In December 1980, there were a series of sightings of lights in the Rendlesham Forest near two USAF airbases located in England. American personnel assigned to those bases, RAF Bentwaters and RAF Woodbridge sighted strange lights and requested permission to investigate. Now Nick Pope, with John Burroughs and Jim Penniston have written a book, Encounter in Rendlesham Forest, dealing with their inside knowledge of the workings of the British UFO desk in the Ministry of Defence and their service with the Air Force during those sightings.
We get the perspective of the sightings from Burroughs who was first out of the gate and into the forest. Penniston, senior to Burroughs, arrived later. Both moved deeper into the woods, and as Burroughs stopped, away from a structured craft, Penniston walked forward and touched it. Both men later said that they became somewhat obsessed with the sighting. Penniston, unable to sleep in the days to follow, eventually wrote a series of ones and zeroes in his notebook that looks suspiciously like a binary code. He also felt compelled to return to the landing site where he found deep impressions in the ground. He made plaster casts of them.
Little of that has been discussed. It was the next night that involved Burroughs and the deputy base commander, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Halt, that has received the most attention. Halt, leading a group of men, entered the woods, moving toward the lights. Halt made a tape recording of what was happening and what he was observing as they worked their way toward the lights. Later, at the request of his chain of command, he would write a memo that eventually made its way into the public arena. That memo, written within several days of the event, seemed to underscore the strange nature of the event.
Nick Pope, who ran England’s Ministry of Defence UFO project, learned of the case through his work there. He was able to provide an interesting take on how the two governments, British and American, seemed to pass the problem of the sightings off on each other. Both denied jurisdiction over the case suggesting that the other had responsibility. Pope’s insights into that adds a note of credibility to the case.
The one problem I had with the book was its journey into material that while interesting did nothing to advance the case. As but a single example, there was a chapter Beyond Rendlesham that examined briefly, some a few semi-related cases, but not in enough detail help in our understanding of the Rendlesham case. The death of Captain Thomas Mantell while chasing a UFO over Kentucky is reduced to a single paragraph.
But the book shines when it discusses the Rendlesham report. There is new information found through the detailed memories of Burroughs and Penniston, and the information from Halt. Questions about the case have been answered, many for the first time. Skeptical arguments are examined, and according to Pope, do not explain anything. They merely get in the way of attempts to learn the truth.
For those who wish to understand more about this case, who want to see what has been reported by those involved, who wish to read the first-hand accounts of the men involved, this is the book. Others might suggest they were there. Others might suggest that they know more about the case, but it is here that we hear the voices of the men who experienced the UFO landing and the subsequent events.