Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Saucers and Special Branch

Certain people in Ufology laughed and were highly skeptical when, in 2006, I wrote a book called On the Trail of the Saucer Spies, in which I mentioned how a retired British police source told me that, back in the 1990s, the British Police Force's Special Branch opened files on two UFO researchers in the UK, namely Matthew Williams and Robin Cole.

Those same certain people should have kept their mouths firmly shut.

The files on Cole and Williams (or, rather, some of the files; others still remain classified to this day) were finally officially released in 2012, showing that Special Branch was indeed watching both men, demonstrating that the data provided to me years ago was accurate. 

When, in 2012, the documents were declassified, the National Archives prepared the following statement concerning their contents:

"File DEFE 24/1984/1 (p294) contains a 1996 Parliamentary Question from Martin Redmond MP asking on how many occasions MI6 and GCHQ have monitored UFO investigations. This was interpreted to mean 'have the agencies been keeping watch on UFOlogists.' A background briefing says 'neither agency in fact undertakes such activity, though GCHQ cannot rule out the possibility' they had monitored 'in other contexts individuals who have made a study of UFOs'. The MP was told the government do not comment on the intelligence and security agencies (p298). File DEFE 24/1987/1 (p262-65) reveals that in 1997 Special Branch took an interest in a UFOlogist who became obsessed with rumours of a secret UFO facility beneath RAF Rudloe Manor in Wiltshire. The base had become known as the British equivalent of the secret US military airbase 'Area 51' among conspiracy theorists. An internal note said 'Special Branch…do not believe he poses a specific threat to security, but they are alert to the risk that others may use him as a conduit for their activities.'"

Well, since the summary failed to note the names of the people in question, I will. They were, of course, Cole and Williams - as I had been told during the course of writing On the Trail of the Saucer Spies.

Back in 1997, Robin Cole, of Cheltenham, England - the home to GCHQ (the Government Communications Headquarters) - wrote a fascinating report on the agency's involvement in the UFO phenomenon. And, for those who may not be aware, GCHQ is the UK equivalent of the US National Security Agency.

After Cole's report was published, he was visited by two representatives of the UK's Special Branch. And since the pair announced their visit in advance (via a phone-call), Robin had the good sense to clandestinely and quickly set up his tape-recorder in his living-room and taped the entire conversation, much of which revolved around Special Branch's interest in a UFO researcher and Crop Circle maker named Matthew Williams - who just happens to be the "UFOlogist who became obsessed" with RAF Rudloe Manor, as referenced by National Archives staff above.

Now we see further evidence of Special Branch involvement in the UFO subject.

Not in terms of what UFOs are (or are not), but in relation to things that, in many ways, are far more interesting, thought-provoking, and alternative.

This was precisely the reason for the Cole/Williams surveillance issue too - namely, Special Branch's concerns that both the UFO controversy and the people that investigate it could be used as tools of manipulation by hostile groups with controversial, political agendas.


  1. Nick - So I take it the concern was/is that Williams would try to breach the security of the base? Am I reading that right?

  2. Tom, Yeah what happened is that Matthew spent years digging into stories that RAF Rudloe Manor was a kind of UK "Hangar 18," with alien bodies stored there etc. Matt, on several occasions, jumped the fence and got into the grounds of the base, and even into the huge tunnels below the base. Special Branch developed a theory that Matt's UFO research was a cover for gathering regular military info (of a non-UFO nature) for hostile groups, like even the IRA. Of course, Matt had no connections at all to the IRA, but Special Branch did investigate that theory for a while, until they finally realized he was just someone chasing down UFOs. He was finally viewed by them as a pain in the neck, rather than a threat to national security. But they opened extensive files on him.

  3. While I have you - I read what you've previously written about the Roswell Slides fiasco. Not to hash out the whole thing again, but specifically I'm curious as to your thoughts on how this reflects on Richard Dolan. He's a guy a lot of enthusiasts bought into, whole cloth. Now, to me, he appears to be damaged goods. Actually, I think he HAS been damaged goods for some time now. And, despite his protestations, he did indeed endorse the slides when he spoke on that stage in Mexico City. It's interesting to see him attempt to squirm out of this debacle.

  4. Tom, For me it's one thing to debate and muse on the slides. It's a very different thing to speak on them at an event on the slides, an event which people are paying money to see. We're now seeing the fall-out of that ridiculous event, with people saying "refund," etc. Quite understandably too. If people get involved in this kind of thing, they can only expect the responses, the reactions, and the comments they are now seeing, when it all falls apart. The sensible approach would have been to stay away.

  5. The data was questionable, the slide was low-res, there were claims that lacked support, etc, so if a person goes along with all that, they have NO-ONE but themselves to blame if they go along with it.

  6. Agreed. What peaks my interest is how Dolan has promulgated this image of being a high brow intellectual. And how many people not only bought into that silliness, but now remain entrenched with his faux-persona. He has a 4 year degree in history. Great. So what. Just like the people who have such low self-esteem they feel they must put initials after their name. I don't begrudge anybody from doing what they choose to do in life. Just be honest about what you do & who you are. One does not need a degree to succeed in ufolgy, or in life. I just can't stand his pretentious holier-than-thou attitude.

  7. Nick You are the MAN!! I've been into the paranormal for a while now but you have popped into my radar in recent years from your awesome commentary on shows like Monsters & Mysteries, Ancient Aliens, Hangar 1, etc but I especially LOVED your interviews with Cam & Kyle on Expanded Perspectives podcast. Just wanted to let you know that YOU ROCK!! & to keep up the great work. Love your blog etc. Thanks for always keeping us informed Nick! Take care. Kevy Kev St Augustine, FL