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Rendlesham Forest UFO airmen at Woodbridge event
John Burroughs, Nick Pope and Jim Penniston at RAF Woodbridge
John Burroughs, Nick Pope and Jim Penniston at Woodbridge's east gate

Two former USAF servicemen have returned to Suffolk, 30 years after the claims of UFO sightings in a forest.

The Rendlesham Incident took place near the airbases of Bentwaters and Woodbridge over Christmas 1980.

United States Air Force security personnel John Burroughs and Jim Penniston returned to give a talk at Woodbridge Community Hall in 2010.

"To find out there are 400 people here is totally amazing," said Mr Burroughs, who was not paid to attend.

The two security personnel were the first to report sightings of strange lights on 26, December 1980.

Sightings of strange lights were again reported when personnel went out to search the forest a day later.

UFO watchers gather at night in Rendlesham Forest in 2010

Space capsule

One of the many theories about the phenomena is that, once they had heard the initial UFO reports, jokers from RAF Woodbridge decided to take a helicopter out with an Apollo space capsule dangling underneath.

"I was on duty the first night and the airfield was shut down," said Mr Burroughs. "There was no aircraft activity. There was nothing going on.

"I can honestly tell you that when we were out there on the first night, there was no helicopter activity."

However, the 'practical joke' theorists/UFO sceptics say the capsule could have gone out later on, when the security men weren't on duty.

Other theories suggest it was an alien craft, something supernatural, a misreading of natural lights in the sky such as meteor showers and further confusion on subsequent nights with the 'bending' light from Orford Lighthouse on the coast.

Mr Burroughs is convinced he saw the strange lights on the first night, but he has no firm explanation for them.

"Eventually we might come to terms with what may have happened," he said. "But I don't know if we'll ever be able to explain it in a way where we'll all agree that that's what happened."

Woodbridge Community Hall
John Burroughs and Jim Penniston at the Woodbridge Community Hall


UFOlogists have cited conflicting reports from the servicemen as to whether a craft was actually spotted or just lights.

Burroughs and Penniston have both had hypnosis since, but UFO sceptics claim they could just be remembering science fiction movies that they had seen.

Mr Burroughs said: "I don't know if you'll ever come to terms with something you don't totally understand.

"I'm not convinced of anything yet, but it seems as if things are starting to go towards an area of what it could be, but at this point it's still not sure."

One thing that is definite - the Woodbridge event raised £2000 for the EACH Treehouse Appeal.

The organisers of the night said that no-one made any money for personal gain from the event and the Americans were coming over to the UK for a visit and paid their own way.

BBC Suffolk gathered experts at Bentwaters for a 30th anniversary broadcast in December 2010. It featured Nick Pope who is a former MOD UFO investigator, who was also at the Woodbridge talk.

An hour of highlights from the Rendlesham Revealed programme was broadcast on Monday, 27 December, 2010 and you can listen to it on the BBC iPlayer until 3, January 2011.

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