Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Cold case - Bass Strait - 1944

A very intriguing event is said to have taken place in February 1944, over Bass Strait, an area of ocean between mainland Australia and the Australian state of Tasmania. This post provides some previously unknown information about the case.

Sources of the account:

(1) "The crew of a Beaufort bomber flying at 4,500 feet over Bass Strait, during February 1944, bore witness to what may have been Australia's earliest "electromagnetic" (EM) case.

At about 2.30am the plane gained a most unusual companion. A "dark shadow" appeared along side the plane and kept pace with it, at a distance of only some 100 to 150 feet. The Beaufort was traveling at about 235 miles an hour. The object appeared to have a flickering light and flame belching from its rear end. Only about 15 feet of the rear end of the UFO was visible to the bomber crew, apparently due to "reflection of the light from the exhaust." The strange object stayed with the bomber for some 18- to 20 minutes, during which time all radio and direction finding instruments refused to function. It finally accelerated away from the plane at approximately three times the speed of the bomber. Upon landing the pilot reported the incident to his base superiors, but he claimed he was only laughed at."

Source: Chalker, C. 1996. "UFOs sub rosa down under." "The Australian Military & Government role in the UFO controversy." Page 8. Retrieved 24 January 2011 from http://www.project1947.com/forum/bcoz1.htm

(2) "In a previous Newsletter, we noted a case recorded in the 1957 UFO magazine, "Australian Saucer Review" 3(1):16 from an original report form. The event was said to have happened in February 1944.

Mr T R H Royal was piloting a Beaufort bomber over Bass Strait when a dark "shadow" appeared alongside and kept pace for eighteen to twenty minutes. The object seemed to have a flickering light, and belched flames from its rear end. It maintained a distance of thirty to fifty metres from the aircraft before accelerating away. During the event all radio and direction-finding equipment is said to have malfunctioned.

The Project's researcher in Canberra went to the National Archives and obtained permission to inspect Mr Royal's personal service records. These records indicated that he was with No 1 O.T.U. (Operational training Unit) in early February 1944. However, there was no record of his name in the Squadron Diaries or any indication that he had flown over Bass Strait. He was a Non Commissioned Officer Pilot.

The only mention of his name was when he was with No 8 SQN in September 1945 where he flew his first sortie on the 30 September 1945 on an unarmed reconnaissance mission over the Sepic River area of Papua New Guinea. This information came from the RAAF Historical Records, Russell Offices in Canberra."

Source: Newsletter Number 12 of the Disclosure Australia Project dated April 2004, available at http://disclosureaustralia.freewebpages.org/

Further research:

1. The earliest reference I have been able to find for this case was from 1957, 13 years after the event is said to have happened.

2. I went to the website of the National Archives of Australia (NAA) to see if they held a record on a T R H Royal, to see if we can place him over Bass Strait in February 1944. I located a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) record, for one Thomas Richard Horace Royal. File series A9300, control symbol Royal, T R H. It shows Royal's date of birth was 28 October 1915. he was born in Townsville, Queensland.

3. A digitised version of the file (37 pages) is available for public viewing. This allowed me to ascertain that:
- He enlisted in the RAAF on 12/9/1940
- He was in aircrew from 24/4/43
- On 27/9/43 he was posted to no 85 FTS, Bundaberg, Queensland
- He undertook a flying course between 22/11/43 and 12/4/44
- He became a pilot on 9/4/44
- On 18/4/44 he was posted to 2ED
- Served in New Guinea between 31/8/45 and 20/12/45
- Discharged from the RAAF on 29/5/46
- Died on 4/12/69.

Additional information:

(1) "At the turn of the year 1942...Rick Royal...was flying a submarine reconnaissance and weather flight over Bass Strait...There was a most savage weather front that night and every other aircraft previously airborne had either landed or crashed so that his aircraft was the only one in the area. As a matter of fact they were only just flying, pretty well lost and with one motor packing it in.

Suddenly he saw a brilliant light below, showing through the hazy cloud in which he and his crew were flying. Abruptly the bright glow climbed to travel along with them, just off the starboard (right) wing tip. Little could he see except the rear portion of what was evidently a solid object, lit up by a brilliant, flaming tail, perhaps ten or more metres long. Every manoeuvre to get away or closer to the thing was exactly matched, so that their distance did not vary. Ricky noticed very definite signs of a strong static field: the radio hissed continually while the hair on the back of the necks of the crew stood up...only the gyro compass remaining unaffected. Suddenly the spurt of flame lengthened, and the object shot ahead leaving them rocking in its wake.

In strict confidence, Ricky expressed the opinion that the almost miraculous return to base by his aircraft was somehow due to the presence of the strange object. he gave no indication of how they had been aided to stay airborne, but he was sure that they would normally first have crashed.

To reduce the load on the remaining motor the crew had thrown out anything loose including the parachutes so they had no choice other hope for a safe landing from a very nerve-wracking flight."

Source: Flitcroft, Keith. 2005. "The Martian Factor." Poseidon Books.

My comments:

1.Flitcroft states that the event happened in 1942 which is at odds with the previously known February 1944 given in the 1957 source.
2. The NAA have the service records for a Keith William Flitcroft. See file series A9301, control symbol 434500. A digitised version is available.
3. Flitcroft was a committee member of the Queensland Flying Saucer Research Bureau, in 1959, as was T R H Royal.

(2) "The crew of a Beaufort bomber flying at 4,500 feet over Bass Strait, during February 1944, bore witness to what may have been Australia's earliest "electromagnetic" (EM) case. At about 2.30am the plane gained a most unusual companion. A "dark shadow" appeared alongside the plane and kept pace with it, at a distance of only some 100 to 150 feet. The Beaufort was travelling at about 235 miles per hour. The object appeared to have a flickering light and flame belching from its rear end. Only about 15 feet of the rear end of the UFO was visible to the bomber crew, apparently due to "reflection of light from the exhaust." The strange object stayed with the bomber for some 18 to 20 minutes, during which time all radio and direction finding instruments refused to function. It finally accelerated away from the plane at approximately three times the speed of the bomber. Upon landing the pilot reported the incident to his base superiors, but he claimed he was only laughed at. Such a reaction seems extraordinary in retrospect since it turns out that Beauforts figured heavily in official RAAF list of planes that "went missing without trace" during World War Two in the bass Strait area-an area that was not linked to any significant enemy activity. I have been told that Beaufort's had a mechanical problem that may have accounted for some of these losses...

The Queensland Flying Saucer Research Bureau came to the attention of ASIO (our domestic security and intelligence organisation) because the group had sought communication with Russian scientists about the idea that the 1908 Tunguska event was caused by an alien spacecraft. An ASIO officer reviewed the activities of the group and the backgrounds of the committee members. The dubious inspiration for ASIO's interest was largely deemed of little merit, but an ASIO report was written in August 1959. It described Ricky Royal, then the QFSRB's Vice President and technical officer, as "an ex-Air Force Officer and radio technician. His interests in these matters stemmed from a sighting of a U.F.O. over Bass Strait during the last war. he is a fanatic in matters relating to U.F.O.s and all attempts to prove their validity and would resort to any means to obtain information concerning them." As a technical officer for the group Royal had set up a 'technical laboratory," which led to a "light beam transmitter" being built. This was to be sued to signal UFOs.

At a public lecture in Brisbane in September 1961 Royal apparently got "carried away" with the moment. A group history of QFSRB (now UFO Research (Qld) written by Annette Bramelt (or Brameld) reveals that Royal "had said, from the platform, that he had been in contact with UFO's during his stint as a pilot with the RAAF during the war. He had witnesses and the incident was written into his log-book, but was "hushed up" by the particular Department. No exception was taken to his statement at the time..." The ASIO officer mentioned above had become a member. He told the QFSRB president that "it had been unwise for (Royal) to have made the statement, that the incident was unlikely to have been hushed up, and that the speaker would have trouble verifying the statement/" The president Stan Seers suggested the ASIO man should attend the next meeting and speak to Royal himself. This occurred but Royal resigned from the committee "with a strongly worded letter." A letter was drafted "to convey to him (the group's) regrets at his action and also (their) sincere thanks for all his valuable work; to assure him of (the group's) undoubted belief in his sighting story; to offer assistance in tracing crew members or in any other way...and to express the hope that he would soon be working with (them) again."

Source: Chalker, Bill. 2007. "UFO History Keys" column. Australian newsstand publication "UFOlogist" September-October issue.

More comments:

1. The ASIO reference to Ricky Royal as above, may be read at page 40, on the digitised file in the NAA. File series A6122, control symbol 2155, title "Flying Saucer Research Bureau (Qld)" internal ASIO file number 3/2/979 Volume 1. It is part of an ASIO report dated 4 August 1959 addressed to the Regional Director, Queensland, marked "secret." The subject was "Queensland Flying Saucer Research Bureau." Paragraph 8 of the report reads:

" The vice- President and technical Officer, Ricki Royal is an ex-Air Force Officer and radio technician. His interest in these matters stemmed from a sighting of a U.F.O. over Bass Strait during the last war. He is a fanatic in matters relating to U.F.O.s and all attempts to prove their validity and would resort to any means to obtain information concerning them."

On the 7 August 1959, the report was forwarded to ASIO Headquarters for their information.

Summary of research:

1. Documentation of the event goes back to 1957, 13 years after the event is said to have happened.

2. Royal certainly served in the RAAF during World War Two.

3. However, neither the 2004 research, nor the 2011 research, can place him as the pilot of a RAAF aircraft over the Bass Strait in February 1944.

6 comments:

  1. Impressive research of an intriguing case, Keith. Royal has to remain in the realm of maybe, maybe not but you've certainly shed some light on the subject.

    Looking forward to whatever you cook up next.

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  2. Hi Mic

    I have subsequently learnt that one of Royal's two daughters may still be alive. I am currently trying to locate her via UFOR(Qld) to see if she has knowledge of, or possession of, Royal's RAAF logbooks.

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  3. Beauforts were operated by 1 OTU AND 1 BAGS (Bombing and Gunnery School) at East Sale. Probably worth bearing in mind in case time has confused the two units. It was essentially a torpedo bomber, light bomber, mine-layer or general recon aircraft. A few were modified as freighters. The Australian MkVIII (built from 1943)could carry ASV radar.
    I would dearly like to see crew log-books. These commonly came into the possession of demobilised aircrew and were often valued keepsakes of both the servicemen and their descendants. The Beaufort normally had four crew - so four logbooks. It would be surprising to me if, after such an event, nobody logged "approached by unknown aircraft" or similar.If only!
    I understand the Bass Strait flight was in bad weather, so I wonder what the nature of the flight was. A 2.30 am nav exercise in rotten weather?
    8 Sqn. did indeed operate Beauforts in Papua-New Guinea in the right period.
    Given Royal's zealous attitude as a UFOlogist I suspect he had a vested interest in pushing this story. He might have made a better case if he'd tracked down supporting witnesses back in the fifties.

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  4. HiDadB

    Thanks for the information and comments. Unfortunately the possible lead through Royal's daughter in Brisbane has run into a dead end. Her communications with UFOR(Qld) were only by email and the computer with the email on is no longer available.

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  5. I've quickly searched a list of RAAF Beauforts and find no support for suggestions of a bad accident record. In places like New Guinea I found losses due to enemy action and misadventure (I'd blame New Guinea, not the aircraft!) but giving attention to Victoria, I only found incidents I'd expect of training units - "crashed on takeoff", "forced landing", and the picturesque "ground loop". As far as I could see, all were over the mainland and on or near the base, except for one crash on King Is. and another "missing" in Feb. 1945 which crashed in or near a mainland lake.
    Flitcroft's "There was a most savage weather front that night and every other aircraft previously airborne had either landed or crashed so that his aircraft was the only one in the area" reads like pure B.S., not even convincing fiction. Flitcroft seems to have served as a gunner in Lancaster heavy bombers of 460 Sqn. in the UK, rather than anti-submarine Beauforts (which is what he described in his anecdote) but I still expect better. If he based it on some original story, he hardly does it justice.

    The lack of the usual fly-boy story details fails to convince me. Aircrew, in my experience of gathering their tales, are usually fairly meticulous about the plane they were in - "R-Roger", or "LM180, a jinxed kite", or "JI-G, newly delivered only the week before" which, together with mention of who they were flying with, who they reported to etc. gives the researcher a heap of hook-in points to check out details. Of course assuming the story teller welcomes checking.
    A gift in this case would be discovery of logbooks. The Beaufort usually had 4 crew (and in passing, RAAF Beauforts had been fitted with ASV radars for some time by early '44, logbooks were often valued keepsakes on demobilisation, to be passed on to family and hopefully valued. If not one crewman in four noted "approached by unknown aircraft" during a patrol - or even any instrument, engine or communication issues - I'd be amazed. But does our 'witness' ever identify those on board, the guys back at base who gasped or laughed at the tale, or the officers who poo-poohed it?

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  6. Sorry to repeat some of my post - I had my internet drop out and replied in some haste the second time!

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