UFO sightings: Files explain why MoD closed down special desk

Undated handout photo issued by The National Archives of a photograph apparently showing a "UFO" by Stonehenge, Wiltshire, January 2009 "Discoid" shapes were spotted in photographs of Stonehenge, according to the files

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The Ministry of Defence closed its UFO desk because it served "no defence purpose" and was taking staff away from "more valuable defence-related activities", newly released files show.

The desk was closed in December 2009 despite a surge in reported sightings.

The disclosure came in National Archives files relating to reports of UFOs - Unidentified Flying Objects - between 2007 and November 2009.

They show UFOs were reported at several UK landmarks, including Stonehenge.

'No benefit'

The latest tranche of declassified files covers the final two years of work carried out by the MoD's UFO desk.

Start Quote

People at home can read them and draw their own conclusions about whether 'the truth' is in these files or still out there”

End Quote Dr David Clarke Author

The 25 files include reports alleging contact with aliens and UFO sightings near UK landmarks, and detail the decision to close the MoD's dedicated desk and "hotline".

In a briefing for the then defence minister, Bob Ainsworth, in November 2009 a civil servant, Carl Mantell of the RAF's Air Command, suggested the MoD should try to significantly reduce the UFO work. He said it was "consuming increasing resource, but produces no valuable defence output".

He told Mr Ainsworth that in more than 50 years, "no UFO sighting reported to [the MoD] has ever revealed anything to suggest an extra-terrestrial presence or military threat to the UK".

His memo said there was "no defence benefit" in the recording, collating, analysis or investigation of the sightings, adding: "The level of resources diverted to this task is increasing in response to a recent upsurge in reported sightings, diverting staff from more valuable defence-related activities."

Undated handout photo issued by The National Archives of a photograph of a UFO  taken from Blackpool Pier, Lancashire, October 2008 One photograph, dated October 2008, showed a suspected UFO near Blackpool, the files said

An official MoD statement from the time said the department had "no opinion on the existence or otherwise of extra-terrestrial life".

It went on: "In order to make best use of defence resources, we have decided that from December 1 2009 the dedicated UFO hotline answer-phone service and email address will be withdrawn. [The] MoD will no longer respond to reported UFO sightings or investigate them."

'Living with an alien'

Among the 4,400 pages of documents released are:

  • A letter from a school child in Altrincham, Greater Manchester, to the MoD, dated January 2009, asking if aliens exist after she had seen some strange lights, and including a drawing of an alien in a UFO waving
  • A report received via the UFO hotline by someone who had been "living with an alien" in Carlisle for some time
  • A report from a man from Cardiff who claimed a UFO abducted his dog, and took his car and tent, while he was camping with friends in 2007
  • "Green, red and white lights" reportedly seen over the Houses of Parliament in London in February 2008
  • "Discoid" shapes in photographs of Stonehenge, in an email dated in January 2009
  • Photographs taken at Blackpool Pier which show an aircraft that had not been seen at the time the picture was taken in October 2008

The files show the number of UFO sightings reported to the MoD trebled in the year the desk was closed.

Undated handout photo issued by The National Archives of a letter and drawing of UFO sighting from a schoolchild in Altrincham, Greater Manchester, January 2009 The letter from a school child was sent after she saw strange lights

According to a briefing in the files, during the years 2000-07 the ministry received an average of 150 reports per year.

But by November 2009, it had already received 520 reports that year, as well as 97 Freedom of Information requests on UFOs.

Possible reasons for the increase included the rising popularity for releasing Chinese lanterns during celebrations.

Dr David Clarke, author of the book The UFO Files, said the "last pieces of the puzzle" had been revealed with the insight into the final days of the UFO desk.

"The last files from the UFO desk are now all in the public domain. People at home can read them and draw their own conclusions about whether 'the truth' is in these files or still out there," he said.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 482.

    IMHO all the people who have reported these UFOs over so many years can not all be lying, crazy, or misstaken (too many airline pilots, military pilots and other trained people have reported them). All the photos and videos can not be phonies or of natural phenomina. There is more evidence for UFOs than there is for god, yet many people still believe in god. Of course we trust our government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 322.

    There must be other living things or organisms living out in space somewhere, just due to the sheer number of planets. There are trillions upon trillions of planets in space, and where the only one that supports life? No i dont think so. Im not saying there green marshans like hollywood depicts, im saying that just due to the sheer number of planets in space there must be something else out there

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    Only a fool would rule out intelligent life other than our own in the universe. And only a fool would base the chance of 'aliens' being able to reach us on the basis of similar life expectancy. Yoda was almost 1000 years old for crying out loud! Besides, if we can foresee robots doing many tasks here on earth, why couldn't more advanced aliens not have such tech now?

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    no firm evidence no radio signals face it we are alone and the universe is ours to exploit as we wish .

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Whereas I don't believe any alien life has visited Earth, to suggest that we are alone in the universe would be ridiculous. There are probably dozens of intelligent species in our galaxy alone.

    But given the size of the universe, do I honestly believe we will ever encounter an alien species? Sadly, no.


Comments 5 of 6


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