The Exchequer Files

The British National Archives has just made public thousands of pages of documents about UFOs, and even is offering a highlights guide so that readers can sift through the material for the most intriguing–and the wackiest–stuff.

And there are plenty of both types of revelations in the UFO documents. 

Pages 10-34 of this PDF file, for example, detail British diplomatic and intelligence efforts in the late 1970s to quash a UN investigation of UFOs proposed by Grenada’s then-prime minister, Sir Eric Gairy, who believed that his island  nation was under alien attack. The British government felt that such an inquiry was “an unjustifiable drain on UN resources that could better be deployed elsewhere.”

A 1977 memo from a British diplomat on efforts to enlist American help in squelching the Grendadan initiative notes, ominously, that “President Carter has in the past reportedly taken a personal interest in the subject of UFOs.”

The treasure trove includes a 1951 briefing report on UFO sightings for then-Prime Minister Winston Churchill. 

As an accompanying history of British government UFO inquiries by Sir David Clarke reveals, Churchill had a long interest in possible extraterrestrial spacecraft. Back in 1912, when Churchill was Lord of the Admiralty, he ordered an intelligence investigation of a mysterious cigar-shaped object that had been sighted near the Royal Navy Torpedo school in Essex. 

Also included is a Royal Air Force officer’s startling 2004 photograph of a donut-shaped UFO. 

This PDF includes an amusing assortment of internal correspondence about British officials’ debate over how to deal with alleged UFO sightings submitted by the public. One item is a draft of a proposed form letter, perhaps drafted by the UK’s equivalent of the legendary U.S. Men in Black, which reassures those who reported UFOS that “investigations over a number of years have so far produced no evidence that UFOs represent an air defense threat to the United Kingdom.”

Some of those reports, of course, were easily discounted. As this New York Times article on the document release notes, for example, in 1998 a man from West London wrote in to announce that after sighting a strange craft hovering over his garden, he awoke the next morning and discovered that he apparently had experienced a period of missing time, a purported phenomenon that UFO enthusiasts link to alien abductions. An official wrote back to him, explaining that on the night in question, the nation’s clocks had been turned back an hour because of the end of British Summer Time, the equivalent of the U.S. daily savings time.

Still, UFO conspiracy theorists say that they’re withholding the really good stuff. In a blog post, Ian Brockwell of UFO Digest focused upon the government’s admission that a collection of intelligence files covering 1980 to 1982 had been destroyed, apparently including some on the UK version of Roswell, the December 1980 Rendlesham forest incident.

“Isn’t it amazing how important UFO documents can go missing or get ‘accidentally’ destroyed when the ‘weather balloon’ type excuses cannot be applied?” He wrote. “Governments (in Britain and the United States have used this tactic frequently to lose damning evidence…and it is becoming just a little too obvious.”