Australian UFO Researcher
Bill Chalker


Bill Chalker
(Copyright © B. Chalker - 1996)

The author is a leading Australian UFO researcher and a contributing editor to the International UFO Reporter. An industrial chemist with an honours science degree from the University of New England he has worked in quality assurance and laboratory management. His book, The OZ Files - the Australian UFO Story, was published in 1996. He coordinates the NSW based UFO Investigation Centre (UFOIC) and can be contacted at:

P.O. Box 42,
West Pennant Hills,
NSW, 2125
Telephone: (02) 9484 4680

*Sub Rosa: refers to "under the rose", meaning "in secret".


One of the most controversial radar visual reports of the fifties occurred on August 31st, 1954. The story leaked out in December, 1954, and made front page headlines. The official navy file on the event remained classified until the Directorate of Naval Intelligence released a copy upon my request in 1982.

During his 1973 visit to Australia, Dr. Hynek was able to interview the pilot involved in this famous incident, which became known as the "Sea Fury" encounter. Dr. Hynek made his notes on this interview available to me during my 1984 visit to the Chicago headquarters of his organisation, the Centre for UFO Studies (CUFOS). I, in turn, provided Dr. Hynek with a copy of the official file on the incident.

Lieutenant J.A. O'Farrell was returning to Royal Australian Navy Air Station Nowra after a night cross country in a Sea Fury aircraft. After contacting Nowra at about 1910 hours, O'Farrell saw a very bright light closing fast at one o'clock. It crossed in front of his aircraft taking up position on his port beam, where it appeared to orbit. A second and similar light was observed at nine o'clock. It passed about a mile in from of the Sea Fury and then turned in the position where the first light was observed.

According to O'Farrell, the apparent crossing speeds of the lights were the fastest he had ever encountered. He had been flying at 220 knots. O'Farrell contacted Nowra who in turn confirmed that they had two radar "paints" in company with him. The radar operator, Petty Officer Keith Jessop, confirmed the presence of 2 objects near the Sea Fury on the G.C.I. remote display. The two lights reformed at nine o'clock and then disappeared on a north easterly heading.

O'Farrell could only make out "a vague shape with the white light situated centrally on top." The Directorate of Naval Intelligence at the time wrote that O'Farrell was "an entirely credible witness" and that he "was visibly 'shaken' by his experience, but remains adamant that he saw these objects"

In a recent interview, "Shamus" O'Farrell described the incident:

"I said, "Nowra, this is 921. Do you have me on radar." "And a few seconds later they came back and said, "Affirmative 921. We have you coming in from the west. We have another two contacts as well. Which one are you."

"I said, "I think I'm the central one." And so they said, "Do a 180...for identification." So I did a quick 180 and then continued on around and made it a 360 back to where I was going.

"They said, "Yes, we've got you. You're the centre aircraft." I said that's correct. They then said to me, "Who are the other two aircraft," and I said, "I don't know. I was hoping you would tell me, because I didn't think there was anyone up here. "They said, "Well there shouldn't be, and they certainly shouldn't be that close to you."

"So the conversation went on like this and I was very pleased to be talking to somebody because it gave me a lot of reassurance. With that these two aircraft came in quite close to me and I could really see the dark mass and that they were quite big, but I couldn't make out any other lights or any other form of an aircraft. With that they took off and headed off to the north east at great speed.

"I was about to press the button and tell them at Nowra that the two aircraft were departing when Nowra called me up and said, "The other two aircraft appear to be departing at high speed to the north east. Is that correct?" and I said, "Yes!". And they said, "Roger, we'll see if we can track them." They tracked them for a while and then lost them. "I came in and landed at 7.30 (1930) and when I got there there were quite a few people waiting for me.

I thought it was a bit strange and so they came over, and they said, "You sure you had aircraft out there!", and I said yes. The Surgeon Commander came over and spoke to me. He said did I feel sick, or was I upset. I said no. He ran his hand over my head to see whether I had any bumps. He had a look at me and decided I was okay. So then he said, "Perhaps you'd like to come to the sick bay after you've changed and we'll do an examination.

" So after I was finished I went up to sick bay and he gave me a more thorough medical, and said, no, I appeared to be alright. I found out later, that at the same time, they checked to make sure I hadn't been drinking before I took off and all that sort of thing."

During this interview, Dr. Hynek's involvement came up:

"This man (Hynek) - a professor - had made a study of thousands of sightings all around the world and he had decided my sighting was one of those that he had not been able to explain away by other means. Any way I had a talk with him. He was a very interesting chap and he made the comment that there were about 13 or 15, I don't remember, sightings that he was aware of over the years that were like mine and could not be explained away.

The interesting thing he said was that all of these sightings had been made by professional people in aviation. By that he meant they were military pilots, military air crew, civil aviation operators, air traffic controllers, and the like, or airline pilots. These were the ones he was now (1973) going around meeting the people themselves and investigating.

All the others he had written off and had been able to explain down to some other phenomena. It came to the point where he said, "Your sighting cannot be explained away." And he left it at that. To this day I wouldn't know where it came from or where it went."

I have had the opportunity to talk extensively with Shamus O'Farrell. I was particularly interested in how the interview with Dr. Hynek in 1973 came about:

"It was done through Sir Arthur Tange, who was secretary of the Department of Defence at the time. Hynek contacted him direct.... Sir Arthur Tange contacted me and said Hynek was coming out. He had written to him, through the US Embassy, to set up a meeting....

And the next thing I knew I had a telephone call one day from Sir Arthur Tange saying that Hynek was coming and he would like me to met him. I said, well, I haven't got all the facts, there all a bit hazy. So he sent me the two Defence Department files over to read, to refresh it all."

Bill Chalker: "That seems to indicate a high level of interest in Hynek's visit at the time?"

"Yes, well, I don't think so. All that happened was that it was more of a courtesy because he was a very important guy, Hynek, and they wanted to show him the courtesies etc. As far as Defence was concern it was dead and forgotten but they had not got rid of the files. They kept them. Normally when files like that are written off they are either decided they'll put them in Archives or dispose of them and destroy them.

But they had done neither. They had remained in the JIO. They'd kept them. I don't know what they had in mind about it, I never questioned it. I just used them as a means to refresh my memory.

"Later the guy who became the chief Defence scientist, John Farrands, was very interested in it too, and he had done a lot of early investigations in most of the reports when he was chief defence scientist and in the period just before he became chief defence scientist. He had a talk with me. I was a friend of his. I use to meet with him at lunch.

He went over it in great detail. He knew it all. He agreed it was something that couldn't be refuted. No matter how hard they tried, and they tried very hard to knock it all back. They checked everything from medical, down to when was the last time I had had a drink..."

Bill Chalker:   "That must have been a bit of a concern to you?"

"Well, I wanted to hush it all up. That sort of investigation made me look a bit of a fool. I was worried it wasn't going to do my career any good. "(Apart from the radar witness) it locked in a sighting over the NDB (non directional beacon) at Narulan, at the same time. There happened to be a guy working on the NDB. It was down at the time. He had gone to repair it.

He happened to look up at the time because he saw these lights fly overhead. Also the air traffice control officer in the tower at Mascot saw them approaching him. "It was all investigated by the then RAAF guy who did it and later it was also investigated by the Joint Intelligence Bureau."

In 1993 I assisted The Extraordinary television programme with a recreation of the Sea Fury incident. Shamus O'Farrell, Keith Jessop and I were interviewed on the show. The case stands as one of the best unexplained radar visual UFO cases on record in Australia.


It was not long after this that the RAAF asked JIB to take "the UFO problem" over. On April 1st. 1957, Group Captain A.D. Henderson, the Director of Air Force Intelligence, wrote to W.H. King, the Director of the Joint Intelligence Bureau (JIB):

Investigations into reports of UFOs

1. This Department frequently receives reports direct from civilians, or passed on by other departments, of unidentified flying objects. We also receive requests for assistance and advice from various "Flying Saucer Research societies".

2. Many of these reports presumably cover such mundane things as meteorological and astronomical phenomena; others appear to be inexplicable [my emphasis - B.C.]. Most of them are outside the aeronautical field.

3. As your branch has now established a scientific Intelligence Section, it would appear that these reports could best be investigated and evaluated by one of your Scientific Research officers, who will have a broader background of knowledge of this type of phenomena than anyone in this Directorate.

4. If you agree that you can accept this commitment I will be glad to make available all the papers which we have acquired, to date, on this subject."

While the official files do not reveal a reply from JIB Director Harry King, Harry Turner, who would later become a JIB scientist and their liaison man with DAFI, told me that JIB rejected the RAAF overture. The clandestine side of JIB did not want "a bar of it", as they considered they would then be caught up in what they regarded as a complex conjectural matter, which might drag them into the limelight - the last thing an intelligence organisation would want. Turner would try to set up a "rapid intervention" UFO team during the late 1960s within the Defence Science and Technical Organisation (DSTO).

Harry Turner's JIB superior was R.H. Mathams, the Director of Scientific Intelligence and author of the book Sub Rosa - Memoirs of an Australian Intelligence Analyst (1982). Harry King appointed Bob Mathams as the first Australian scientific intelligence analyst in May, 1955. His initial secondment ended in mid 1957. In October, 1958 he rejoined JIB as the first head of their Scientific Intelligence Branch. Bob Mathams indicated to me that his Directorate of Scientific and Technical Intelligence (DSTI) "had only a marginal interest in UFOs."

"Our analytical resources were limited and I had to take the position that we could not afford to become too involved in investigation of UFO sightings until we had reasonable grounds for believing that they were of foreign - as opposed to alien - origin. We relied on DAFI to make the initial investigations and, at times, assisted in the interpretation of the resulting data.

" He advised me that his "interest ( as DSTI) in UFO sightings was aroused only when there was sufficient evidence to suggest that they may have been connected with or caused by foreign scientific or technological developments. There were only one or two that fitted that category We never really decided who would take responsibility for further investigation if it were shown, convincingly, that a UFO sighting in Australia was of extra-terrestrial origin".

The Joint Intelligence Organisation (the reorganised JIB) maintains a secret BOLIDE file. It still seems to be anchored to the premise that "UFOs" could involve the chance of retrieval of Soviet hardware and therefore contribute some useful intelligence. It appears JIO have a "rapid intervention" capability as they have been able to institute prompt widespread ground searches in suspected "hardware" crashes. They do this through "special access" channels. This operation may be similiar to US activity operating under the code name Project Moondust.


Air Marshal Sir George Jones, who was Chief of Air Staff (RAAF) during World War Two and also undertook what appears to have been the earliest RAAF investigation into UFOs way back in 1930, observed a UFO on October 16th, 1957. He described it as "a brilliant white light at the bottom of a shadowy shape like a transparent balloon", which travelled very quickly and silently at about 400 mph at some 1,500 feet altitude.

Sir George was certain it was not a meteor or reflected light. He described it as travelling in "a purposeful way." He added, "Nothing could shake me from my belief in what I saw. But I wished I had 4 or 5 witnesses. I have reported it, but have been loath to talk of it publically lest people should think I was either an incompetent witness or getting a little screwy in the head".

I had the pleasure of interviewing Sir George about his UFO reminiscences in 1988 when he was 92. I found him to be remarkably lucid in his recollections and certainly would not attribute to him any thoughts of being "a little screwy in the head". One only has to read his autobiography, From Private to Air Marshall, published in 1988, to realise just how remarkable and impressively credentialed a witness he was!


During September and October, 1957, nuclear weapons test series, codenamed ANTLER, were undertaken at Maralinga, South Australia, with kilotonne range nuclear explosions being detonated on September 25th and October 9th. The site was subject to intense security. During that period the integrity of the facility was challenged in an extraordinary fashion.

Just before dusk one evening Royal Air Force Corporal Derek Murray and some colleagues were called out of the Maralinga village canteen to witness a UFO hovering apparently silently over the airfield. The UFO was described as a "magnificent sight", being silver/blue in colour, of a metallic lustre, with a line of "windows" or "portholes" along its edge.

Corporal Murray states that the object could be seen so clearly that they could make out what appeared to be plating on the objects surface. The duty air traffic controller also ostensibly witnessed the spectacle. He allegedly checked Alice Springs and Edinburgh airfields who reported they did not have anything over their areas. No photographs were taken as

the top security status of the area required that all cameras be locked away. These had to be signed in and out when used. After about 15 minutes (as dusk began to fall) the aerial object left swiftly and silently. In a statement to UK researcher Jenny Randles, which he also sent to me, Murray stated, "I swear to you as a practising Christian this was no dream, no illusion, no fairy story but a solid craft of metallic construction".


In 1959 Papua New Guinea was still a territory of Australia. June of that year saw the spectacular "entity" sightings of Reverend Gill and members of his Boainai mission.

As indicated by his notes made at the time and in numerous interviews, Rev. Gill saw a bright white light in the north western sky. It appeared to be approaching the mission. The object appeared to be hovering between three and four hundred feet up. Eventually 38 people, including Rev. Gill, Steven Gill Moi (a teacher), Ananias Rarata (a teacher) and Mrs. Nessie Moi, gathered to watch the main UFO, which looked like a large ,disc-shaped object.

It was apparently solid and circular with a wide base and narrower upper deck. The object appeared to have 4 "legs" underneath it. There also appeared to be about 4 "panels" or "portholes" on the side of the object, which seemed to glow a little brighter than the rest. At a number of intervals the object produced a shaft of blue light which shone upwards into the sky at an angle of about 45 degrees.

What looked like "men" came out of the object, onto what seemed to be a deck on top of the object. There were 4 men in all, occassionally 2, then one, then 3, then 4. The shaft of blue light and the "men" disappeared. The object then moved through some clouds. There were other UFO sightings during the night.

The major civilian groups of the day, in a spirit of new found cooperation inspired by the significance of the Boianai observations, distributed copies of Reverend Gill's own sighting report to all members of the House of Representatives of Australia's federal parliament. A circular letter accompanied the report, signed by the presidents of the participating civilian UFO groups, urging members of parliament to press the Minister for Air for a statement about the attitude Air Force Intelligence had of the New Guinea reports.

On November 24th, 1959, in federal parliament, Mr. E.D. Cash, a Liberal politician from Western Australia asked the Minister for Air, Mr. F.M. Osborne, whether his department (specifically Air Force Intelligence) had investigated   "reports of recent sightings of mysterious objects in the skies over Papua and New Guinea."

The Minister's reply did not address this question, but instead he focused on the general situation indicating that most sightings were explained and "that only a very small percentage -- something like 3 percent -- of reported sightings of flying objects cannot be explained".

Peter Norris, VFSRS president, was advised by the Directorate of Air Force Intellience that the Department was awaiting "depth of evidence" on the New Guinea sightings. However the department hadn't even interviewed Father Gill. Given the growing political fallout, the Minister for Defence requested a report on "the alleged sightings of UFOs in the Boianai area of NG by Rev. W.B. Gill."

The RAAF finally visited Rev. Gill on December 29th , 1959. Rev. Gill's recollections of the visit were that the 2 RAAF officers from Canberra talked about stars and planets and then left. He indicates that he heard no more from them. The interviewing officer, Squadron Leader F.A. Lang, AI1 DAFI, concluded after what could have only been best described as a cursory investigation that:

Although the Reverend Gill could be regarded as a reliable observer, it is felt that the June/July incidents could have been nothing more than natural phenomena coloured by past events and subconscious influences of UFO enthusiasts. During the period of the report the weather was cloudy and unsettled with light thunder storm.

Although it is not possible to draw firm conclusions, an analysis of rough bearings and angles above the horizon does suggest that at least some of the lights observed were the planets Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. Light refraction, the changing position of the planet relative to the observer and cloud movement would give the impression of size and rapid movement.

In addition varying cloud densities could account for the human shapes and their sudden appearance and disappearance".

A close analysis of the reports argues powerfully that the RAAF "explanation" of "either known planets seen through fast moving cloud, or natural phenomena" was unsatisfactory. The Boianai "visitants" still stand as remarkable evidence for an impressive aerial anomaly and are regarded as some of the best entity reports on record.


The following bizarre story immerses us in the shadowy world of alleged clandestine UFO tales of UFO cover-up. It does not constitute proof of anything, but is an intriguing example of the "rumours" that pervade ufology. Late in 1959, Fred Stone ran a story in his publication, the Australian Saucer Record, that brought an immediate response from official quarters.

Generally the stories that populated the pages of the civilian UFO publications were largely ignored. This one, however, appeared to have stepped on officialdom's sensitivities. The story's headline was less than subtle:

AIR FORCE MEN? Seize Cameras and Films!!!

Fred Stone's story purported to be based on testimony given to him by one of the men involved. Allegedly during Easter, 1954, near the border of South Australia and West Australia, 3 men in a car were followed by a flying saucer for up to 50 miles. They reported that the saucer was low enough for them to see portholes. At its closest point, about 100 yards, and at some 50 feet altitude, the young men were able to take 92 photos with 5 cameras.

Some of the closeups would show "the undersides with a three ball landing type gear." The men reported the incident to the police at the next town. The police reportedly rang Air Control at Salisbury. The men were detained and a helicopter allegedly turned up from Edinburgh field. Two Air Force officers disembarked from the helicopter. They interrogated the young men and confiscated the cameras and film. The men were warned not to discuss the matter with anyone.

Stone writes that two weeks later their cameras were returned to them via registered post, with letters warning them not to tell anyone of their experience. According to Stone's account, one of the men was able to secure one of the photos, but it was "the worst of the series taken."

There were many problems with the article as published which makes one question its legitimacy. However the RAAF contacted Stone and as a result he declined to mention the incident any further. Two estranged Stone coworkers, Colin McCarthy and Peter Thomas, attempted to find out more from Stone without success.

McCarthy and Thomas enlisted a contact with RAAF connections who, on their behalf, interviewed Stone and the alleged helicopter pilot. Stone would not supply any further information, but the pilot, Flt. Lt. Jack Epsy, may have supplied indirect confirmation of the event. He refused to supply any direct confirmation of the event, but showed the contact the flight log of the helicopter.

Without comment he revealed that the log pages for the day in question had been removed! The contact took this as being Epsy's way of confirming the event, without compromising his security oaths. He indicated that he was operating out of Lake Hart near Woomera and that the helicopter was operational at the time. This completely contradicts the statements of the RAAF officer who interviewed Thomas.

Peter Thomas was interviewed by RAAF officers on December 15th, 1959, about his knowledge of the incident. The interview with Flight Lieutenant L. Longland went as follows:

Thomas (T):   "Only what I have read in the magazine I have no personal knowledge of it. I'm interested in it, of course, because it looked to me like a first-class hoax. If it's a hoax, of course, it should be suppressed... but I gather that Fred (Stone) has been allowed to publish it, so I suppose it must be genuine."

L:   "Not necessarily."

T:   "Well, if it weren't genuine, surely an official denial would have been issued."

L:   "No, it's not policy to deny these things. It doesn't say RAAF or RAF...

T:   "But still, there's only one Air Force in Australia."

L:  "Well, I don't know: there's RAF, and there are experimental things: it could be American - it could be civilian force doesn't identify itself."

T:   "I was flabbergasted when I saw it published like that, because I couldn't understand how he could get away with publishing a thing like that unless it were true, and if it were true, he's got no proof."

L:  "It couldn't possibly be true: there are so many inaccuracies in it."

T:  "You mean the story as it is printed couldn't be true, but it could be founded on fact?"

L:  "No....they say here...."inform the police at the next town"...."Immediately rang air control at Salisbury" ....presumably Edinburgh - there's no such thing as Air Control at Salisbury .... distance approximately 200 miles. 17 miles from the W.A. border is 627 miles from Edinburgh ... helicopter couldn't do it in under a day's travel no Air Force personnel in their right mind would send a helicopter that far on a mission such as that....the only helicopter in the RAAF at that time was on the ground and in pieces. That wouldn't be known generally - that's known to us."

Upon further discussion Flt.Lt. Longland indicated:

"...You should be very well aware that ("flying saucer sightings") are not disregarded.... The Government of Australia has set up a perfectly efficient organisation for investigating UFOs .... and they have vested the authority in the Department of Civilian Aviation .... "There isn't any such thing as an official Air Force position; as far as U.F.O.s are concerned we are not interested We don't refer to flying saucers - there is no such thing as far as we are concerned. They are UFOs ... the Department of Civil Aviation has the central authority to analyse them."

Contrary to Flt. Lt. Longland's statements the Directorate of Air Force Intelligence, RAAF, was the central authority not the DCA, the RAAF did referred to "flying saucers", and there was a statement of RAAF policy, originally formulated in 1954 but was reproduced in policy file statements as late as 1959.

Colin McCarthy claimed he was eventually able to track down one of the witnesses. From what he established, a helicopter was despatched from Woomera, not Edinburgh, to rendevous with the witnesses near Eucla. According to the alleged witness, several uniformed officers, and a plain clothed person, demanded the cameras and the exposed film, saying that the property would be returned in due course.

Colin McCarthy advised me that, "Some weeks later our witness had a visit from ASIO at his home in Elizabeth. The cameras were returned, minus all the film except for one very blurred shot, which I saw, and need I say, it was next door to useless. The witness said the ASIO agent frightened quote 'the living shit out of me' unquote!.... When I first heard his story, I was a little sceptical, however his fear was genuine, and with the one remaining blurred photo, lent some degree of authenticity to the story."

Both McCarthy and Thomas link the Eucla helicopter saga to a bizarre story carried in a Sydney newspaper, the Daily Telegraph, of August 2nd, 1955. McCarthy feels that this story refers to the Eucla event, even though the basic story accounts in each are different in many respects. McCarthy kept no record of the original interview he secured with one of the alleged witnesses, but he feels he was Peter Johnson, one of the witnesses cited in the story in the Daily Telegraph.

The newspaper account did not talk about photographing a flying saucer, being intercepted by the military, or film being confiscated. Indeed we have a rather queer and absurd story, which has not been substantiated. What we have is a fragmentary story accompanying a rather poor photo that is presented as the


The story was as follows:

Three young men returned to Melbourne with the picture of what they said was a flying saucer pilot. One of them took the photograph about 14 miles from Eucla, on the South Australian border.

This is the story that Max Clow, 23, Alex Rose, 29, and Peter Johnson, 25, told -:

They were driving through flat country covered by scrub and tall trees when they heard what they thought was a blowout and stopped to look at the tyres. Then Johnson pointed out a shiny object falling to the ground about three miles away.

After an hour's search they found jagged pieces of shining metal and then saw a moving figure 50 yards away. They went closer and watched the figure for about 25 minutes.

Clow said: "It was like a frog from the back and a semi-human from the front, with a green cloak hanging to just abve its knees. The two curved horns on each side of its head gave it a devilish appearance. Its feet and hands were armour-plated and, to make it worse, it was wriggling and swaying like a fish out of water."

Rose then plucked up his courage, moved nearer, and took photographs.

"Then to our amazement, it began to disintegrate before our eyes," said Clow.

The photo reproduced in the newspaper gives what appears to be an out of focus image of something vaguely "humanoid" is shape. Only the back ground (trees?) is in focus. The foreground and figure (?) are not. In fact one is given the impression of some sort of doll, perhaps on a dashboard, photographed with the the camera focused on the background. The photo is far from impressive and certainly does not add to the credibility of a fantastic story.

Depending on your objectivity, beliefs and gullibility it is possible to interprete the photo and story in numerous ways. In the end the Eucla story and photo only serve to confuse an already confused story. We may never known if anything concrete happened to three young men near the South Australian border, ostensibly back during Easter, 1954.


The end of the decade also saw the intrusion of the espionage milieu -- UFO style. Stan Seers was President of the Queensland Flying Saucer Research Bureau. In 1959, after a clandestine car park rendezvous, to initiate a covert relationship, the agent, D_____ D_______, got down to the nitty gritty. He wanted Seers to "play ball" with ASIO, on a strictly confidential basis.

The agent stated that in the event of any really "hot" UFO information - landings, contacts, etc., he would if necessary put Seers in direct telephone communication with Prime Minister Bob Menzies.

Stan Seers reflected, "I recall thinking how hilariously stupid the whole affair sounded, and remember having some trouble for a minute or so keeping a straight face?"

When Seers subsequently told D______ that he had discussed the covert "offer" with the rest of the QFSRB committee, the ASIO man was furious. The upshot of this was that it appeared the agent virtually successfully destabilised the group. Within a year Seers resigned, only to be coached back two years later. But still the group "found it impossible to completely shake off the attentions of the man from ASIO." He remained in close contact with the group for eleven years, until his death in 1970.

The abiding theme was that the ASIO man was only interested in data acquired by covert means. The intelligence ethic demands that quality intelligence is only acquired by clandestine means. Unfortunately this is not always the case and often such information serves the purpose of placing upon previously innocuous events a sinister aura and consequently sometimes leading to an incorrect interpretation by the intelligence analyst. The whole thing snowballs until the clandestine version bares little resemblance to the reality of the original event.

As Seers cogently states in his book:

"The one surprising feature of all this rank stupidity on the part of the powers that be is the proven fact that all research groups have always been more than happy to pass on to them any material, or information, that came their way. On one occassion ASIO requested from the Queensland group the loan of all 37 pages of their copy of the Boianai sighting reports for microfilming. When the loaned material was returned, a free microfilmed copy (still in my possession) came with it"


The civilian groups stood at the end of the fifties in a position of strength, unified, strengthened, and galvanised into action, by the quality of the Gill reports. The extraordinary reports of UFO "visitants" over Boianai, Papua New Guinea, during 1959, were remarkable testimony from "credible observers of relatively incredible things" (as the director of USAF intelligence, Major General John Samford referred to the witnesses of the minority of "unknown" and "unidentified" reports, back in 1952).

The Anglican church missionary, Reverend William Gill, provided civilian groups with remarkable testimony of unknown "interlopers". They were in stark contrast to the hoary silliness that punctuated the flirtation of enthusiasts with the contactee absurdities during much of the fifties. Buoyed by substantial data, the civilian groups were ready to face what would prove to be the turbulent sixties.

In contrast, from 1955 and particularly in the wake of the striking Gill testimony, the RAAF began a retreat from their original open minded position. By then the growing number of sightings had turned into "the UFO problem" -- a problem with uncertain and controversial public relation, military and political dimensions. To them the situation was embodied in the determination that they were dealing with "the UFO problem" - a problem with uncertain and controversial public relations and political dimensions.

Controversy about possible unknown interlopers in our airspace could not be tolerated, and officialdom was moving towards effectively managing "the problem". The scientific ethic never really got off the ground. It had been effectively scuttled and was in retreat. The scientific approach had been pushed aside with the rejection of nuclear physicist Harry Turner's secret study of the Directorate of Air Force Intelligence (DAFI) UFO files.

The military and political ethic had begun its long march of dominating the official approach to the UFO controversy. The decades to follow would prove to be controversial and exciting as the Australian UFO controversy continued its evolution.

The 1960s and the 1970s were periods steeped in UFO accounts of high strangeness that emerged in a climate of gradually increasing maturity in the manner in which the phenomenon was investigated. Considerable intrigue and energetic debate marked the search for answers from both the perspective of the civilian researcher and that of the clandestine world of official investigations.

Occasionally such activities came together in curious ways but generally official investigations remained the stuff of secrecy, at least to the general public. Civilian researchers themselves were caught up in fundamental and evolutionary steps towards understanding the nature and extent of the UFO phenomenon.


The Cressy area of Tasmania became the centre of a spectacular wave of sightings in October and November, 1960. An entirely crediblewitness was at the centre of the milieu. Once again, an Anglican priest reported that he had seen a UFO. The Reverend Lionel Browning and his wife witnessed a fantastic sight from the dining room of the Cressy Anglican rectory on 4th October, 1960.

A detailed account appeared in the Launceston Mercury of October 10th headlined "FLYING SAUCER" SEEN AT CRESSY. Mysterious ships in the sky.  A succession of media stories followed elevating the sighting in to national prominence. Again, because of the undeniable credibility of the witness, the RAAF were in a difficult position in their efforts to contain the rapidly escalating public clamour.

Wing Commander Waller interviewed Rev. Browning and his wife on November 11th, at their Cressy home. Waller concluded that the couple were "stable, responsible and unexcitable individuals who would not perpetrate a hoax", and were "genuinely and firmly convinced that they saw actual objects."   He confirmed this assessment in a letter to Dr. James McDonald, who undertook a retrospective investigation into the sighting during his 1967 Australian visit.

The RAAF's attempts to explain the Cressy sighting away were rather hollow, particularly given an intriguing sighting report I found buried in the DAFI UFO files. On November 15, 1960, some 50 kilometres north of Cressy, a United States Air Force JB57 aircraft, operating out of East Sale RAAF base, encountered a UFO.

The Cressy affair even had a sequel in Australia's federal parliament. Rev. Browning's federal member, Mr. Duthie, asked the following question on October 20th, 1960:

Mr. Duthie:   "Has the Minister for Air read the reports of unidentified flying objects sighted in Australia in the last two years, especially the detailed description of such an object at Cressy in my electorate by the Reverend Lionel Browning and his wife two weeks ago, and twice last weekend? Inc idently, the reverend gentleman was my Liberal opponent at the 1951 and 1954 elections. Does the Minister accept responsibility for investigating these sightings? Has the Minister any information about them that may be of interest to the people of Australia?"

The Minister for Air, Mr. Osborne, responded with an answer that would form the basis of RAAF policy for more than a decade to come.

Mr. Osborne:   "I have read the press reports of these sightings in Tasmania, and in accordance with the usual practice, all the information that is available concerning them has been furnished to my department and is now being examined. The Department of Air does obtain information about all well reported cases of unidentified flying objects. The department not only receives information about them but also exchanges it with the Royal Air Force and the United States Air Force.

There is a regular exchange of information on these matters. I can tell the honourable member for Wilmont that although reports of this sort have been investigated very carefully for years, nearly all of them are explainable on a perfectly normal basis. Sometimes they are found to be weather balloons, high-flying aircraft or even stars.

On one occasion, it was established that a reported spaceship was the moon. Of all these reports, only 3 per cent. or 4 per cent. cannot be explained on the basis of some natural phenomenon, and nothing that has arisen from that 3 per cent. or 4 per cent. of unexplained cases gives any firm support for the belief that interlopers from other places in this world, or outside it, have been visiting us."

The Gill "entity" reports of 1959 and the Browning "mothership" report at Cressy in 1960, provided substantial dilemmas for official UFO investigations. In both cases Anglican ministers were the primary witnesses and press coverage was extensive and positive. A confidential briefing paper prepared by DAFI to the RAAF Staff Officer to the Minister of Air concluded after cursory investigations:

A preliminary analysis of the available information indicates that (the Cressy) sighting was some form of natural phenomena associated with the unsettled weather condition. You will recall that the sighting by Reverend William Gill in the Boianai area of New Guinea, which also received wide publicity, was very similar and occurred under almost identical weather conditions.

On that occasion, after investigation, we concluded that the sightings were either known planets seen through fast moving cloud, or natural phenomena. The notable difference between the reports is that objects observed by the Reverend Browning were dull grey in colour, while those seen by the Reverend Gill were brightly lit and, in one case, allegedly contained humanoid beings.
The Brownings in the case of Cressy impressed the investigating RAAF officer as "mentally alert individuals who had no cause or desire to see objects in the sky other than objects of definite form and substance."   In the case of the Gill reports the investigating officers' opinions on the main witness's character were also most favourable.

Despite the impact of the Boianai and Cressy reports and the apparent incongruity of the official "explanations", the prevailing controversy failed to shift the official stance on UFOs that "nothing that has arisen from the 3 or 4 per cent of unexplained cases gives any firm support for the belief that interlopers from other places in this world or outside it have been visiting us."   A close analysis of both cases (Boianai and Cressy) argues powerfully that the RAAF "explanations" are unsatisfactory.


A RAAF radar unit at Lee Point, near Darwin, in the Northern Territory, allegedly monitored a UFO sighting during 1962. At about 8 p.m. one evening, service men observed what appeared, at first, to be "a strange kind of star." It kept changing colour, dropping in altitude and then rising again. The Met office indicated that no planes or balloons were aloft at the time.

They estimated the altitude of the object was about 5 to 6,000 feet. Service men watched the UFO's movement on their own radar. Their sergeant estimated that the UFO was the size of a house. Soon after it started to move slowly in a clockwise arc finally disappearing near dawn!


A major turning point in civilian UFO research in Australia occurred on February 27th, 1965, at Ballarat, Victoria. What was billed as Australia's first convention of UFO groups provided a focus for elevating the respectability of the UFO subject. Unfortunately, in hindsight it also started a process that, while initially encouraging, would eventually divide some UFO groups and lay the seeds of group political warfare which would resound for years to come.

The occasion was one of great euphoria for those researchers, investigators and enthusiasts who attended. The conference had been arranged by W.Howard Sloane, of the Ballarat Astronomical Society, with the aim of removing "the stigma of ridicule from research into UFOs." Not only did representatives of most existing Australian groups attend, but there were also several witnesses to some of Australia's most famous cases, including the Rev. William Gill and Charles Brew, who spoke about their experiences.

  Former Air Marshall Sir George Jones attended and was outspoken in his support for serious UFO research. The RAAF was represented by Mr. B. G. Roberts, Senior Research Scientist, of the Operational Research Office, Department of Air, Canberra. The presence of a scientific consultant of the RAAF, along with 2 RAAF officers, manning a hardware display, was an unprecedented step for the Australian government.

The civilian researcher presentations indicated the thrust of group investigations at the time. Leslie Locke, President of the Perth UFO Research Group, spoke on the theme of "Preparing for contact". Pioneer researcher, Fred Stone, from South Australia, reviewed activity in New Zealand and emphasised the desirability of unity amongst UFO groups.

Colin Norris, of the South Australian group, Australian Flying Saucer Research Society, gave a slide presentation on the "History of UFOs", and also represented the Queensland Flying Saucer Research Bureau, who were unable to send a delegate. A tape of QFSRB member Carl Lehmann on "Origin of UFO" reviewed all the possible planetary origins of "spacecraft coming to earth." Peter Norris, President of the Victorian Flying Saucer Research Society, gave a detailed presentation on "Occupants of UFOs."

Andrew Tomas, another pioneer researcher, represented the Sydney based UFO Investigation Centre (UFOIC), and delivered a lecture on "Purpose of coming to Earth". His lecture canvased such ideas as "global exploration" and "the world crisis theories", highlighting that "a contact between planetary civilisations could become the greatest challenge of all times." Paul Norman, of VFSRS, lectured on "Electric Effects of UFOs."

The Department of Air (Air Force) scientific representative, B. G. Roberts gave a presentation which addressed the term UFO and some objections to it, official assessments of aerial sightings, and the identification of sightings. Roberts argued the term "unidentified aerial sightings" (UAS) was a more appropriate one than UFO, the latter term having long since been regarded as just another term for "flying saucers".

He indicated that "the assessment of reports of unidentified aerial sightings in Australia and the territories is the responsibility of the Department of Air at Canberra. There is no hidden implication in this allocation of responsibility. The Department is simply the most appropriate authority for the task, which is performed to determine whether or not a threat to the security of the nation is involved." Roberts highlighted that 9 out of 10 sightings are explanable.

In terms of "unidentified sightings" Roberts stated:

"The number of sightings which the Department is unable to identify from the information available has remained fairly consistent at around two a year. Indeed, given sufficient time and effort, the number of unidentified sightings probably could be reduced further. One has to assess, however, whether the required additional time and effort is warranted.

The Department of Air believes that there is, and always will be, a small number of sightings (due to high altitude phenomena, which are strange to the untrained eye) for which the available information will never be sufficient to enable an identification to be made. In other words it is just not possible to achieve a 100% record of successful identification.

The ideal can be approached but not achieved, simply because the inaccuracies inherent in this type of work militate against its achievement."

Roberts indicated, "The number of unidentified sightings each year in Australia does not warrant such great effort or expense. Only where there is evidence that a threat to the security of the nation is involved (e.g. the possibility of foreign aircraft infringing our air space) would this attitude be reversed. The Department of Air believes that there always will be aerial sightings of high altitude phenomena which are strange to the untrained eye and that of these some will not be identified.

"Finally, I would like to make it clear that the Department of Air never has denied the possibility that some form of life may exist on other planets in the universe.... However, the Department has, so far, neither received nor discovered in Australia any evidence to support the belief that the earth is being observed, visited or threatened by machines from other planets. Furthermore, there are no documents, files or dossiers held by the Department which prove the existence of 'flying saucers'."

The civilian UFO researcher audience, at the Ballarat convention, sceptical of the claimed lack of compelling UFO photos in the RAAF files, were interested in Mr. Roberts knowledge on "the holy grail of Australian ufology", namely the photographic evidence secured by Papua New Guinea DCA Deputy Director, Tom Drury, back in August, 1953.

Peter Norris, President of VFSRS, asked Roberts if he was aware of the film. Roberts said he was not. Fred Stone indicated that 4 stills from the Drury film had been supplied to him by the RAAF in 1954. Roberts clearly was uninformed about this famous case and even remarked, "I feel a bit like Daniel in a lions' den!" Andrew Tomas indicated he had seen the film in the hands of Edgar Jarrold, the pioneer Australian researcher and director of the Australian Flying Saucer Bureau.

There is evidence that Jarrold did eventually receive prints of individual frames, some 94 prints, but not the actual film. Tomas told the convention that the RAAF sent the film to Dayton, Ohio, and then researchers lost track of it.

Former RAAF Air Marshall Sir George Jones also challenged Mr. Roberts. While questioning the value of photographs as evidence of the reality of UFOs, he never-the-less insisted on keeping an open mind towards reports such as those of Charles Brew at Willow Grove, Victoria, and Rev. William Gill and others in Papua New Guinea. Sir George said to Mr. Roberts,

"You leave me with an impression that everything can be explained away given sufficient time and effort. I don't know how they (RAAF) get on with those things (meaning reports like those of Charles Brew and Rev. Gill)."

What seemed to have been a very good idea emerged at the conference. It was suggested apparently by RAAF representatives that the RAAF would deal with civilian UFO organisations only if they were organised on a federal level. It was resolved at the convention to form such a national organisation -- "a centralised body all the groups in Australia in order to deal with the government and public on top level."

The name of this organisation was agreed as C.A.P.I.O. (Commonweath Aerial Phenomena Investigation Organisation). Office bearers were elected at the convention. Peter Norris, VFSRS president, was made CAPIO president. Leslie Locke (Western Australia) and Andrew Tomas (NSW) were elected vice presidents. Sylvia Suttton and Judy Magee, both from VFSRS, took the positions of secretary and assistant secretary respectively. The CAPIO organisation had begun with great enthusiasm.


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