, speed and height of the aircraft.

At 11.45 a.m., Sergeant J. Verburg, who was operating the set, noticed a new point of light.  He started plotting its position and range.

Above the building the radar antenna swept steadily round; 16 revolutions a minute; one revolution every four seconds.  The set was tuned for a range of 40,000 yards.  By the time the antenna made its next circuit, four seconds later, the new blip appeared one quarter of the way across the screen.

Sergeant Verburg tapped his half-section, Sergeant A. Snoek, on the shoulder and pointed to the screen.

“Say, watch this echo,” he said.  “What do you think it is?”

They watched the pointer sweep round again and this time it left the blip fully halfway across the screen.  They had both spent some time on radar and neither had seen anything act like this before.  Sergeant Verburg had noticed, too, that each time the echo appeared it was distinctly stronger — a sure indication that whatever was causing it was moving rapidly towards them.  It appeared once more and then it was beyond their range.

It had traversed the entire screen in four revolutions of the antenna — in 16 seconds.  Whatever had caused it was travelling at a phenomenal speed.

It was odd enough to cause an immediate stir and Sergeant Verburg at once reported to his instructor, Warrant Officer B. Groenewald, a radar expert.

Warrant Officer Groenewald muttered under his breath.  He suspected a fault in the set and walked over to check it.  But there was no sign of anything wrong.

He looked at the P.P.I. screen.  There was nothing there but the blips of the exercise aircraft, each of them just where it should be, travelling at just the speed it should be travelling.  He was still looking at the aircraft blips when Sergeant Verburg said:  “Look — there it is again!”

All three watched as another echo appeared on the screen and shot across it.  Only this time they watched the other aircraft too.  The difference between the speed of this mysterious object and of the aircraft was phenomenal.  “It was like comparing an express train with a donkey cart,” said Warrant Officer Groenewald.

Again the mystery echo lasted only 16 seconds.  They set about charting its exact position, course and speed.  While they were busy, another echo appeared.

Between 11.45 a.m., when the first one was seen, and 12.45 p.m., six mysterious objects had been picked up by the radar.  They all showed exactly the same characteristics: they came into range on a compass bearing of 23 degrees and disappeared at a bearing of 341 degrees, travelling along a straight path.  They came in range at 15,000 yards and disappeared beyond Table Mountain at 11,000 yards.

Each time the first blip on the screen was exactly the size of a normal target echo but, with each revolution of the antenna, it grew in size and, when it finally disappeared, was about three times the normal size.

Comparing the speed with that of the Harvard aircraft, Warrant Officer Groenewald would only say that it was “abnormal.”  The importance of the comparison became more evident later, however, because, since the aircraft echoes were acting completely normally, it ruled out the possibility that the mysterious echoes were due to some electronic fault in the apparatus.

Warrant Officer Groenewald posted men outside.  When the echoes appeared, they were given range and bearing but, though they searched the skies, they could see nothing.

The occurrence was immediately reported to the head of the radar school, Major Van Niekerk.  It was abnormal enough for him to get the men concerned to sit down immediately and make written reports, each of them signed.  Those affidavits were passed to Consul Command and are now in the growing “flying saucer” file of the U.D.F.

With them is a report by Major Van Niekerk himself.  He examined the set and was sure there was nothing wrong with it.  From the readings recorded by the operators, he calculated the astounding fact that th« “objects” were moving at a speed of 1,278 miles an hour.  Their height he put at between 5,000 and 15,000 feet.

“I don't know about the name ‘flying saucer’,” he told me.  “I won't admit them until I see one.  But, as far as I’m concerned, there was something up then solid enough to give an echo and it was travelling at nearly 1,300 miles an hour.  I haven't yet had a satisfactory explanation.” The set used was an anti-aircraft radar apparatus the No. 4 Mk. 6, an up-to-date machine, specifically designed for detecting aircraft.  It sends out three beams: one high, one low and one in between.  The objects were picked up on two of these beams.  Major Van Niekerk explained that the object must have been the area covered by the overlap of the low and medium beams and, therefore, at a height of from 5,000 to 15,000 feet.

This is one of the most detailed and authenticated reports on these mysterious objects which has yet found its place into the official files.  But it is only one of scores of reports that have been made in South Africa in the past three years.

Outspan January 1, 1954 UFO Radar PPI Beams  

The radar beam that picked up the six “objects” sends out three beams, one high, one low and one in between.  The objects were picked up on two beams in the area of overlap of the low and medium beams.  They were, therefore, as the sketch shows, at an altitude of between 5,000 and 15,000 feet.

One of the most recent of these reports came early last year from a doctor in Upington. It has been officially described by the miltary authorities — who are now purposefully collecting information and reports on the flying saucers — as one of the most reliable reports yet made to them.

Dr D. Beyers was driving from Cape Town to Upington in the early morning of May 26th this year.  It was before sunrise — about 4.50 a.m — and he was cruising along in his car at about 80 m.p.h. on the Cape Town side of Brandvlei, between Kenbardt and Calvinia.  It was dark: the moon had set.

He noticed that the sky was becoming suffused with a weird, greenish-yellow light.  It shone brilliantly up in the clouds ahead of him, with a bright aureole of light diffusing through the clouds.  Then, suddenly, it appeared between two clouds — “a bright, intense light, ten times brighter than any star 1 have ever seen,” Dr Beyers described it.

He stopped his car to see it better. It moved slowly up and down and then it moved sideways.  Three well-defined streaks of light radiated from the central bright luminosity of this object.  It was high up and it occasionally disappeared behind clouds.  But, even hidden like that, its brightness was still visible.

It stayed in sight for an hour and ten minutes.  Dr Beyers, after stopping for the first time, got back to his car and drove on, keeping it in sight through his wind-screen all the time.  He stopped again and immediately the light shot up into the air, then hovered.

“It seemed to be following me — at least that was my impression,” the doctor said.  “I stopped several times, and each time it rose vertically, then, when I started off, it came lover and moved ahead of the car.”

Near Brandvlei he noticed a small road camp.  He stopped his car and went over to one of the huts, where he awoke a road worker and pointed out the phenomenon.  Neither of them had ever seen anything like it before.  At 6 a.m. it was still visible.

It started to rain just about then and Dr Beyers, tired after an all-night drive, pulled his car to the side of the road and slept.  When he awoke, it was daylight and there was no sign of the mysterious light.

He reported his experience to Commandant Gilroy King, Officer Commanding North-west Cape Command, and today that report, too, has its place in the file.  It is also included in a file in Whitehall because the U.D.F. is exchanging information on the mysterious saucers with the British authorities.

Another report to which great credence is attached was made to the authorities in 1952 by an experienced S.A.A F. pilot with long war-time service, Captain L. P. T. Hager, D.F.C., now at the S.A.A.F. College, Odonato, Pretoria.

He was on leave at Port Alfred when he sighted a strange, luminous, spherical object for which he could not account.  He was sufficiently impressed to make an official report on the sighting, the details of which are still being kept secret by the U.D.F.

These three instances, all occurring at widely separated points in the Cape Province, are among the latest flying saucer reports to be officially recognised by the Department of Defence, but the saucers have been seen and reported by reliable observers all over Southern Africa, more and more frequently over the past three years.

These are some of the people who have seen the mysterious objects: An airline pilot, co-pilot and seven passengers; a Member of the Provincial Council of the Cape; two meteorological officers; an aircraft draughtsman, who is also an expert at aircraft identification; the doctor, the radar men and the S.A.A.F. pilot.

One of the first, and best authenticated, appearances in Southern Africa was vouched for by no less than nine people: the pilot, co-pilot and seven passengers of an East African Airways Lodestar, flying to Mombasa from Nairobi.

At 7 a.m. on February 19th, 1951, the co-pilot saw a strange, gleaming object hovering motionless above Kilimanjaro. He pointed it out to the passengers, who crowded to the starboard windows of the aircraft to see it.

Captain H. B. B. Fussell, of Newport, Monmouth, one of the passengers, focussed his binoculars on it.

"It was sausage-like and reminded me of an airship,” he said.  “There were vertical markings down the sides.”

The aircraft was flying at 9,000 feet.  They checked the height of the object — it was at 25,000 feet. Captain Fussell’s description went on: “It was stationary for about 15 minutes.  Suddenly it rose vertically to about 30,000 feet.  It was stationary again for about a minute then it rose swiftly to 40,000 feet, and shot away laterally at terrific speed.”

All the passengers and crew signed an affidavit attesting to what they had seen and describing it minutely.

Was it co-incidence that the previous day, in Mombasa, hundreds of people watched a strange, luminous object hurtle low over the sky, again at terrific speed, making a “whooshing” sound like a rocket?

Captain J. G. F. Moult, M.P.C., and his mother were sitting in the garden of their Kimberley home just before 5 p.m. on the afternoon of Sunday, December 13th, 1950, when, about 30 degrees above the eastern horizon, they both saw “something very bright — like a huge mirror in the sky.”

It hovered, rose and fell.  Then it moved left and right in lateral movement for about three minutes.

Behind a large cloud its light could still be seen — “like a piece of magnesium wire burning with a bright, purplish-white light,” said Captain Moult.

Then suddenly it dived through the clouds, did a sharp turn and shot out of sight.

That same night — before Captain Moult’s experiences had been read by anybody else — Mr and Mrs W. J. Pretorius, of Larkspur Road, Primrose, Germiston, saw an object travelling at high speed from cast to west, accompanied by a greenish, phosphorescent light.

A little later Mr C. Simonds, of South Road, Cullinan, saw it near Premier Mine.  He pointed it out to a friend, Mr J. C. van Ryn.  It was, they said, “a weird blue colour, giving out sparks at the back.”  It was travelling at great speed from east to west.

On August 16th, 1952, independent reports from Worcester, Rawsonville, the Strand and Paarl left little doubt that some mysterious, wingless object, as round as a tennis ball and leaving a trail of vapour, flew over the Western Province at great speed. It passed over Worcester at 11.45 a.m. and went over Rawsonville, where it was seen going over the Groot Drakenstein Mountains to the sea.

At the Strand four people saw it and said it took two minutes to travel from horizon to horizon at a height that they judged to be between 20,000 and 40,000 feet.

At Paarl it moved slowly over the town, then gathered speed and shot away.

September 2nd, 1952, and a mysterious object, “glowing fiercely with an orange light” was seen circling over Bulawayo by Mr I. Anderson.  Again there was the “burning magnesium” description.  It was soundless.  Mr Anderson, who has experience of modern aircraft, was sure it was not a plane.

It tilted so that he could see it was round on top and without protuberances.  It circled completely over the town, rising steadily. That was the fourth saucer to be seen over Rhodesia — others have appeared on May 24th, 1951, over Salisbury, and on July 9th, 1947, near Ntabayezinduna.

Five days later six white, spherical objects were seen over Durban by trained meteorological observers.  One of the most consistent “explanations” which has been given of the saucers are that they were meteorological balloons, mistaken by over-enthusiastic observers for saucers.

But Mr J. A. Meyer, the Durban meteorological officer who reported these six, has had long experience of watching met. balloons and, what is more, he was busy tracking one of these ballons (sic) with a theodolite when the strange object floated across his field of vision.

He was watching a pilot balloon sent up to measure the speed and direction of the wind in the upper air.  The balloon was at a height of 10,000 feet and it was moving north-north-west.  The white object sailed into view travelling west-south-west — at right angles to the course of the balloon.

A little startled, Mr Meyer nevertheless kept his eye on his balloon which sailed on at a speed of 10 knots.  About a minute later three more of these mysterious spheres sailed silently by.  They were all higher than the balloon and behaved exactly as the first one had done.

When the fourth object passed through the theodolite’s field of vision Mr Meyer shouted to his colleague, Mr A. Smith, also an experienced meteorologist, to come and look. They were both watching this last sphere when two more came into view, clearly seen by both men.

They timed the occurrence exactly: the whole thing, the passing of the six “objects,” took place within four minutes; between 1.24 and 1.28 p.m.

For two full minutes Mr Meyer watched one sphere through his theodolite.  “The fact that I was able to keep it in view for so long meant that it must have been at a great height,” he said.  Both men were fairly expert at gauging heights.  They had the advantage of having an immediate comparison at hand — their met. balloon, which they knew was at 10,000 feet.  They estimated the objects to be at 20,000 feet.  At that height they appeared to be about the same size as the balloon.

In Salt River in March, 1953, Mr F. Crawford, a former aircraft draughtsman and an expert at identifying aircraft, with a friend, Mr R. Waring, watched a saucer for almost a minute, flying at high speed over Cape Town.

“The moment I saw it, I looked at the second hand of my watch. It was visible to both Mr Crawford and me for exactly 53 seconds,” said Mr Waring.

“It looked exactly like a saucer.  It wobbled slightly as it flew and I got the impression that it was rotating at a tremendous speed.  Mr Crawford said it was like no aircraft he had ever seen.

That was at 2.20 in the afternoon.

Two days later, early on a Sunday morning, Mr D. Jones, of The Moorings, First Beach, Clifton, glanced out of the window and saw what he first thought to be a comet travelling at a fantastic speed across the sky.  It shone a dull silver colour and seemed to be a great distance away.  Mr Jones called his wife to corroborate what he saw and she was able to see it immediately.

Then, as they both watched, a second saucer joined the first.  The two circled briefly, far out over the horizon, then suddenly altered course and shot out of sight.

Friday, May 15th, 1953 - round metal ball with a torpedo shaped dome in front, shooting stream of sparks from behind” - that was how people who saw strange phenomenon near Mossel Bay described it.  Mr Norman van Rensburg, of Avontuur, saw it.  Nearly every school child (in) Avontuur and all their teachers saw it.  It remained visible for some time, travelling westward toward Waboomskraal.  It was also seen by a divisional council road foreman at Ruiterbosch in the same area at the same time.

That is some of the evidence of the activities of the “flying saucers” in South Africa in the past three years.  What is the explanation?  Not one of the many explanations advanced up to now can satisfactorily explain all the features of the various sightings.

And these are only some of the sightings.  How many people have seen these phenomena and said nothing about them, either because they were frightened of being laughed at or because they had not kept a note of details?

I mentioned the experience the Cape Town radar crew to one man.  He confessed that one evening in May, 1953, he had seen a fiery green ball in the sky just outside Upington.  It hovered and then shot out of sight.  He turned to his companion and was about to mention it when he changed his mind.

“She would have thought I was crazy,” he said.  “And I never mentioned it to anyone else either.”

Fair enough — but it was May, 1953, that Dr Beyers saw his flying saucer near Upington.  The other man’s report might have provided valuable corroborative evidence.

Support for an investigation into these phenomena has come from Her Majesty’s Astronomer at the Cape, Dr R. H. Stoy.  I showed Stoy some of these reports.

“It is long past the stage these reports can be pooh-poohed and brushed aside as hallucinations,” he said.  “There is something far more solid than hallucinations to be explained.  We mustn’t come to the conclusion that it is something from outside the earth.  It might be quite explainable in light of our present knowledge but it does need to be explained.”

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