Australian UFO Researcher
Bill Chalker


Bill Chalker
Copyright © B. Chalker 2001

In a letter Stone wrote to the Director of Air Force Intelligence in 1973 he stated “ The original film was much clearer to view when shown on a screen and I can only presume that the use of them by the bodies of the USA Air Force, then their Navy Dept. plus our own Air Force and Navy caused them to get into the state they were when the blow up copies were made. I might add that I kept my promise to the official at the time when I was interviewed in Melbourne regarding same and they have never been shown publicly and only to executives of UFO Groups and Societies and then on a very select basis...”

During my January, 1982, file inspection of DAFI UFO files, I came across an envelope in part 3 of the 574/3/88 enquiry file series, amongst 1973 material. The envelope was stamped “Photo Section Base Sqn. RAAF Base. Fairbairn, ACT”. The envelope had written on it “DRURY FILM PRINTS AND NEGATIVES.” There were no prints in the envelope. Five separate print negatives were present.

I requested copies of prints, along with asking DAFI to send copies to Tom Drury. Eventually the negatives themselves were sent to me, from which I produced my own copies, and then returned the negatives to DAFI. The 5 prints are reproduced as an appendix.

I have earlier described how these prints came about via the RAAF borrowing Fred Stones copies during 1973. Stone had originally received the 5 prints back in 1955, from the RAAF. 94 prints of allegedly each frame of the footage returned from the United States in 1954 were copied for Edgar Jarrold. The DAFI files indicate he was sent 94 prints during July, 1954. If Jarrold wanted to keep any, he was to be charged for them. Jarrold, in a letter to William McMahon, Minister for Air, dated August 10th, 1954, stated that the 94 Drury prints “have been studied closely, upon which it has been found that, as you stated, but little actual details can be learnt of the object’s composition.” Jarrold selected 5 particular prints “which are considered to contain most details”, and the balance of 89, according to his letter, were returned. Of the prints, Jarrold indicated “none are numbered, or possess distinguishing features capable of description.” The RAAF formed the opinion that the 89 prints had not been returned and requested payment. Jarrold disputed this and indicated he had only retained the 5 specified in his letter of August 10th. Finally Jarrold returned the 5 prints. These were no doubt the 5 prints (or copies of them) that were sent to Fred Stone in 1955.

In correspondence with New Zealand researcher Harold Fulton dated July 12, 1954, Jarrold wrote he had received a letter which contained “the most favourable news we have ever received.” Jarrold indicated the letter was a lengthy communication from the Department of Air in Melbourne, which included prints of the Drury film. Curiously he added, “The Port Moresby prints were despatched to us from the Dept. of the Navy in Melbourne, simultaneously.” Why Jarrold would receive prints from both the Air and Navy departments is puzzling. Rather enigmatically he wrote, “The contents of the official Dept. of Air communication are highly confidential in their nature, and cannot be discussed by me in detail at present.” The reality was a little more prosaic. The July 7th letter came from the Minister for Air, Bill McMahon, in which he said of the Drury film prints, they “are of very little value in establishing any details of the object.” McMahon also rejected Jarrold’s earlier suggestions of “official liaison” between the RAAF and AFSB, due to the precedent possibly leading to “some embarrassing requests (which) would be difficult to refuse.” However, McMahon wrote, “I think however it might well be of mutual advantage if unofficial liaison could be established, and I suggest that perhaps when next you are in Melbourne, you would like to call at Air Force Headquarters to discuss the subject with the Directorate of Air Force Intelligence.” Jarrold wasted not time in taking up McMahon’s suggestion and a meeting occurred on July 19, 1954, with DAFI representative, Squadron Leader Birch. According to Jarrold, the Drury film was not specifically discussed, but he later stated, in a statement about the meeting, “The possibility of test missiles being involved in some sightings was strongly discounted by Birch, who ridiculed a suggestion that such aerial objects, if launched, for instance, from Woomera, would be seen over far distant inhabited areas.”

Jarrold outlined the behaviour of the Drury object to Fulton, in a letter dated July 25, 1954, claiming the Department of Air still regarded as “unexplained”. “The object’s behaviour alone rules out that of any conventional terrestrial object, including a meteor.” He made the drawing below, specifying “the object as recorded on the film itself, behaved thus, - as it emerged from a small, suddenly formed cloud, disappearing off the edge of the film as it raced from sight.” Given that none of the photos were numbered, it is difficult to see how he could be certain about the right angle turns he indicated. The cloud would have been the only reference point in an otherwise clear sky, and apparently Jarrold indicated that the cloud had disappeared off the edge of the film.

On 16th October, 1999, I visited the Australian Archives in Canberra. The main reason for my visit was that I had confirmed via an internet data base search, the presence of the file 114/1/197, with a data range of “Oct.53-Apr55”. This I immediately realised was the long missing first part of the DAFI/RAAF UFO files. 114/1/197 Part 2 was recovered under the 580 series Part 1 started in 1955. Searches by DAFI itself in 1966 & 1969 failed to locate the missing part 1. It was not found during my file access during 1982 - 84, so it was a real surprise to see it turn up in the Australian archives.

Attached to the inside front cover of file series 114/1/197 Part 1, were 3 pages of handwritten points on minute sheet stationary. A number of these refer to the handling of the Drury footage: (Right)

The Bluebook file (case 2689} on the Drury case is scant and the cover form contradictory. Initially it has Photos with “No” typed over (XX - presumably to indicate photos were involved), then in texta “Yes” is “X-ed over with the annotation “Not recd”. (ie. not received). (Page 7 Top Left)

Comdr ATIC requested a copy of the Drury footage dated 21 1430Z SEP 53 with replies to be referenced to TIC-5209. Lt. Col. H.C. Johnston, USAF, chief, Electronics branch authorised the request for the film, which was originated by A/lc Max G. Futch. There was a 10 Sep 53 telex apparently from Col. John Sullivan, USAF US Air Attache, Melbourne, to Lt. Col. George Uhrich, ATIC WPAFB re the Drury footage.

Recently via my review of RAAF DAFI files in Canberra I found Sullivan’s 5th March 1954 communication to DAFI which stated “Returned herewith is the 8mm film belonging to Mr Drury which you were so kind to lend this office (The Foreign Service of the USA -Office of the Air Attache American Embassy -BC). It would be very much appreciated by my Headquarters if you could obtain for this office a copy of this film for permanent retention in Washington.”

DAFI responded 24/2/54 (sic? Must be 24/3/54): “Extensive enquiries in Melbourne reveal that possibly the only country in the world which is capable of making a copy of the film is the United Kingdom, and therefore some difficulty would be experienced in getting a copy made for your Headquarters. This would explain the apparent oversight by your own people in not making a copy when they had the film available.”

Stills were offered instead. It seems astonishing that while in the USA a copy may not have been made? This confirms the footage left Australia in the last week in November, 1953, and was sent to Headquarters, USAF, by “normal USAF service channels.” So this establishes the film, or a copy of it, was in US hands from end November, 1953 through to 5th March, 1954.

The Drury film - the “holy grail” of ufology?
The original Drury film, which allegedly held the UFO image, became something of a “holy grail” for Australian ufology. A number of efforts were made over the years to secure the film and further information about the affair. All largely met with failure. The Victorian UFO Research Society sought information about the film in 1966. In the DAFI UFO files, I examined in 1982, there was clear evidence that a serious attempt was made to track the film down. A previously confidential RAAF document handwritten in 1966 and entitled “Summary of the effort made to rediscover present whereabouts of the allegedly ‘excised’ frames of Mr. T. Drury’s Famous 1953 movie film of the Port Moresby ‘UFO sighting’”, concluded: “The upshot is that the ‘excised’ frames either still in DAFI archives, have been destroyed or (perish the thought) have been lost.” (Right)
At the time the Secretary of the Department of Air (the forerunner of the Department of Defence (Air Office)) chose instead to advise the Victorian UFO Research Society that the file and film had been destroyed. This clearly seems to have been a politically motivated move designed to discourage further enquiries. If it was intended to be that, it failed. Enquiries would continue, such was the fascination and sway of the Drury film saga.

The RAAF document indicated, “Co CPE states that there are several RAAF & ex RAAF photographers who remember handling negatives of the 1953 Port Moresby film. But that, at CPE, there is no record of the negatives having been absorbed into the CPE system.” The document writer, Squadron Leader B.W. Fearon, felt that DAFI must have passed the negatives over to CPE for reproduction as required. The JIB photo also checked its records with no results. Sqd. Ldr. Fearon wrote that he had seen enlarged versions of the Drury frames. Other officers who may have seen the film were listed as Wing Commander Gilson, DFC and Wg. Cdr. Paget.

Further civilian enquiries in 1973 prompted yet another file search. This time DAFI determined that they had made available prints of the film to civil researchers back in 1954.

Through Fred Stone the RAAF managed to gain a copy of the same prints the RAAF had provided him back in 1954. It is these third generation copies of prints from several frames of the Drury film that now reside in the RAAF files. I arranged for the RAAF to send copies of the prints (albeit poor in quality) to Tom Drury. The affair does not speak highly of the much vaunted “cover-up” claims.

The remaining film is examined and considered
On September 27th, 2000, Tom Drury’s nephew, Bill Drury, made available to me a copy of the print of the film Tom received back from authorities during 1954. The colour film shows the native spear fisherman, a speedboat on the harbour and then immediately cuts to about 5.8 seconds of footage, apparently the end of the filming of the UFO/contrail. This section resembles, or is, a thin contrail-like image that is continuously moving up at about a 45 degree angle, just as described by Tom Drury. It seems clear that this remaining footage is a composite from the original. Paul Drury, Tom’s son, was present during the incident. He recollects that his father had started filming with a fresh 8 mm roll of film, with the native spear fishing, the speedboat on the harbour. Tom then started filming the cloud and the object that shot out of it until it was in the distance. He feels certain that his father ran the whole role of film out during the incident. This suggests that there may have been a significant amount of footage present on the “missing section”. Tom and his son are certain that the cloud was filmed. Even Jarrold claims that he saw the cloud on some of the 94 prints he received from authorities in 1954. We don’t know if they were sequential frames, but Jarrold came up with his trajectory, which included right angles movements, that no one else reported, including Tom Drury.

Paul Drury was certain that the UFO was not out of sight when they left the harbour shore returning home. He was keeping his father informed of its presence still in the sky as they drove back up the hill road to their home. This aspect introduces another uncertainty, for Paul and his mother recollect that the motion of the object was from right to left from their shoreline perspective. This contradicts Tom’s own statements, and given they are saying this after 47 years, there must be questions about how credible this point is. However Paul feels that this had to be the case as he would not have been able to keep the object in view as the car traveled up the hillside, after the filming, if the left to right motion was correct. Paul’s recollection is vivid and largely consistent with his father’s description. Paul made available the original camera for inspection - a French EMEL C.93 8 mm movie camera made by Berthiot, Paris. Researchers, Bruce Maccabee and Jim Klotz provided some technical comments. While 24 frames/second would be expected, the windup mechanism could mean variable speed as the spring unwound. 94 frames would run for 3.9 seconds (at 24 frames/sec), 5.22 (at 18), 5.52 (at 17) and 7.9 seconds (at 16 frames/sec). The number of frames in the remaining section have not been confirmed, but Bruce Maccabee points out that 5.8 seconds of footage, if it relates to the 94 frames in question (and this is uncertain, because Jarrold remarked on being able to see the cloud, and the segment I viewed of about 5.8 seconds does not feature any apparent cloud) would work out to 16.2 frames/second. If 25 foot reels were involved, with possibly a standard 80 frames per foot, then 2000 frames covering between 125 seconds (at 16 frames/sec) to 83 seconds (at 24 frames/sec) of filming time may have been involved. About 44 seconds is taken up with the native spear fishing and the speedboats, leaving between 39 to 81 seconds of possible UFO footage, assuming the film length and number of frames per foot are correct. In any event there does appear to be some unaccounted for footage. If it was available, then perhaps a worthwhile analysis might be possible. Its absence makes for considerable uncertainty.

While a definite identification has not been confirmed, the object Tom Drury filmed on August 23rd, 1953, over Port Moresby, might have been a “missile”. Until certainty is determined the Drury “silver dart” remain an unidentified flying object - a UFO that has commanded extraordinary attention from official and civilian circles, been cultivated as “the holy grail” of ufology, and been the centre of an extraordinary controversy. I hope this study has revealed a clearer perspective on this fascinating affair.

As part of the research into the Drury affair, I contacted other researchers. John Auchettl and PRA were contacted to see if they had an pertinent information. PRA wanted to formalise an “exchange of data”, with them indicating they had “9 folder documents (A3), 4 b/w - colour, 15 35mm slides, 3 tapes, ? Press (lots!), 18 Letters, 12 Extra (?)” relevant to the Drury affair. After a period of clarification and confusion about the nature of the “PRA/BC exchange”, on December 12, 2000, I sent them basically what you see in this article. On January 9th, 2001, I received advice from PRA that they consider my material as “poor quality” and that none of it was “unique” or advanced “current public knowledge of the case”, but in order to satisfy PRA’s “exchange obligations” they would organise “a limited image & data set ... from that file collection”, would be facilitated by January 16th, 2001. I made it clear to PRA that I did not agree with their characterisation of my data. Following my sending emails on February 20th, March 3rd and 5th, all of which went unacknowledged as of March 9th, I decided to procede with publication of my report, through submission to the “Australasian Ufologist”. There you as the “public” can determine if my report is as characterised by PRA. I invite PRA to publish their data here as well in order that the public can be fully informed.

Extracts from “Fire Across The Desert” of Possible Relevance to the 1953 Drury UFO Film Incident
The following extracts from “Fire across the Desert - Woomera and the Anglo-Australian Joint Project 1946-1980” by Peter Morton, AGPS Press, 1989, are included here as pertinent information about the possibility of the Drury UFO being a firing from Woomera. The DAFI handwritten note seems to rule out a Woomera firing as the answer. The evidence here, from Morton’s excellent study of Woomera, does not seem to support the Woomera missile firings as an answer either. This does not rule out the firing of a ship borne missile out to sea from Moresby. The period seems to preclude this possibility, but requires further research.

“The first Seaslug firings were at Aberporth in 1949, beginning as usual with simple test vehicles. The program did not begin in earnest at Woomera until 1953, except for a short prelude in April 1950 when two boosted Seaslug dummies were fired at Range G to train the staff in handling large missiles. The next launches came in June and July 1953, and were of three Separation Test Vehicles (STVs) fired by LRWE at the prime contractor’s request. These were again Seaslug dummies with an abbreviated body of 5 metres, each with its set of jettisonable boost motors. In this case, though, the STVs had eight external motors coupled together in pairs. The boosts separated when they ceased thrusting; air drag forced them backwards, locking pins released, and the empty canisters fell away. All three STVs flew and separated correctly, although secondary experiments using recovery parachutes failed.”

“From the middle of 1953 until late in 1954 Blue Boar shared Range A 1 with another project. The old idea of a long range bombardment weapon had survive many vicissitudes and had at last hardened into a definite project called Red Rapier. Red Rapier was to be a big 13.4 metre flying bomb launched from a catapult. It would have had a wingspan of 10 metres, a warhead (presumably nuclear) of 500 pounds, and three Rolls-Royce SOAR engines. It should not be confused with the later Rapier mobile missile/launcher system. The development of Red Rapier was also in the hands of Vickers, who were working to a MoS specification. Vickers began by building at their Weybridge plant a number of unpowered one-third scale models. Twelve of these-they looked like a big model aeroplanes-were dropped over Range AI from a Washington bomber. They were programmed to do certain manoeuvres to gain aerodynamic data and to test the automatic pilot for the full-sized aircraft. The recovery phase was under radio control. A cluster of three parachutes deployed and a nose weight and the wings separated to fall free to the ground. On one trial the radio command for recovery was accidentally transmitted while the model was still in the Washington’s bomb bay. The parachutes deployed with a shock that nearly threw the pilot through the windscreen, and then tore themselves to shreds and wrapped around the tailplan. The nose weight was thrown clear and almost hit an observing Mustang nearby. After this mishap and the rest of the uneventful model trials, Range A 1 closed for good.”

“Cockatoo, a large rocket 6.3 metres in length, made its debut in early 1970 replacing the obsolete HAD. It employed a British Gosling 1 motor as its boost and with the Australian Lupus as the second stage reached 130 kilometres. Over sixty Cockatoos were launched during the next five years, about two-thirds of them being falling sphere trials as a resumption of the earlier HAD program. Cockatoo, however, had greater capabilities and most of its other trials were lithium-trail experiments to measure winds and turbulence at about 80 kilometres altitude. It also made measurements of ozone concentration, ultra-violet radiation and other ionospheric conditions.”

Source: The Australasian Ufologist Magazine Vol.5 No.2 Pgs 4-13 (Illustrated/Photos)


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