The author is a leading Australian UFO researcher and a contributing
editor to the International UFO Reporter. An industrial chemist with
an honours science degree from the University of New England he has
worked in quality assurance and laboratory management. His book, The
OZ Files - the Australian UFO Story, was published in 1996. He
coordinates the NSW based UFO Investigation Centre (UFOIC) and can be
P.O. Box W42,
West Pennant Hills,
Telephone: (02) 9484 4680
* Sub Rosa: refers to "under the rose", meaning "in secret".
ACCESS TO THE OFFICIAL AUSTRALIAN UFO FILES
Prior to 1982 civilian UFO researchers only had a confused and
vague picture of clandestine official involvement in Australia. In the
face of the lethargy in the RAAFs replies to serious enquiries, I
stepped up my efforts at diplomatically trying to get direct access to
the RAAF UFO files. It probably surprised me more than anybody else
when the RAAF finally agreed to permit me to examine their files.
The extent of access was unprecedented in the history of the
Australian UFO controversy. From the first of my visits to the Russell
Offices of the Department of Defence, in Canberra, on January 11th,
1982 to my last in June, 1984, I was able to scrutinise the extent of
official UFO investigations in Australia. For the first time a detailed
"inside" picture was revealed of RAAF investigations.
I was able to undertake the first officially sanctioned direct
review of the Australian government's UFO files. Over two and a half
years I was able to:
(1) examine the majority of the extant UFO files held by the Royal
Australian Air Force (RAAF) at the Directorate of Air Force
Intelligence (DAFI), Department of Defence, Russell Offices,
(2) examine the entirety of the extant UFO files held by the
Department of Aviation at their Bureau of Air Safety
Investigation in Melbourne, Victoria.
The review has provided a detailed understanding of official
involvement in Australia.
On Monday morning, January 11th, 1982, I arrived at the Russell
Offices of the Department of Defence, in Canberra, to undertake a
review of the RAAF/Department of Defence UFO files. This was the first
time that a civilian researcher had been afforded this sort of access.
For almost thirty years, the RAAF had been the official body invested
with the responsibility of investigating reports of UFOs or unusual
aerial sighting (UAS) reports in Australia and its territories. Until
then no clear and unambigious picture had emerged about the role the
RAAF played in the UFO controversy in Australia. Two polarised
positions had emerged. The RAAF was covering up its high level
involvement in an international "cover-up" of UFO facts, perhaps in
concert with the US Air Force. Or, the RAAF was bureaucratically
locked into a responsibility it had long since decided was a waste of
time, but contined as a service to the general public.
The only public record of case investigations by the RAAF had been
the "summaries of Unusual Aerial Sightings". These consisted of date,
time, location, very brief details of the event and "possible cause".
Nine of these were produced, covering the years between 1960 and 1977.
The 1977 Summary was the last publically available summary. In 1980
the Department of Defence indicated "the practice of compiling annual
summaries of UAS reports was discontinued in 1978. This was in line
with the Department of Defence policy of the RAAF now investigating
reports purely as a 'service to the general public'..."
After signing in at the police desk, I was escorted to Building C
of the Russell Offices Defence complex. I was shown to a desk.
During that day and for the next 3, I conducted an exhaustive
examination of the RAAF UFO files. I determined that I was looking at
about a third of the holdings of RAAF files on UFOs. Subsequent
investigation research and pursing the paper trail enabled me to
examine a continuity of files that covered the period from 1950 to
From the RAAF's point of view, they have been , as Australia's
"official governmental examiner" of UFO reports, locked into a
bureaucratically orchestrated responsibility, which for a long time
they have seen as a waste of their time. They may have allayed possible
fear and alarm by the general public and satisfied the government that
there is no apparent defence implication. However the RAAF appear to
be as confused and uncertain as many civilian groups, on what to do
about provocative UFO sightings. The RAAF largely solved that dilemma
by ignoring the implications of their "unknown" cases and providing,
what many saw as unlikely explanations for intractable reports.
"UNKNOWNS" & "IMPOSSIBILITIES"
The term "unknown", in RAAF parlance, was a moveable feast. In
1973 I was advised it meant a classification that could arise from
three different categories, namely:
a. Insufficient information provided to adequately evaluate the
b. Late submission of reports thus precluding adequate
c. Thorough investigation of a detailed report resulting in no
factual determination of the cause.
Approximately 1% of all sighting reports submitted to the R.A.A.F.
are nonattributable as per sub para c. above, and in future, cause
details in the summaries will be more explicit."
By 1980 I was being advised:
The term "unknown" is used to denote the small percentage of
UAS reports that remain unresolved because of insufficient
information being supplied, late receipt of report denying timely
investigation, remoteness of sighting location, and insufficient
current scientific knowledge being available to provide an
It was not only the "unknowns" that drew scrutiny and debate.
Many reports had attracted unlikely explanations from the RAAF. For
example "tornado - like meterological phenomena" was suggested for
some of the most striking cases, such as close encounters at Willow
Grove (1963), Vaucluse Beach (1965) and Tully (1966). "Plasma" was a
popular explanation around 1967 since it was an explanation being
unrealistically pushed in America at the time. It was provided as an
explanation in a striking close encounter near Burrenjuck Dam in 1967.
It seemed evident on even the most cursory analysis that such weak
explanations showed little scientific enquiry, but a lot of political
and military myopia.
THE SOURCE OF THE RAAF "IMPOSSIBILITIES"
The quality of RAAF investigations into both prosaic and
significant "unknown" reports has drawn criticism from many sources,
perhaps none more pointed though than that of Dr. Claude Poher, as
expressed in 1976 correspondence with the RAAF. Poher led France's
first major official UFO research group GEPAN, part of the French
equivalent to NASA. After the Australian Department of Defence sent him
some of their Annual Summaries of UFO information, Dr. Poher wrote,
"May I suggest, for transmission to personnel responsible for this
work, that some of the 'possible causes' mentioned in these summaries
are not acceptable..." Dr. Poher gave an example of an innocuous
observation at Wickham, NSW, on April 4, 1975, of a "silver object
about the size of a cricket ball" , which the 'summary' lists as Venus
for the "possible cause". Poher concluded:
"...for the 4th April, 75, the planet was under the horizon so the
cause Venus is ridiculous.
"There are many other impossibilities like this in the papers you
sent me. I think one should avoid publication of these documents
without a careful check by specialists of the different
scientific disciplines involved, so as not to have, one day a
journalist or a scientist holding the Services of the Australian
Department of Defence up to ridicule."
The source of such "impossibilities" is the subject of some
speculation. While unconfirmed, I was told the "inside story" by
someone working in Defence. His account is controversial and at this
stage difficult to substantiate, for obvious reasons. For the record
here is his version based on my notes of a interview with him:
"While America had an official attitude -- the Condon Report etc.
our Air Force simply has no expectations of getting any other verdict.
Their attitude is to try to quieten everything down. Be bland as
possible and hope that everything goes away. At times they were
actually rather rude to witnesses, tending to ridicule where possible.
Generally speaking the men that are handling it wish they weren't. But
in the Air Force it is essential to look as though you're good at your
job, to get promotion. The attitude is to look as though they are
solving all the cases, while looking for an excuse to write it all off.
"The reason why in the 1960s a number of reports got out on
sightings and explanations [the "Annual Summaries of Unusual Aerial
Sightings (UAS)", which weren't quite "annual", the first being from
1960 to 1965, then eventually one covered 1960 to 1968, which became
Summary No.1, Summary No. 2 covered 1969, No.3 covered 1970 and 1971,
then Nos. 4 through to No. 9 appeared on an erratic annual basic
covering individual years from 1972 to 1977 inclusively - B.C.] was
that DAFI were handling it and not telling anybody and Public
Relations (DPR) were the ones getting all the queries. DPR wrote to
DAFI saying this is getting a bit sick. I don't know what to say. Give
me an answer. DAFI said look we don't know. We haven't got any answers.
We just can't tell. DPR said well hand me the files and I'll get the
answers. He got the files and then gave answers according to what the
DPR man thought, i.e. ill-thought explanations without any recourse to
the honesty of it. I had a look at the Venus group and it just so
happened that none of the, say, 15 sightings attributed to Venus, there
was not one occasion when Venus was above the horizon at the time. At
one time a man in Tasmania saw a bright light in the sky and it was so
bright he put on his sun glasses. That was written down as Venus!
"The Air Force published the lists ad nauseam for about ten years
[i.e, from 1966 to 1978 covering 1960 through to 1977 inclusively -
B.C.] and it was all this PR man who concocted everything and DAFI
really had nothing to do with it.... So generally speaking I found the
Air Force bordering on a sham really. They were not honest. Their
purpose is to allay the fears of the public and to try to get everybody
off their back. They don't want politicians on their backs. They don't
want the public on their backs. They want to be left alone to do their
Just how accurate is this "insider's" version of the evolution of
the "Annual UAS Summaries". Part of his account is in accord with
the facts as I could determine them with access to the files in 1982
to 1984. However the severity of his claim about the "honesty" of the
exercise may possibly be reconciled by the point that if the PR man
created the summaries, and we know certainly that DPR created the first
one, then he may have done so, with recourse only to limited
information from DAFI (i.e. DAFI gave DPR very brief summaries anyway.
There is some evidence for this as I saw small sheet summaries of
individual sightings that were ostensibly used in the creation of the
first summary) or he made only a very cursory reading of the actual
files without any attempt at depth of analysis or critical evaluations
of the suggested "possible causes". The RAAF Intelligence officers
undertaking the original investigations often gave an "explanation" in
Part 2 of the "Report on Unusual Aerial Sighting" pro-forma where it
asked "41. The object reported probably was*/may have been *(delete as
required)....... " Often this section was not filled out in reports but
would have formed the basis of the DPR summary when the "possible
causes" were available.
STRANGE LIGHTS AND VANISHINGS IN 1920
The official files do not confirm military activity before 1950,
however research has confirmed involvement by the military, albeit in
some cases, cursory in nature, back as far as 1920. The Navy submarine
depot ship, the Platypus, was involved in the search for a missing
schooner, the Amelia J., in Bass Strait. Mystery lights, thought at the
time to be "evidently rockets", were observed. Two aircraft left the
flying training school and aircraft depot at Point Cook to join in the
investigation. One was piloted by a Major Anderson and the other by
Captain W.J. Stutt - an instructor for the NSW Government Aviation
school at Richmond (a forerunner to the Richmond RAAF base, established
soon after the birth of the RAAF in 1921). Stutt and his mechanic,
Sergeant Dalzell, were last seen by Major Anderson flying into a large
cloud. Their plane and the schooner were never found. Fifty eight
years later the Bass Strait became the centre of another extraordinary
plane/pilot disappearance, namely the Valentich affair of 1978.
AUSTRALIA'S FIRST OFFICIAL UFO INVESTIGATION?
In 1930, an Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) officer, Squadron
Leader George Jones, was sent to Warrnambool, Victoria, to investigate
reports of mystery aircraft flying over the coast. No explanation was
found in this first official RAAF UFO investigation. Further "mystery
aircraft" reports were made in the near Pacific and Papua New Guinea
area in 1930, and in 1931 the RAAF was denying any of her planes were
the explanation for "mystery planes "reported widely in Tasmania."
Jones was to become RAAF Chief of the Air Staff during World War Two,
and subsequently Air Marshall Sir George Jones. He was himself to
become a UFO witness in 1957. He also became a valuable advocate of
serious UFO research, being a patron of the short lived national
civilian UFO research organisation CAPIO - Commonwealth Aerial
Phenomena Investigation Organisation, and a member of VUFORS - the
Victorian UFO Research Society.
On October 10th, 1935, an off duty military man took what was
possibly Australia's first UFO photograph at Nobby's Head near
Newcastle, NSW. Although the photos are now apparently unavailable,
investigators who saw the photo during 1968-69 reported it showed "a
definite circular object with details seen well at enlargement."
We have already seen that Bass Strait was no stranger to
extraordinary UFO mysteries. The crew of a Beaufort bomber flying at
4,500 feet over Bass Strait, during February, 1944, bore witness to
what may have been Australia's earliest "electromagnetic" (EM) case.
At about 2.30 am the plane gained a most unusual companion. A
"dark shadow" appeared along side the plane and kept pace with it, at a
distance of only some 100 to 150 feet. The Beaufort was travelling at
about 235 miles per hour. The object appeared to have a flickering
light and flame belching from its rear end. Only about 15 feet of the
rear end of the UFO was visible to the bomber crew, apparently due to
"reflection of light from the exhaust." The strange object stayed with
the bomber for some 18 to 20 minutes, during which time all radio and
direction finding instruments refused to function. It finally
accelerated away from the plane at approximately three times the speed
of the bomber. Upon landing, the pilot reported the incident to his
base superiors, but he claimed he was only laughed at. Such a reaction
seems extraordinary in retrospect since it turns out that Beauforts
figured heavily in official RAAF list of planes that "went missing
without trace" during World War Two in the Bass Strait area - an area
that was not linked to any significant enemy activity. I have been told
that the Beauforts had a mechanical problem that may have accounted for
some of these losses.
We have already seen evidence of earlier cursory interest by the
military. However, the earliest still extant sighting report in the
Directorate of Air Force Intelligence (DAFI) files was a nocturnal
light account at Bass Point, NSW, on July 16, 1950. The growing number
of reports that involved official agencies and highly regarded sources
served to heighten official interest, initially from two quarters,
namely the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and the Department of
Civil Aviation (DCA).
The following report is striking not only because of the contents
and the calibre of the witness. Just one day earlier, the Minister for
Air, William McMahon (a future Australian Prime Minister) had stated in
parliament that the "flying saucer" reports were "probably based on
flights of imagination".
The chief test pilot for the Government Aircraft Factories was not
given to "flights of imagination" and yet at approximately 1200 hours
on August 14th, 1952, while flying in a Vampire aircraft, between
35,000 and 36,000 feet, near Rockhampton, Queensland, he observed
something he could not explain. Looking east, towards the coast, the
pilot saw a large circular light at a lower elevation which could not
be estimated due to bad ground haze.
The light was the colour of an ordinary incandescent light globe.
After approximately one minute a number of small lights (6 to 10)
appeared to come from the main light. The smaller lights appeared to
surround the bright light for about 2 minutes before disappearing.
After a further 2 minutes the big light also disappeared. That report
did not become public knowledge. It may have been embarassing for the
Minister if it had. The report remained classified until I found it in
DCA UFO files I was permitted to examine at the offices of the Bureau
of Air Safety Investigations during November, 1982.
While civilian interest was growing, extensive official interest
focused on a daylight movie footage of an extraordinary unidentified
"missile" over Port Moresby, taken by Tom Drury, the Deputy Director of
the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) in Papua New Guinea, then an
On August 23rd, 1953, Tom Drury was taking pictures at about
midday. The sky was clear, when a small cloud began to form. After a
few minutes a silver object came out of the cloud. Drury had started
filming. The object climbed very fast, with a vapour trail behind it
clear marking its trajectory. It was gone in a few seconds. A
handwritten note in DAFI files specifically states that the object was
not a secret missile-firing from Woomera.
The Drury UFO film became a controversial and famous mainstay of
the Australian contribution to the UFO "cover-up" argument. It became
all the more controversial when it was claimed that the UFO section of
the film was missing and the RAAF were denying any knowledge of its
Late in 1982 when I was given permission to examine the Department
of Aviation UFO files, I specifically requested to see any holdings on
the Drury affair. DoA file 128/1/208 part 2 was created in 1982 to
enable me to examine Drury documents extracted from a seperate DCA
file, 99/1/478 classified SECRET, which apparently held folios about
possible enemy activity in the Papua New Guinea territories. These
extracts contained some copies of folios from the original DAFI file,
114/1/197 Part 1, opened on 30/10/53 and entitled "Photographs of
Unexplained Aerial Object over New Guinea forwarded by T.C. Drury". It
was also originally classified SECRET and was "lost" over the years.
It seems clear that the Australian military were looking at the
Drury film in the light of possible prosaic threats to security, i.e.
the communist "red" peril. Within a year the high tide of McCarthyism
swept over the Australian landscape in the form of the Petrov affair.
Soon the hunt was on for "reds" under the bed (communists) and in the
skies (the "Martians" of the 1954 UFO wave to come). It should not be
underestimated the level of possible manipulation of the UFO
controversy by intelligence organisations who feared the hand of more
prosaic forces than those sort by the wild eyed "saucer" enthusiasts of
the day. Evidence for this will be encountered later.
Tom Drury himself indicated to me he felt that the Australian
Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) (which is responsible for
internal security in Australia, including counter espionage) was
involved. I interviewed the two ASIO operatives who were in Papua New
Guinea at that time. Predictably neither were terribly informative,
with one of them stating only that if they had any involvement it was
only as a "courier" for the film's passage to Melbourne, the then
headquarters of the Directorate of Air Force Intelligence (DAFI),
RAAF, and for that matter the headquarters for DCA and ASIO. An ASIO
document dated January 15th, 1973, states that "copies of the film were
passed to the USAF and the RAF. Drury is said to have received back a
print of the film but without any UFO shots." Mr. Drury feels that
the processing and analyses required to study his film while it was in
the hands of the intelligence community may have destroyed it. It is
known that the film did go to the United States for study. There it
appeared to have come under CIA scrutiny via Art Lundahl's photographic
A 1955 RAAF UFO file indicates that DAFI had sold prints of the
1953 UFO pictures "at 4/9 a pop" to civilian researchers. Edgar
Jarrold and Fred Stone were among those who secured copies of these
Edgar Jarrold's own publication, the Australian Flying Saucer
Magazine, stated in its February, 1955, issue that:
"94 prints examined
reveal conclusively the existence of a shiny, disc-like object whose
behaviour could by no wildest stretching of the imagination be
attributed to a bird, balloon, orthodox aircraft, hallucination, piece
of windblown paper, natural phenomena, or a meteor. The cloud from
which the silvery object ... emerged is distinctly visible. On
emerging from it at a right angle with no other clouds apparent in a
clear sky, still pictures reveal vivid confirmation of Mr. Drury's
report that an object, looking at first like a tiny brilliant sun,
dashed rapidly from the cloud, heading north-west. The object flashed
brightly in the sun as it made an abrupt right-angle turn soon after
emerging from the dark cloud, zooming straight up with no reduction in
speed. Upon reaching a greater altitude, it levelled off again, with
another abrupt right-angled turn [Jarrold's emphasis - B.C.], resuming
its north-west flight thereafter until out of camera range
altogether.... On effecting such turns, a greater expanse of the
object's upper surface becomes visible, causing it to present a
featureless, disc-like appearance, which is in sharp contrast to first
glimpses showing an object somewhat blurred in focus, and shaped like a
theoretically fast moving, very bright star."
Jarrold wrote years later;
"...I was able to view blown up still
pictures made from this film before it left Australia due to the
American request and am still, I think, the only civilian ever to
have seen them. The pictures show what could only be accepted as
an extra-terrestrial object, the flight path and behaviour of
which, rule out any man made object or meteor. The film was made
about midday against a cloudless sky and unfortunately t he object
was filmed from a distance, thus providing little real knowledge
of the object's shape and composition, main importance being
attached to its most unusual actions and behaviour.".
It should be noted that Drury himself observed no discontinuity in
the UFO's flight path. Whether the claims of 90° turns were
legitimately recorded on the film, or were due to camera movement, or
were artifacts of processing, analyses or just plain extravagant
interpretations based on limited or poor data, we may never know. The
references to 90° turns all stem from Jarrold. No one else, who either
saw the film or prints, made such claims. The limited prints I have
make any analysis impossible. They are very poor in quality.
Documentation I examined in the DCA and DAFI files contradicts
Jarrold's claims to have been the only one to have seen the prints and
to have seen them before the original footage was sent to the United
A letter to Jarrold from Mr. E.W. Hicks, secretary, the Department
of Air, dated December 2nd, 1953, states that "the film has been sent
to the United States for technical processing, and it is therefore, not
possible to accede to your request [for contact prints - B.C.] until
its return, which, it is anticipated, will be early in the New Year..."
The Minister for Air, Mr. McMahon, was quoted in the press during
late January, 1954, that he "had the film flown to the U.S to be
enlarged." He further stated that the object "was so small that a
detailed study of the film was not possible until technicians had
enlarged it." (McMahon, 1954). The official files also records a
letter from DAFI to Mr. Wiggins of the DCA dated 12/7/54 which states,
"The 'Flying Saucer' film taken by Mr. T.C. Drury, at Port Moresby in
1953 and forwarded by you on 22 Sept. is returned here with. We have
subjected the film to detailed study and processing but have been
unable to establish anything other than the blur of light appears to
move across the film. In spite of this disappointment we would like to
thank you for your co-operation in this matter."
Thus the evidence suggests that Jarrold would have not got his
prints until July, 1954. probably during a meeting he had with Air
Force intelligence. Fred Stone also received copies of the same prints
late in 1954 during a meeting he had with Air Force intelligence.
In a letter Stone wrote to the Director of Air Force Intelligence
in 1973 he stated:
"The original film was much clearer to view when
shown on a screen and I can only presume that the use of them by the
bodies of the US Air Force, then their Navy Dept. plus our own Air
Force and Navy caused them to get into the state they were when the
blow up copies were made. I might add that I kept my promise to the
official at the time when I was interviewed in Melbourne regarding same
and they have never been shown publicly and only to executives of UFO
Groups and Societies and then on a very select basis..."
The original Drury film, which allegedly held the UFO image, became
something of a "holy grail" for Australian ufology. A number of
efforts were made over the years to secure the film and further
information about the affair. All largely met with failure.
A previously confidential RAAF document handwritten in 1966 and
entitled "Summary of the effort made to rediscover present whereabouts
of the allegedly 'excised' frames of Mr. T. Drury's Famous 1953 movie
film of the Port Moresby 'UFO sighting'", concluded: "The upshot is
that the 'excised' frames either still in DAFI archives, have been
destroyed or (perish the thought) have been lost."
Further civilian enquiries in 1973 prompted yet another file
search. This time, as we have already noted, DAFI determined that they
had made available prints of the film to civil researchers back in
1954. Through Fred Stone the RAAF managed to gain a copy of the same
prints the RAAF had provided him back in 1954. It is these third
generation copies of prints from several frames of the Drury film that
now reside in the RAAF files. I arranged for the RAAF to send copies
of the prints (albeit poor in quality) to Tom Drury. The affair does
not speak highly of the much vaunted "cover-up" claims.
The 1954 "saucer invasion" of Victoria wasted no time in getting
underway with an intriguing sighting of a flying "mushroom" by an
experienced ANA (Australian National Airways) pilot, Captain Douglas
Barker, on January 1st. He was outside his East Doncaster home at
about 10.15 am.
"I sighted it first over the Templestowe brickworks between 2 1/2
and 5 miles away on the approach path to Essendon. It was 4 to 5 times
larger than a large passenger aircraft. The object was transparent and
a smokey celluloid colour, with a bit of a tail and a mushroom shaped
head. It oscillated in and out of cloud, and in about 6 miles changed
its course to a north-easterly direction. It was travelling faster
than any jet plane that I have ever seen."
Beneath the queer craft hung what looked like a light amber
"Its main body was elliptical with a long shaft about the same
length as its body hanging below it. At the end of this thin, slightly
curved shaft, was a sort of control tower."
The Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) suggested it may have
been a Convair aircraft that was in the area. Barker rejected this
explanation, "I've never seen anything less like a Convair. First of
all, it was huge - about 4 times the size of a DC4. It was travelling
at about 700 mph, well below the minimum altitude for the safety of
normal aircraft. I see Convairs everday, but this resembled no
aircraft I know." Barker had support from colleagues, "Two or three
pilots mentioned similiar experiences -- not with mushrooms -- but flying
saucers and things. They said they had been too scared to mention what
they had seen for fear of ridicule. All my colleagues have taken the
The RAAF had received a report of another "flying mushroom", this
time at Mansfield, on January 15th. They did not reveal this
information which may have supported Barker's testimony. At 9.30pm,
two witnesses saw it descending in front of them at 300 yards. Green
lights appeared along with a whirring noise "like wind in wires." The
object was estimated to be 150 feet wide and 60 feet in height. A 12 foot
rim of bright metal was apparent. When it was stationary the green
lights went out and the noise grew louder. The duration of the
observation was about 20 minutes during which time its speed varied
from fast to hovering. As the object ascended, "yellow gaseous light"
emanated from the base of a "stem" like protruberance, giving it a
"mushroom" shape. The whirring stopped. As it moved forward, yellow
gaseous light came from the side of the "stem". A secret scientific
analysis of the Directorate of Air Force Intelligence (DAFI) reports
highlighted some interesting attributes of the Mansfield "flying
mushroom", including "Inspection of aircraft -- American reports suggest
that aircraft provide a centre of interest for UFOs", "Green light from
centre of rim apparently used for visual inspection", and the "sudden
roar" suggested "rapid jet efflux".
Numerous reports came in from diverse locations in Victoria,
prompting the DCA to make a public request for reports to be sent to
them. Within a week they had received 59 reports spanning nearly 30
years. DCA officials indicated that they were checking the reports and
may turn them over to the RAAF for more extensive investigation. A
spokesman said, "Some highly qualified engineers in our department are
convinced that there is something in the saucer mystery. We just can't
ignore reports submitted by reliable witnesses..."
The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) made a series of seemingly
open statements about UFOs during January, 1954. By years end they
had retreated from their open minded position and closed the door.
However in January a RAAF spokesman was quoted as saying, "People are
definitely seeing something and we hope to find out what it is. The
RAAF has an open mind on saucers. We haven't rejected them as
impossible or accepted them as fact yet. There is a high ranking
opinion in the Force that saucers do exist and you can't shake it.
The RAAF has been receiving saucer reports and investigating them since
the war." The statement said the RAAF had received hundreds of reports
since 1947 and their data indicated: 10% of the reports indicated the
person making it had definitely seen something, details of many of the
reports corresponded, 75% of the reports had come from the country
districts, the number of reports of sightings from aircraft in flight
had increased in recent months, and no sightings had been made from an
RAAF machine. The aerial observations had all come from civil
A "high ranking RAAF officer" stated:
"The RAAF is keeping an open mind on the objects, but I personally
am convinced they have an Interplanetary source. People on this
earth should be able to flying into outer space within about 40
years - why shouldn't people on other planets already have reached
East Malvern was the scene for an intriguing report on May 30th.
At about 12.25 a.m. "human shaped shadows" were sighted in a "flying
football" that passed in a "dive" over 6 awed witnesses. The
suggestion of "life" in the "flying football" caused a media
sensation. Among the witnesses was a policeman. He said, "Shadows of
some people I think could be seen for several seconds". David Reese
said, "When it reached the lowest point, shapes, like human figures,
could definitely be seen." "I could distinctly see inside it, dark
shapes like busts", he added.
The puzzling Malvern event was one of the first sightings
investigated by a scientist who authored a secret report to DAFI. His
role would become pivotal in the secret government investigations.
He had interviewed David Reese and "felt reassured as to the integrity
of this witness".
The Malvern sensation also prompted a further statement from the
RAAF. Gone was any suggestion of support for the "interplanetary"
theory of origin. Political and intelligence ethics were now clearly
muzzling the free wheeling opinions and depth of "facts" that featured
in the January statements.
On May 31st, Melbourne RAAF Public Relations Officer, Mr. John
"It would be stupid to ignore flying saucers. We believe there's
something flying around which cannot be regarded as a figment of
someone's imagination. We don't know what it is, we have no
concrete evidence of saucers as such, but we simply can't
discount certain reports from sane, seasoned, RAAF and Airline
During April, 1954, the Deputy Chief of Air Staff (DCAS) had
approved a "statement of RAAF policy" on the "investigation of flying
saucers". References apparently drawn from that statement appeared in
the media from June 3rd, 1954. The full draft policy was held in
classified RAAF UFO policy files. It states:
INVESTIGATION OF FLYING SAUCERS
STATEMENT OF R.A.A.F. POLICY
1. The R.A.A.F. accepts reports on flying
saucers and attempts an allocation of reliability,.
Those that fall in the reliable class are then
subjected to further investigation as and when the
opportunity occurs. As a result of this further
investigation, a smaller number of reports are
followed up and investigations are made with the
Meteorological Services, the Government Astronomer
and the Civil Aviation authorities in an attempt to
fit the original occurrences in with any normal
flying activity or meteorological phenomena.
2. As a result of investigations in the
past, there is no doubt that reliable observers have
reported sightings which today are inexplicable
within the resources available to the R.A.A.F.
[my emphasis - B.C.] Reports of this type
are continuously filed in an attempt to
develop sufficient depth of evidence for
an accurate analysis to be made. It may however,
be several years before the required depth of
evidence is available.
"Depth of evidence" was to some measure invoked by an incident
that occurred a few days later. "This particular sighting has an
extremely high probability of being a UFO without any provisos", wrote
the author of a classified report to DAFI. He was referring to an
extraordinary close encounter event at Dandenong, on June 5th, 1954.
Two young girls -- Janette Brown (16) and Jeanette Johnston (13) --
witnessed the spectacle.
Janette described what she saw:
"I was standing on Princes Highway, opposite the 21 mile post
waiting for Jeanette, about 6.20 pm. I heard a loud drumming
noise, something like a motor cycle, but there were no cars or
cycles around at the time. Then a large dark shape appeared
over the partly built H.T. Heinz factory, and whirred towards me
when I shone my torch. Just above the house where the caretaker
lives it burst into light. It hovered about 20 yards away on
top of the factory gate as if it deliberately wanted me to look
at it - or it wanted to look at me. It was cylinder shaped,
about 30 feet long and 15 feet high, with a canopy and window on
top and a window at each end."
Janette was joined by her friend Jeanette. She described the
incident in the following way:
"A silvery coloured cylinder rose above the house then swept
away in a wide circle to the International Harvester factory a
few hundred yards away. It stayed on top of the factory for
about one minute, then disappeared behind trees."
Janette's wristwatch stopped at 6.23 pm, leading to wild
speculation that the saucer's "cosmic power" had drained her torch
battery of power, and magnetised her handbag, belt clasps and iron
fencing over which had hovered. Neighbours complained that their radio
reception was affected. A government geologist, Peter Kenley, visited
the site and declared there was no compelling evidence for significant
magnetisation. The radio interference was caused by storms, he
declared, and he also concurred with the idea that a flock of pigeons
caused the sighting!
Both girls seemed genuinely frightened by the experience, with one
asking if she could move to another suburb, in case the "saucer" tried
to destroy her home and family.
Janette Brown's integrity and conviction "was impressive",
concluded an "eminent Australian nuclear physicist, who has
investigated "saucer" reports since 1948." The physicist wrote about
the Dandenong case in a major article for the Melbourne Argus.
Entitled "'Saucers' do exist and why!", it appeared on June 26th, 1954,
indicating that the physicists name "must be withheld because of his
link with high-level research". He concluded:
"... the light available and duration of observation were
sufficient to discern details of structure that could not possibly
be confused with any phenomena other than a machine that is capable
of hovering, rotating, and moving in virtual silence without any
obvious method of propulsion."
The physicist prepared his own report on the affair from which I
"In shape, the object appeared to have a circular or elliptical
base with a domed canopy on top, in which were square windows
symmetrically arranged. Underneath the base were three ellipsoidal
"wheels" which appeared to be either swinging or revolving....
"The witness had various impressions:
(a) The object was attracted towards her because she flashed a
torch at it when it first appeared.
(b) when it was near the fence, she felt that she was being
(c) Her torch felt as though it were charged.
(d) She had a "ghostly feeling" and was afraid. She crouched
close to the ground, and was prepared to use the torch as a weapon
should something emerge from the object.
The witness had seen in the Australasian Post a copy of a
photograph taken by Adamski but was unimpressed. She claims that
previously she did not concern herself with stories of 'flying
The "invasion" centred in Victoria in 1954 was the most
significant of the early sighting waves. The Victorian UFO Research
Society was not founded until 1957, however in 1978 it produced an
excellent study of the flap. The persistent Victorian visitations of
1954 drew this flippant comment in a contemporary newspaper: "...It
was becoming increasingly clear that the Martians are people of
infinite variety", and that they probably regarded their "spaceships",
"with the same jealous individuality as terrestrial women have with
their hats." The extensive wave lead to entrenched official interest.
A classified DAFI file minute dated 2 Nov 1955, somewhat tellingly
revealed: "A ministerial statement in the House [Australian parliament
- B.C.] on 19 Nov 53 (indicates) that the RAAF make detailed
investigations of every report received, (which in truth we are not yet
The Drury affair and the 1954 "UFO invasion" of Victoria lead to
the Directorate of Air Force Intelligence (DAFI) asking Melbourne
University professor, O.H. Turner, to undertake a classified
"scientific appreciation" of the official reports held on file. In
his detailed report Turner recommended greater official interest and
specific interest in radar visual reports. His most profound
"The evidence presented by the reports held by RAAF tend to support
the ... conclusion ... that certain strange aircraft have been
observed to behave in a manner suggestive of extra-terrestrial
In studying the RAAF/DAFI UFO files Turner also utilised retired
Marine Corps Major Donald Keyhoe's USAF reports, described in his best
selling book, Flying Saucers from Outer Space, and suggested the
RAAF seek official USAF confirmation of the legitimacy of Keyhoe's
data. Turner said of Keyhoe's "USAF data", that "if one assumes these
Intelligence Reports are authentic, then the evidence presented is such
that it is difficult to assume any interpretation other than that UFOs
are being observed."
The disposition of Harry Turner's controversial report is a
revealing indictment of official handling of the UFO controversy.
Faced with his provocative conclusions with Keyhoe's data as one
cornerstone, the Director of Air Force Intelligence (RAAF) did seek out
official confirmation from America. The Australian Joint Service Staff
(intelligence) in Washington wrote to him saying:
"I have discussed with the USAF the status of Major Keyhoe. I
understand that his book is written in such a way as to convey
the impression that his statements are based on official
documents, and there is some suggestion that he has made improper
use of information to which he had access while he was serving
with the Marine Corps. He has, however, no official status
whatsoever and a dim view is taken officially of both him and his
So when it came to considering Turner's classified report, the
Department of Air concluded: "Professor Turner accepted Keyhoe's book
as being authentic and based on official releases. Because Turner
places so much weight on Keyhoe's work he emphasised the need to check
Keyhoe's reliability. (The Australian Joint Service Staff
communication) removes Keyhoe's works as a prop for Turner's work so
that the value of the latter's findings and recommendations is very
much reduced." Turner's findings, including one in which he recommended
the setting up of a scientific "investigating panel", in the light of
the "discrediting" of Keyhoe's data, were found to be impractical and
The big problem with all this was that it was based on an act of
conscious or unconscious misrepresentation on the part of the US Air
Force. They were engaged in a misguided campaign to undermine the
popularity of Donald Keyhoe's books. While Keyhoe may have slightly
"beat up" his USAF data, the Intelligence reports, quoted by Keyhoe and
used by Turner to support his conclusions to DAFI, were authentic!
Eventually the USAF themselves also admitted that the material Keyhoe
used was indeed from official Air Force reports. Political myopia from
both the US and Australian military effectively scuttled Australia's
first serious flirtation with scientific investigation of UFOs.
Fortunately Turner's 1954 report was "located" in classified RAAF UFO
policy files I examined in 1982 with Squadron Leader Ian Frame from
Harry Turner was advocating attempts to secure more radar cases.
Radar at the restricted Woomera rocket range facility in South
Australia picked up a UFO on May 5th, 1954. Turner's report indicates
that at about 1630 hours 3 witnesses saw a "misty grey disc" at a 355
degree bearing, at some 35 miles distance and at an altitude of more
than 60,000 feet. The object appeared to have an apparent diameter of
about 10 feet. The visual observation which lasted 5 minutes was aided
by binoculars. The object travelled south then west, with the radar
echo confirming a speed of 3,600 mph! Harry Turner told me of the
radar case that impressed him the most in his study of the DAFI UFO
files that lead to his classified 1954 report. The case, originally
classified 'secret', describes a UFO event over Woomera that was
witnessed by an English Electric scientist and a radar operator. The EE
scientist was outside talking to the radar operator when the radar
confirmed the presence of a UFO. The scientist watched the object with
binoculars. One of his functions at Woomera was to monitor rocket
tests. He was experienced in observing movement in the sky. The radar
tracked the UFO until it went out of range, however they were able to
confirm distance and size. Some tests were being undertaken with a
Canberra bomber in flight. The UFO was moving in formation with the
Canberra. The Canberra crew could not see the UFO, but both the plane
and UFO were confirmed on radar.