Pictorial Guide to the 1980
Rendlesham UFO Incident Area

New!  In 2010, Colonel Halt signed a legal affidavit (Scan of original:  page 1, page 2) in which he again summarized what had happened, then bluntly stated that the objects he encountered were extraterrestrial and that the event had been covered up: 

"I believe the objects that I saw at close quarter were extraterrestrial in origin and 
     that the security services of both the United States and the United Kingdom have
     attempted—both then and now—to subvert the significance of what occurred at
     Rendlesham Forest and RAF Bentwaters by the use of well-practiced methods of       

In the affidavit, Halt also dismissed the claims of skeptics that all they witnessed was a lighthouse beam.  Halt noted that the red, eye-like UFO they saw in the forest and the lighthouse beam could be seen simultaneously and were widely separated by an angle of 35-40 degrees.

Perhaps the best book on the subject was published recently by British journalist Georgina Bruni  (You Can't Tell the People: The Definitive Account of the Rendlesham Forest UFO Mystery)  It includes a partial transcript of Halt's tape, his memo, various witness statements and drawings, original photos of the landing site she uncovered, examination of witness testimony, and much more. 

(The title, according to Bruni, comes from a chance encounter in 1997 with former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at a dinner party.  Bruni asked Thatcher her opinion about UFOs and alien technology, to which Thatcher replied, "You can't tell the people.")

The purpose of this Web site is not to go into the details of this very complex and fascinating case.  Rather it is meant as a pictorial guide to the area to help orient people as to where everything was going on and what the airmen encountered in terms of the landscape.  One of the problems with this case, whenever it gets discussed (and even in the books), has been a lack of good maps and pictures.

When I was on a trip to England (March 2002), I made a point of going out to the area to get "the lay of the land."  First I stopped at a bookstore in the nearby small town of Woodbridge, picked up a good quality map of the area (from which the map scans below come), and Bruni's book.  I also picked up a cheap, disposable camera to take pictures, hence the rather low-fidelty photos below, for which I apologize in advance.  Nonetheless, you will get a good sense of the roads and paths the airmen took those nights and what the forest looks like today.

The forest was heavily forested in 1981 but almost completely destroyed in a devastating hurricane in 1987 and has been replanted.  (It is now public parkland.) The forest in 2002 was a much younger and shorter forest than what the airmen dealt with in 1980.  This is an important point to keep in mind when considering the main skeptical explanation for the UFOs, namely the Orford Ness Lighthouse about 6 miles east of the base (see picture above right).  Except for a few highly limited areas, it is literally impossible to directly see the lighthouse beam from the base, in the forest, or in the farm field just east of the forest, where much of the action took place during Lt. Col.Halt's investigation.  People visiting the area at night, however, say that the lighthouse beam can be seen sweeping above the trees.  However, one can't see the beam or lighthouse itself though the trees (except in a very small region near the edge of the forest at a farm clearing), while much of the testimony is of an object or objects seen within the forest.

One thing that surprised me when I walked the area with my wife was just how compact the scene was.  It was possible to leisurely stroll around the entire area in only an hour and a half.  The farm clearing is only about a mile east of the East Gate guard area.  Guards in a jeep could have raced out the East Gate road, turned right  briefly on the main road, and then left again on the logging road out to the field, and been there in only 2 or 3 minutes.  During this entire period, the lighthouse would not have been visible.  It is only when you get to the north end of the field that the lighthouse tip can be barely seen through a gap during clear weather in a small region.  How could an invisible lighthouse have fooled guards into thinking a plane had crashed in the forest?  And how could a witness like Jim Penniston have walked up to and around the "lighthouse beam" and actually touched it?
Often called England's most famous UFO case or the British Rowell, the case actually involves at least two different UFO incidents at Woodbridge RAF air base (used by the USAF. at the time) in Rendlesham forest just outside the base.  On the night of Dec. 25/26 or 26/27, 1980, guards at the East Gate of the base saw lights dropping from the sky into the forest to the east.  Thinking it a plane crash,  guards went to investigate, and ended up chasing a large, triangular, glowing object with a pulsating red light on top and a bank of blue lights underneath, that maneuvered through the woods and disappeared in the air.  Animals in the woods and on a nearby farm "went into a frenzy."  Witness Sgt. James Penniston stated he managed to walk up to and around the object, even touched it at one point.

Two nights later, Deputy base commander Lt. Col. Charles Halt assembled a large team of airmen to investigate, Halt being determined to put an end to what he thought were nonsensical UFO rumors.  Instead Halt and his men ran right into a UFO buzzsaw, encountering a "red sun-like light" resembling an eye that moved about and pulsed.  Then it divided into five separate white objects and disappeared.  Immediately afterwards, they noticed 3 star-like objects maneuvering in the sky, one occasionly beaming down a narrow stream of light.

Ground traces were also found at one or more landing sites, including depressions in the ground, damage to the trees in the area of the landing site(s), and increased radiation levels (up to 10 times over background) with maximum radiation being in the ground depressions and tree damaged areas..  Most of this is documented in the memo Halt wrote to the British Ministry of Defense (scan) afterwards and in tapes that Halt made while their investigation was in progress. (Transcript1; Transcript2)
Rendlesham UFO?  The Orford Ness lighthouse, about 6 miles and almost due east of Woodbridge base, has been the favorite primary skeptical "explanation" for the incident for a number of years.  Supposedly airmen at the base saw the main lighthouse beam through the trees and triggered the whole thing.  The main problem with this theory is that although the beam can be seen indirectly above the trees, it is not possible to directly see the lighthouse or beam from the base through the trees, being blocked by a mile of forest and other terrain.  A shield on the westward side of the lighthouse may also partially block the lighthouse beam to the west where the base was, though there may be some leakage at the edge of the shield where the "notch" is, as shown above.  The lighthouse can only be seen from a narrow, tiny area in a farm clearing.
This page was last updated: August 31, 2010