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Rendlesham Forest Incident – UFO Mystery

The Rendlesham Forest Incident (RFI) refers to a series of alleged UFO sightings near Bentwater military base in Suffolk, England.



The Rendlesham Forest Incident
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Rendlesham Forest Incident

The Rendlesham Forest Incident (RFI) refers to a series of alleged sightings and events, including the UFO sighting by three United States Air Force personnel in Rendlesham Forest near RAF Woodbridge in Suffolk, England. Considered by many as Britain’s most famous UFO case, it remains one of the most well-documented accounts of a reported military encounter with an unidentified flying object on record.


Rendlesham Forest is a royal forest in Suffolk, England which covers about 3,000 acres (12 km2) of land. Today, the “Rendlesham Forest” is most connected with the UFO incident, a succession of reported sightings of unexplained lights and the alleged landing of a craft or multiple craft of mysterious origin.

The area has been an important site for centuries: it was used by people from prehistory through to the modern day; Romans settled here; it was part of King John’s hunting grounds in 1215; it was where Henry VIII hunted deer in 1552 and 1601 and is today open to the public as a recreation area.

The Initial Incident

The first sighting of an unidentified object occurred over this forest on December 26th 1980. At around 3:30am UK time, two USAF security officers (Jim Penniston and John Burroughs) were patrolling the base when they saw an object in the sky radiating light beams down to the ground. They stopped their vehicle and got out to investigate further. As they did so they noticed that it wasn’t actually moving but instead hovering above them at about 100ft altitude before suddenly disappearing into thin air leaving behind a strange odour described as smelling like burning metal or rubber and giving off radiation which caused Burroughs’ Geiger counter to go off scale for about 10 minutes afterwards

The Mystery of Britain’s Roswell

The Rendlesham Forest Incident is one of the most famous UFO sightings in history. The events occurred over three nights in 1980 at two sites in Rendlesham Forest, Suffolk, England: RAF Woodbridge and the nearby USAF military base RAF Bentwaters.

The first night of the incident was December 26th 1979 and usually referred to as the ‘Bentwaters’ sighting.  However, both nights centred around reports of lights in trees and the landing or hovering of an unknown craft over the base.  These were witnessed by multiple observers including military personnel who claimed they saw an unidentified craft at close range.

On the third night there were further reports of UFOs at the nearby RAF Woodbridge base, but this time they were tracked on radar by USAF personnel who allegedly also photographed them on infrared camera equipment. Witnesses claimed these objects moved fast through sky above the treetops before disappearing into forest below only moments later after being sighted by air traffic controllers at Stansted airport near London who confirmed that no aircraft were airborne in area at time of sighting

Statements from Eyewitnesses

Three days after the incident, Lieutenant Colonel Charles I. Halt submitted a memo to his commanding officer stating that he had observed lights through binoculars at close range and that they were red, blue and amber in colour.

The UFO he saw was depicted as being “as big as an aircraft” but made no sound until it accelerated away from the base at high speed. He also said that there were other objects in the sky above him which he could not identify because of their distance, but seemingly appeared to be under intelligent control.

Halt’s memo was forwarded to the Ministry of Defence by Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Walker, who headed up Britain’s Joint Air Staff during the early 1980s. In 1991 Walker wrote an article for a British military journal called “Military Review”, in which he mentioned this encounter while discussing UFOs.

Rendlesham Forest Incident - Holt Memorandum

Interviews With Witnesses

As with any investigation, the testimony that you get from witnesses will be crucial. In this case, there were two witnesses: Jim Penniston and John Burroughs. They were interviewed separately by different people, both under the Official Secrets Act and by the Ministry of Defence.

Analysis Of Witnesses’ Testimony

Experts agreed that the testimony of the witnesses was consistent, credible, experienced, and reliable. In short, they were not lying.

At the time, the MOD later released a statement saying that they had no knowledge of any UFO incidents in Rendlesham Forest but did admit to finding a damaged missile during an exercise at RAF Woodbridge on December 27th, 1980.  In 2010, the Anglian Times newspaper reported that several servicemen had come forward with claims that during this time, a number of nuclear weapons stored at the base had been tampered with by an unknown force or intruder.

Correspondence sent by one of the men who saw the lights in Rendlesham forest claimed that “nothing has been proved” as far as UFOs are concerned; however, this does not mean he believes what he saw was actually real or fake. This could be because he was told not to talk about it by his superiors after reporting it; thus allowing us to conclude that there are still many unanswered questions regarding this incident.

Subsequent Investigations

After the incident, investigations were conducted by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) and USAF authorities. The MoD investigation was headed by Squadron Leader Donald Moreland USAF, who had been assigned to RAF Bentwaters since 1977 as a liaison officer. His report concluded that the sightings were caused by an unusual light phenomenon called “temperature inversion”.

RAF Bentwaters Control Tower

RAF Bentwaters Control Tower

Suffolk Police Log

On December 26th, 1980, Suffolk police received reports from two separate witnesses of a strange light in the sky. One witness, who was an Air Force security policeman stationed at RAF Woodbridge, claimed to have seen a bright object circling near the base and moving over nearby woods.

The second witness was a police constable who was called to the scene by another member of the public. He reported seeing a “red glow” in Rendlesham Forest, which he described as “unusual.”

The incident is one of the most famous UFO sightings ever recorded, but it wasn’t until recently that it became known that there were actually multiple reports made on that night—a fact that had been kept secret for 30 years by both the British Ministry of Defence (MOD) and Suffolk Police.

The log states that three uniformed police officers were sent to the forest to investigate a UFO sighting reported by two USAF security personnel. At 2:15 am, one of the police officers reported watching lights moving through the trees and claimed he could hear a high-pitched noise which sounded like an electric motor. He also reported that he felt very cold while investigating the event phenomenon.

At 6:20 am, two men from RAF Bentwaters arrived at the site and were accompanied by two civilian photographers who had been sent by the Ministry of Defence (MOD). They took photographs of the area where there were large impressions in the ground, which appeared to have been made by heavy machinery or something similar.

The Suffolk police log was not made public until it was released under the Freedom of Information Act following extensive work by UK UFO expert Dr David Clarke and his colleagues to obtain declassified documents relating to UFOs from various agencies in Britain.

Scientists’ Analysis And Comments

Analysis of the event by investigators concluded that it was an unidentified flying object (UFO), now referred to as a UAP (Unknown Aerial Phenomenon) and that there was no evidence to suggest it was a meteor, helicopter, comet, fireball, aircraft, or weather balloon.  There was some speculation that it might have been the beams from the Orford Ness lighthouse, but this has been debunked on many occasions.

The incident was also analysed by civilian scientists from nearby Woodbridge Hospital, who concluded that “[the UFO] definitely could not have been a helicopter based on its lights.”

According to Dr David Clarke in his book The UFO Files: The Inside Story of Real-Life Sightings (1999): “The hospital’s conclusions were very similar to those of USAF Scientific Advisor Dr J Allen Hynek [who] believes Rendlesham is one of only six genuine ‘close encounters’ on British soil.

Aftermath And Further Developments

In the decades since the incident, the Rendlesham Forest Incident has been the subject of several investigations, most of which have concluded that the sighting was likely a misidentification of known aircraft or natural phenomena. Investigators often conclude that witnesses are unreliable and suggest that they are hoaxers.

Although some sceptics dismiss most UFO sightings as mistaken identification of mundane phenomena, some UFO researchers consider this case to be an exception to this trend due to its high-strangeness factor and sheer number of witnesses. This view is supported by former UK Ministry for Defence (MoD) investigator Nick Pope who interviewed many personnel who served at RAF Bentwaters and Woodbridge from 1980–1984. In his book Open Skies Closed Minds (1997), he wrote: “There were enough eyewitnesses within or associated with Bentwaters/Woodbridge…to make [the] Rendlesham Forest incident one of the best-corroborated UFO cases on record.”

Rendlesham Forest UFO Trail

The Rendlesham Forest UFO Trail is a series of monuments and markers erected by local people and the Forestry Commission, which tell the story of the December 1980 UFO sightings. The trail starts at the old USAF base at Bentwaters on Warren Hill.

Rendlesham Forest Incident UFO Monument

Rendlesham Forest Incident UFO Monument

At this point on your tour you can follow the path into Rendlesham Forest itself, where there are two more memorials dedicated to what happened there during December 1980. One is called “The Triangular Zone”, which marks where most witnesses reported seeing triangular craft hovering over trees during their encounters with something unknown.


The Rendlesham Forest Incident has never been explained. The British government denies any ET involvement, and the U.S. government has classified all documents related to the incident as “above top secret” since 1988. These two facts are enough to keep any UFO conspiracy theorist busy for a lifetime, but they don’t necessarily mean that aliens were involved in this incident. Perhaps it was some kind of military experiment that went awry? Perhaps there was some kind of natural occurrence or atmospheric disturbance? Perhaps—and this is a long shot—the whole thing was an elaborate hoax perpetrated by someone who wanted attention or money? Whatever happened in 1976, it doesn’t seem like we’ll ever know for sure what caused those lights and imprints in the woods outside RAF Bentwaters.  And … that’s how the authorities seem to want to keep it.