The UK’s most famous and compelling UFO incident is being commemorated by the UK Forestry Commission. A large metal sculpture depicting one of the UFOs as described by a witness has been built and will be installed in the location of the sightings in the Rendlesham forest.
The Forestry Commission wants to make it clear that although they are commemorating the incident, they are not trying to take sides on the debate surrounding the existence of UFOs or extraterrestrial visitation. According to the BBC, “The commission said the sculpture was ‘impartial’ and did not seek to answer the mystery.”
However, the commission acknowledges that something took place. The recreation manager at Rendlesham forest, Nigel Turner, told the BBC, “Clearly something happened – there’s a party who believe it was something military, there are people who believe it was extraterrestrial activity and we respect all opinions.”
The incident is often referred to as the UK’s Roswell. In fact, Nick Pope, who investigated UFO for the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD), often says it might be a better case then Roswell. Mostly because there are several military witnesses who readily speak about their encounters.
The incident took place over several days in late December, 1980. Although exact dates have been disputed, according to the witnesses, it is likely the event began very late on December 25. The Rendlsham forest is flanked by two Royal Air Force (RAF) bases, RAF Bentwaters and RAF Woodbridge. At the time, both were on lease to the United States Air Force.
Personnel from both bases reported seeing UFOs the night of the 25th into the early morning of the 26th. A few men were sent to investigate and came across a glowing light. Security officer Jim Penniston approached the object and described seeing a black triangular object hovering just off the forest floor. He described seeing strange symbols and actually touched the craft. After a few moments, the object raised up slowly into the sky. Once it cleared the trees, it shot off at a great speed. You can hear more about the sighting in this interview with Penniston on Open Minds UFO Radio.
Penniston drew a sketch of the object and it is apparently these sketches that the Forest Commission sculpture is based off of.
The Rendlesham incident didn’t end there. A couple days later, the lights returned. Skeptical Deputy Base Commander Charles Halt took a few men out in the forest to investigate. His goal was to show that the whole UFO scare was a misunderstanding and most likely something mundane. Instead, Halt and his men saw lights they could not explain. Halt says he saw a bright glowing object aim a beam of light at the munitions area of one of the bases. Halt was baffled, and now says he thinks what they saw were extraterrestrial spacecraft.
This is just a summary of the events that took place in the Rendlesham forest. There are other witnesses with other claims. One man says the U.S. government met with extraterrestrials in the Rensdlesham forest soon after. This witness, Larry Warren, spoke to the tabloid newspaper News of the World about the sightings in 1983. This was the first time the public heard of the incident.
In 2001, the MOD released a memo Halt had written to the MOD briefing them on the sightings. The UK government took no real action. Admiral of the Fleet Peter John Hill-Norton, former head of NATO and UK Chief of the Defence Staff, was disturbed by the UK’s inaction on the matter. In an inquiry, he was told that the MOD felt the incident was of “no Defence interest.”
He replied that there was evidence, “now in the public domain which makes it beyond any possible doubt that the incident most certainly was of considerable Defence interest, and it is absurd of you to pretend otherwise.”
In 2005, the Forestry Commission opened a “UFO Trail” in the Rendlesham forest that leads to the spot the UFO was seen by Penniston. Until now, the sight had been marked with three logs. Now it will be marked with the life-sized sculpture of the UFO.
Turner says, “We think it will fit in well, because it offers a goal for people completing the trail and also give an insight into our timber-growing and conservation work.”
The sculpture was created by artist Olivia English and includes alien appearing symbols on the side. However, English says these do not depict an extraterrestrial alphabet. She says, “The symbols on the side of the UFO were originally part of the trail, but we’ve recycled them to add another dimension. There’s no secret code – it’s art.”