A while ago, I had an article published in the "UFOlogist magazine" which reviewed the history of UFO research in my home state of South Australia. During the course of my research I managed to locate and interview a number of then living individuals, who were part of this history.
In that article, I managed to reach back as far as 1953 when Frederick Phillip Stone started the Australian Flying Saucer Club, here in Adelaide.
1954- a UFO Committee:
Recently, while searching a newspaper archive database, I came across some material of interest from 1954 which I don't think has seen the light of day since then. Certainly, I have never seen any reference to it in the UFO literature. I will set out what I found, for the record.
The subject matter is a "Flying Saucer committee" which was set up to study reports of flying saucers seen in South Australia.
The first hint of the committee came in an article in the newspaper "Barrier Miner" (Broken Hill, New South Wales) dated Thursday 14 January 1954, on page 1. This story read:
"An expert committee will study reports of flying saucers in South Australia.
"Formation of the committee follows the widespread public interest in phenomenon seen over South Australia in recent weeks.
"The members include Emeritus Professor Sir Kerr Grant (formerly professor of Physics at Adelaide University), Mr R M Rechner (an experienced wartime pilot and now South Australian manager of Trans-Australia Airlines), the R.A.A.F. intelligence officer at Mallala (Flight-Lieut R. Miller) with the President of the Astronomical Society of South Australia (Professor L G Huxley) as a consultant. Professor Huxley is Physics Professor at Adelaide."
This led me on to a second newspaper article from "The Mail" Saturday 16 January 1954 page 4. This article reads:
"The Mail and the News have sponsored a committee to investigate flying saucers.
"The committee so far is:
Professor Sir Kerr Grant former physics professor.
Professor L G Huxley present physics professor.
Mr R M Rechner, wartime pilot and TAA manager in SA.
Flight Lieut R Miller RAAF intelligence officer at Mallala.
Mrs J Neale, housewife of Linden Park.
Mr Frank Shaw. The Mail and The News aviation correspondent.
The weather bureau director Mr R Hogan will act as meteorological consultant.
"The committee will study and discuss all reports and try to find a satisfactory explanation of the mysterious objects reported in our skies in recent weeks.
"Readers are invited to send reports to The Mail and The News to put before the committee."
I looked to find further newspaper items on the committee and its members. On page 1 of the Advertiser newspaper for Friday 9 April 1954 I found an item titled "Flying Saucers Dubbed "Epidemic of Delusion" which mentions Professor Sir Kerr Grant. "Flying Saucers were an "epidemic of delusion", similar to many in the past, Professor Sir Kerr Grant said last night. He was taking part in a symposium on "Flying Saucers" in the Lady Symon Hall, arranged by the Adelaide University Science Association.
"Reported sightings of Flying Saucers were due to either natural phenomena, wishful seeing, or sheer mendacity," said professor Sir Kerr Grant. The State Manager of TAA (Mr R M Rechner) said the flying saucers had appeared in SA in such exotic forms as "flying dumb-bell," and a "flying needle." Possibly they were caused by different altitudes of aircraft, heat haze from the hills, or even practical jokes.
" Mr B Rote who was a meteorological officer with the RAAF during the World War II, and is now with the Long Range Weapons Establishment, said that possibly intelligent beings did exist on another planet, and were far ahead of us in aeronautics."
Page 7 of the Saturday 5 June 1954 issue of "The Advertiser" ran the following:
"Over the next couple of months, there might be many reports from people claiming to have seen "flying saucers" the Professor of Physics at Adelaide University, Professor L G Huxley said yesterday.
" Professor Huxly said he agreed with a U S Army Air Force statement yesterday that the "flying saucer season" which coincided with the July-August meteor showers was just coming up.
" We have long been aware that "flying saucers" might be associated with meteor showers," he said. "But we do doubt whether all the reports are connected with meteors, because generally they are not visible and must be detected by radar."
The Rt Hon R G Casey, Federal Minister for External Affairs, in the Australian Government, wrote to the Editor of the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, on Saturday 30 January 1954 (page 2) and suggested one of the explanations for flying saucers were meteors.