Friday, 31 July 2009

The Police Interview and the Telephone call

Following on from my previous thoughts on Harold South's testimony and his recollection of events at Bloxwich Police Station, (Pictured above, 2009) something else recently occurred to me. Although there is a reference in "Cosmic Crashes" that Harold South's original letter mentions he was warned to stay silent by the civilian Police (p77) Its unclear as to whether during or throughout the interview he was asked to sign the Official Secrets Act or if the Police sought his co-operation in remaining quite and requested he did not discuss with anyone his encounter along the New Penkridge road or the subsequent confiscation of his camera and film.

Yet, during his interview in 1996 with Nick Redfern and Irene Bott. Harold South makes a remarkable if somewhat unusual statement, prior to the interview he alluded to a mysterious telephone call from the Ministry of Defence Police. Although I must confess here this is one area I originally intended to stay away from largely because it is virtually impossible that this could ever be verified beyond the established fact that there had been a call placed to Harold South's home number from a Midlands based operator service utilised by the Military.

Although It could well have been the case that along with Nick and Irene, SUFOG's activities in the local papers of the time had given cause for concern somewhere within the establishment that the subject might come under the spotlight again, especially at a time when the UFO phenomenon was enjoying unprecedented media attention worldwide and a serious concerted effort on behalf of local UFO researchers might indeed unearth a few skeletons.

All though South's letter to Irene Bott was received a week after the article was published in the Burntwood Post referencing the Penkridge Incident, its highly unlikely that the intelligence community would have been aware that Harold South was about to come forward (bearing in mind thirty years had elapsed and as far as we know he had not shared his experience with anybody else) and re-iterate his story, unless there was a surveillance operation already in place on SUFOG members, which is not beyond the realms of possibility. But a more likely scenario would be that if Harold South had indeed witnessed something of importance to National Security back in 1964, he would have remained on file somewhere, with a risk assessment being made, which would have been downgraded as the years passed.

Again any surveillance I would have thought been strictly routine and low key, since it wouldn't have been to difficult to keep tabs on Harold South (or anybody for that matter) as he moved around over the years through his National Insurance number, State Pension and Driving Licence etc. So at what stage did the alarm bells start ringing within the MOD if they thought he was about to be unearthed?

Because there appears to have been a considerable lapse in time from the initial contact made with Irene Bott and the subsequent interview in December of 1996, likewise there seems to be no rhyme or reason for the mysterious call because the call serves no purpose when you consider that South was a retired civilian in his late sixties, he was hardly a threat to National security even if he had elected to tell his story at this late stage, thirty years had elapsed, given that no one else (that we know of) as come forward to corroborate his testimony. Why interfere and risk greater exposure by placing a telephone call which if anything would only lend greater credence to his story? Here again the timing is impeccable, why wait until the day of the interview?

In his interview South tells us he was flustered by the call, but there is no mention as to whether he was warned off from speaking to both Nick and Irene. Instead there is a reference to a complaint the nature of which is unknown in addition to being given a number to call, which turned out to be the Guard Room at Whittington Barracks, Lichfield.

Here the horns are really going to grow out of my head!!! But just before they do, I thinks its only fair to point out that never actually having met Harold South the following comments are purely conjecture and therefore should not necessarily be seen as a true reflection of his integrity or character, but seen through the eyes of natural scepticism only.

Harold South did indeed have a telephone call from a Midlands Based operator service controlled by the Military on that morning in December 1996 prior to the arrival of his two guests, but did he instigate it himself? Lets face it, its not to difficult to make a telephone enquiry, then ask them to return the call. was his enquiry for Whittington Barracks telephone number by any chance? On the face of it we know very little of Harold South's background, presumably he did his two years National Service? Did he complete his training with the Staffordshire Regiment based at Whittington Barracks? Is this why he chose Whittington Barracks? Why didn't he return the call when he was asked to do so, more importantly if he was concerned why did allow Irene Bott to return the call on his behalf if he thought he was being subtly advised not to speak about his experience?
Furthermore what was the complaint about? Was this another subtle attempt on behalf of Harold South to reinforce the link between the alleged call made by MOD Police and the pre-text for which he was allegedly told to report to Bloxwich Police Station in 1964; namely that a complaint had been made about him "cutting up a motorcyclist" ???

Finally If the Police had traced Harold South through the registration number of the van he was driving that day, surely this would have been registered to his place of work, being a company vehicle, they would have also had to obtain his name address and telephone number from his employer Bendix where he worked. Then after which they quite astonishingly call his home leaving a message with his mother to ask him to report to Bloxwich Police Station?

Right that's enough healthy scepticism for this blog!!! Regardless of whether or not we choose to accept Harold South's story further research will continue and hopefully redress the balance of his testimony in future blogs in a more positive and favourable light.


  1. Steve:

    These are valid points relative to South, and I would agree that the whole angle of potential surveillance is one of the most controversial.

    Even if there was surveillance, I don't think the chap had been watched for (then) 32 years.

    It would (I think) have been renewed surveillance.

    But, you're quite right: the idea that South made a call and the call to him was being returned is a distinct possibility.

    However, as you'll know from the book, this was an area on which South claimed to have been flustered by that whole situation -in terms of what was said to him, at least.

    I would stress, however, that he didn't object when Irene asked if she could try and trace the call - which, conceivably, could have resulted in us confirming that South made the first call himself.

    We didn't get confirmation of that, of course, but it's interesting he had no problems with Irene digging into the phone-call angle and trying to resolve it.

    A couple of other things: as you know, Steve(because we've discussed it in email), but as regular followers of this blog will not know, is that the investigation of this case in the 1996 period onwards was not strictly mine.

    To explain for those who may not know: as my book shows, when details of the Penkridge story first surfaced in 1991 via the researcher Leonard Stringfield, I tried to chase it down as best I could.

    But, I didn't really get anywhere - aside from confirming that the MoD had a lot of UFO sighting reports on file from the Feb/Mar 64 period.

    So, I put it on the back-burner. Then, after meeting Irene in the summer of 96, I gave her the details of the story to (a) see if she had heard of it (she hadn't); and (b) to see if the Staffs UFO Group wanted to pursue the matter (which of course they did).

    So, the investigation of 96 onwards was very much SUFOG's - my only active role (as you know Steve) was to go along on the South interview. I didn't take part in any other follow-ups/leads that SUFOG ucovered - but I do recall they existed.

    One was something to do with the road-block (someone else who had some knowledge of it, and I recall there was a link with the Fire Brigade here); and someone who looked into the issue of the police people involved.

    So, my point is this: that chapter in my book, was written from my own perspective, and based on my one and only involvement in the SUFOG investigation. Whatever else was done investigation-wise did not involve me; but I heard of it when there was anything new that SUFO had heard.

    Irene definitely kept me informed of the other info, but working from memory 13 years later, the 2 above leads were, I think, the most substantial ones they followed up on.

    I'll be the first to admit that the South story is problematic in the sense that there are (as there always is in Ufology!) unanswered questions.

    I would say, however, that the key to the case (granted it won't help resolve the South issue, however) would be if you could get permission to review the original files of Leonard Stringfield, and determine the full data in his archives that relate to the original source of the story - that might open a lot of doors.

    I don't have contact details for his family, and not sure of the status of his files, but it may not be too diffuclt to find out.


  2. Hi Nick, Many Thanks, your comments as always are much appreciated. The blog's sceptical view was slightly ham fisted in its approach I'll admit and (as I suspected at the time) came across in the wrong way, no doubt the product of trying to put one's thoughts in print! Sorry!
    I suspect at this moment in time I'm covering ground which as pretty much already been covered by SUFOG's original investigation but feel it necessary to try and get an indepth knowledge of events that happened in and around the area in 1964.
    I think I've mentioned before that it may well be the case that the two incidents are not quite one and the same, so at some point it may well be a case of focusing back on Leonard Stringfield's original Account.


  3. Steve

    No need to apologise - it's a controversial case, and one that is as frustrating as it is intriguing!

    The other things that may be worth following up on (based on what South said) are (A) the Melksham comment/angle; (B) the Red, White and Blue pub angle, and see if any old-timers in the area might recall that; (C) if you can get hold of them, checking out old issues of things like "Flying Saucer Review" etc to see if they had published any reports around that same time and from the area. So, maybe checking FSR issues from early 1965 onwards might be profitable; and (D) finding out more on the motorbike club, where it was, and who at the club had allegedly heard about the crash.

    Bear in mind too that Meklsham is very near RAF Rudloe Manor - which has a murky UFO history. Maybe that's an angle worth checking too.


  4. Hi Nick, Yes, there are a lot of potential area's to explore. The FSR is certainly worth looking into. The reference to Melksham was also interesting, although talking of Military bases, RAF Chicksands which was in use from 1961 by the USAF as a signals installation that utilised the FLF9 signal finding antenna system. Did you ever come across Chicksands being involved in any UFO activity during the 1960's?

  5. Stephen. Interesting blog entries. I always find it helps to think through the possibilities - it often opens up new avenues to explore. They say it is impossible to prove a negative. I take heart from the fact that no one will ever prove beyond a doubt that there wasn't a crashed ufo ;) It would be nice though to find semething that showed once and for all that there was some merit in the story.

    Everytime the government screws something up of mine, I ask myself are they really capable of keeping secrets like this, really. I don't think I need to give an answer to that.

    Beaurocracy and incompetence go hand in hand. If there is something to find, someone will find it. I'm sure of it.

  6. Hi Ian, Yes, it would be a real positive if in the near future information comes to light which reinforces Harold South's testimony. Further research is of course on going, I do find it useful to put my thoughts in print hence my weekly blogs, although having said that its easy to be the sceptic and my last two blogs have highlighted this aspect quite well.
    I take your point with the concerns of Government but having said that I believe beside being inept they can also be manipulated, deceived, directed (when required) and to a certain extent controlled by much smaller and powerful key elements within their own respective cabinets.
    (Take a look at the death of Dr Kelly and the investigation into the Iraq war or the mysterious deaths of the scientist's at Marconi)they can be adept at covering their tracks.
    While its true you could never prove beyond reasonable doubt that there was never a crash/retrieval at Penkridge, Stan Friedman's quote comes to mind "Absence of evidence is evidence of absence" Is this all the proof our Government needs to remain silent and prevaricate?

  7. Stephen - I found something interesting on the bbc website today. The news story talks about the faked incident on 1967 were students hoaxed the country with several sophisticated saucer shaped devices. It also made mention that the US government wanted to get involved which caused something of a diplomatic incident. Albeit a hoax this would be the perfect blue print to explore what might happen in a real life situation - which might have mirrored the incident in 1964? Some of the departments and people involved in establishing the hoax might also have been involved in the Penkridge incident or be aware of people who were? I might try to get in touch with John Keeling, or at the very least get hold of his book.

  8. Steve

    I don't personally know of anything linking UFOs with Chicksands. However, a man named Bill English claimed to have read a report at Chicksands on UFOs. If you Google him + UFOs + Chicksands, I'm sure there will be plenty to find.


  9. Hi Ian, I vaguely remember this incident, nevertheless it does indeed highlight what can be described as a mixed response by the individual authorities concerned when they encountered the object(s) as John Keeling says:

    "What occurred to me after looking into it for a number of years is that rhetorical question: what would we do if aliens landed?

    "Are there any contingencies from the authorities for it? This is the classic model to test that, and it would appear that we're not ready."

    Although this is a valid point the interesting thing with this incident was the fact that not only were the hoaxed UFO's placed in a line across six different counties, but the local authorities response to the objects actually differed, whereby in Cleveland a Bristol Aerospace engineer was brought in to examine one object. In Wiltshire the Army was actually called into the affair, So while the response varied, generally caution appears to have been exercised, although the underlying consensus early on was that the objects were considered to be an elaborate hoax.

    John Keeling’s Book would definitely be worth a read, ideally with a view to an in depth look at each of the individual authorities responses to the object, not to mention the American response to the whole affair. It would also be interesting to see the response times to the objects being found, the arrival of the authorities and the subsequent media attention.

    Let us know when Keeling’s Book is released!


  10. Hi Nick, RAF Chicksands as intrigued me for sometime especially since its wartime use in intelligence gathering and later by the USAF in signals intelligence during the period in question. Bill English's description of his work at Chicksands sounds not unlike that of "S M Brannigan's"...?

    “It was my job to analyze the translated transcripts of radio transmissions that had been received from Soviet bloc nations through the listening post at Chicksands. We monitored military frequencies mostly. I had to assign what we called a probability rating to the material and create a possible scenario that might result from the transmission or might have resulted in the transmission.