In 2007 I published a detailed look at the history of UAP research in South Australia (click here).
In that article, I stated that the "...very first South Australian UFO organisation was started by Frederick Phillip Stone in 1953," It was known as the "Australian Flying Saucer Club.
I also reported that in 1955, the "Australian Flying Saucer Research Society" had Fred Stone as President; P D Thomas as Honorary Assistant Secretary, and the Honorary Treasurer was one L E Hauber.
A recent research trip to the South Australian State Library located an article which provides us with additional information on the early days of UAP research in my home state of South Australia.
The article was titled "The Early Days of UFO Research in Australia," and was written by the same P D Thomas whom I mentioned above, namely Peter D Thomas. The article appeared in number 43, May 1989, of the "Australian International UFO - Flying Saucer Research" magazine, pages 6-7.
"Australia was one of the first countries in the world to investigate UFO reports on the initiative of private citizens.
As early as 1951, Eric Hauber and I formed the "South Australian Flying Saucer Research Society," in Adelaide, the first investigation group in Australia, and with other research-minded colleagues, we held informal meetings to discuss the latest press reports of sightings.
They came mainly from overseas; however there were a few local reports of UFO activity which we pursued where possible, interviewing witnesses and discussing the possible causes. Even at that early stage, patterns were emerging.
We imported Frank Scully's "Behind the Flying Saucers" (1) and Gerald Heard's "The Riddle of the Flying Saucers" published in 1950. They were the first two books ever written on the subject of flying saucers (the term UFO did not come into general use until later,) and we studied and discussed them, in great detail, with relevant material from other sources for comparison.
Scully's book was science fiction come to life, reporting what has since come to be known as "the Roswell Incident," from New Mexico. At that time such reports were literally incredible, but we approached them with an open mind.
Donald Keyhoe's book "The Flying Saucers are Real" (1950) gave us a new aspect of the UFO phenomenon. Keyhoe gave evidence not only that the phenomenon was objective, but that the US Air Force was deeply concerned.
Other books appeared, and the one which triggered an explosion of interest in UFOs was "Flying Saucers Have Landed." Adamski's story was widely publicised in the press and serialized in the "Australasian Post," a magazine which led the way in reporting UFO stories in depth.
In 1954 (2) Edgar Jarrold in Sydney formed the Australian Flying Saucer Bureau and published a small, professional, but short-lived magazine (only one issue appeared) before the Bureau closed down at the end of the year.
The AFSB had one representative in South Australia, the late Fred Stone, who however made no headway in research or organisation during 1954 and had minimal support from Sydney.
In December 1954 he contacted me as a result of a letter which I had written to the "Advertiser" (3) about a series of sightings, advocating a serious explaation. Eric Hauber and I had a meeting with Fred Stone and at that meeting he agreed to my proposal to pool our resources as the South Australian Flying Saucer Research Society and hold public meetings.
The "South" was soon dropped from the name as publicity brought support from all over Australia, and the Australian Flying Saucer Research Society became the first national UFO body. It is still functioning 34 years later as Australian International UFO Flying Saucer Research, under the directorship of Colin Norris, which has maintained unbroken the original policy, laid down at the first meeting by Fred Stone, Eric Hauber and myself, of holding regular public meetings to give citizens access to UFO information which was denied them by the official policy of silence.
We published the first issue of the magazine, then named the "Australian Saucer Record," in March 1955, in a limited edition of 100 copies (now collectors' items.) This magazine has also continued publication unbroken, but with a change of name, to the present day.
The first public meeting, held on 4th February 1955, widely publicised by a co-operative press, nationally as well as in South Australia, was a great success with a packed hall, and set the pattern of activities for years to come. It was the first public meeting ever held in Australia on the subject of UFOs.
As well as publicity for the society, the meeting yielded a harvest of enthusiastic member, some of which were active in the society for many years, and also a number of previously unpublished UFO reports which we followed up.
In between monthly public meetings we gave talks to clubs and other groups, and held "saucer sighting days" which were given good publicity by press and radio.
Branches of the AFSRS were set up in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth by the members in those areas, and as those groups expanded their activities and membership they were able to become autonomous and independent, but affiliated, societies.
In 1957 I was asked by the management of radio 5KA to write and take part in a series of documentary programmes titled "Investigation Saucer" based on an interview which I had given on 5KA previously. These ran to eight weekly episodes and included interviews with witnesses, from around the world, and background material. Each episode had a different theme, for instance one introduced the Cartwright magnetic saucer detector, the first practical device intended to register changes in the magnetic field due to a UFO, invented by an AFSRS committee member, Keith Cartwright. (4)
The subsequent history of the organisation is well documented in the quarterly magazine, and is a story of success through the untiring efforts of unpaid but enthusiastic workers.
The support of the media in those early days, when press and radio were locally based, cannot be over looked. These cuttings from the Adelaide "News" are typical of the publicity we received. It is probable that in the 1950's the citizens of Adelaide were better informed about UFOs than those of any other city in the world."
"Sources wrong on saucers."
Bogus flying saucer investigators are operating in Adelaide. A warning against giving information on saucer sightings to unauthorised people was issued today by the Australian Flying Saucer Research Society, Mr P D Thomas."
(The Adelaide "News" newspaper dated 30 June 1955.)
1. The Adelaide "Advertiser" newspaper dated Saturday 31 March 1951, page 6, carried a review of both Keyhoe's "The Flying Saucers Are Real" and Scully's "Behind the Flying Saucers."
2. The 1954 date is incorrect. The "Sunday Mail" Brisbane newspaper dated Sunday 21 September 1952 page 3, mentions that 34 year old RAAF storeman Mr Edgar Jarrold started up the AFSB "...a month ago." In addition, Bill Chalker in a blog post (click here) dates the AFSB as 1952-1955.
3. The Adelaide "Advertiser" dated Monday 27 December 1954 contains a "Letter to the Editor" "Flight of saucers study by SA Association" which mentions P D Thomas.
4. A search through the digitised newspaper collection of the Australian National Library, using the keywords "Keith Cartwright" and "Eric Hauber" failed to locate any newspaper articles which mentioned these two men.
5. I have never before come across a reference to the "South Australian Flying Saucer Research Society." Certainly its formation date of 1951 is a surprise. If this information is indeed correct ( it was not published until 1989) then the SAFSRS may well have been the oldest known civilian UFO investigation group in Australia.