Dear Sir John
I now have the report I called for about the letter you sent
to me on 26th February from Mr J J A Hennessey of Vistula, 43 Walnut Tree
Road, Heston Hounslow.
The material Mr Hennessey saw on his visit to the Meteorological
Office had been extracted from Merchant Navy log books. From time to time the more interesting
of these observations are recorded in the "Marine Observer", a journal which is published by
HMSO and is on sale to the general public. The log books themselves are also available
to the public and form part of the National Meteorological Library permanent archive.
Mr Hennessey should consult these sources if he is interested in the material. It is
unfortunate he took advantage of the Meteorological Staff by obtaining the photostat
copies he has shown you. The decision to destroy or retain the files has yet to be
taken - he saw only a recommendation for disposal. The gift of any files is a very rare
occurrence. It is most unlikely that any Ministry of Defence records would ever be
handed over to an individual member of the public or to any organisation in a foreign
As Mr Hennessey has been told repeatedly, the Ministry of
Defence files on Unidentified Flying Objects contain no more correspondence than is necessary
to establish the possible defence implications and this may sometimes involve references to classified
material. The files must remain closed to the public under the rules laid down by the
Public Records Acts. Mr Hennessey told us on 19th December 1971 that he was fully aware
of these rules and he has also referred to them in his latest letter. He should also be
informed that, for obvious reasons, we shall review the files before their eventual
publication in order to eliminate any information of a classified nature.
There is no inconsistency between Mer1yn Rees' letter of 14th
August 1967 and Lord Winterbottom's letter dated 26th March 1970. The decision to retain UFO records
indefinitely was taken between
Sir John Langford-Holt, MP
House of Commons
these two dates. It was not necessary to go into that when Lord
Winterbottom wrote to you in 1970.
I can offer no assurances about the material at Fylingdales or within the
Air Traffic Control Organisation. The retention of BMEWS tapes and
air defence radar film is ruled out because of the cost and the problem
of storing the accumulating material. There are also security objections.
No films are made of civil air traffic control unit radars.
I would also like to deal with the attached letter dated 25th February which
Mr Hennessey has addressed to my Department on the subject of the F111 activity
on 26th October 1971. There are no records available to provide the details
Mr Hennessey requests. Nor can we help with the statistical analysis of
UFO reports. These analyses were discontinued in 1974 and it is
no longer possible to provide the figures.