UFOs in History: Operation Charlie> [prev ¦ 1 ¦ 2 ¦ 3 ¦ 4 ¦ 5¦ 6 ¦ next]


The original tracking placed the target at 38,000 feet moving on a westerly course across the North Sea. According to an Air Ministry memorandum to the US Army Air Force, the incident began 50 miles from the Dutch coast at 52’ 52’’ N 02’ 37’’E. Later contacts involving Trimley Heath GCI, occurred at lower altitude, placing the ‘blip’ level with the bombers participating in the Bullseye exercise. At Trimley Heath the station’s operations log recorded how Mosquito call-sign HAIROIL 27 made an initial contact with an “unidentified” target at 2014 hours when at 17,000 feet but soon lost it. Whilst searching for the target the navigator then picked up a Lancaster or a Lincoln on his airborne radar before GCI guided him towards the ‘unidentified’ target, whereupon:

‘…five other contacts [were] obtained in quick succession on X. 362 (OPERATION CHARLIE) which was chased from 2120 hours until 2202 hours when interception was abandoned due to A.I. [airborne radar] trouble. This target was completely unidentified. Height at the commencement of the interception was 17,000 feet and target descended to 6,000 feet by 2202 hours.’ [7]

A brief summary of the incident appears in HQ No 11 Group Fighter Command Operations book, which reads:

“...two aircraft operating off the East Coast under Trimley Heath G.C.I. obtained 5 contacts and 5 kills on Lancasters between 15,000 and 18,000 feet...One of these aircraft chased an unidentified aircraft between 2130 and 2200 hours from 22,000 to 5,000 feet. No visual was obtained.” [8]

The report to the US Army Air Force, attributed to ‘Air Ministry, Great Britain’ summarises the incident as follows:

“During normal night-flying practice at 2230 hours…one of British Mosquitos was vectored on to an unidentified A/C at 22,000 ft. A long chase ensued commencing over the North Sea about 50 miles from the Dutch Coast and ending at 2300 hours over Norfolk. Two brief AI contacts were made but faded quickly. The unidentified aircraft appeared to take efficient controlled evasive action.” [9]

‘Evasive action’ implies intelligent control and this incident raised fears that an enemy aircraft had intruded upon the exercise. However, it quickly became apparent that no Soviet aircraft could match the performance displayed by this ‘flying object’.

The incident was also linked to another ‘X raid’ tracked by earlier that same day. Shortly after 12 noon, Meteors of 74 and 245 Squadrons from RAF Horsham St. Faith were involved in interception practice under the control of the GCI at RAF Neatishead when an unidentified target was tracked at 30,000 feet over Norfolk. The Commanding Officer of 74 Squadron, Squadron Leader Cooksey was asked to divert and intercept but was unable to follow the target due to lack of fuel. Meteor call-sign Kremlin 34 was scrambled but ‘the aircraft disappeared out of range to the North of [Neatishead].” [10]

Flt Lt Richards recalled the concern which followed at the Air Ministry and he was ordered to write ‘a confidential report’ on the incident copied to HQ Fighter Command. “I would assume that the account of the Filter Room picture would have been included in a fuller report from 11 Group which would include similar reports – probably confidential and not included in the ORBs from the GCIs.” In summary, Richards said:

‘The event has always stuck in my memory as my only “encounter of the third kind” and although the term “UFO” was not in use then, we wondered if the wily Russians had produced some secret aircraft from a rapid development of German technology which we in the RAF were beginning to realise was so far ahead of our own.’ [11]

Six months later, in July 1947 the FBI agreed to help the USAAF’s embryonic study of ‘flying disks’ that would became Project Sign. One of a number of unexplained incidents forwarded to the bureau was a copy of the brief Air Ministry memo concerning the North Sea incident. [12] The Air Ministry case summary stated that: ‘…no explanation has been forthcoming, nor has it been repeated.’

This information was not entirely accurate, because a very similar incident had occurred just 24 hours after the North Sea incident. As a direct result, Fighter Command immediately extended its night radar watch. All stations were on alert to watch for the reappearance of ‘Charlie’. »

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