Thursday, April 14, 2011

Peter E Norris and the Australian Government UFO files - 1957 to 1968 Part one


Between 2003 and 2008, while undertaking a search through Australian Government UFO files during the Disclosure Australia Project,I came across a number of individuals who had a serious interest in the UFO phenomenon. One of these individuals was Peter E Norris, of Melbourne, Victoria.

Recently, while looking at one of the Royal Australian Air Force's (RAAF) UFO policy files, I came across a 1957 letter to the RAAF, written by Peter. It concerned a 1942 UFO reportedly observed by one William Methorst. As part of my investigations into this report, I contacted Peter, who is still living in Melbourne. He was able to recall the report, even though it was 54 years ago.

Following our initial e-mail exchange between us, I decided to take another look at Peter's contribution to the UFO debate, via exchanges with government officials, as found in the Government's own UFO files.

The start:

On 4 February 1957, on Australian Flying Saucer Research Society (AFSRS) letterhead, Peter wrote to the Officer in Charge of the Air Department, at Victoria Barracks, in Melbourne.

The purpose of the letter was " inform you that a group of Melbourne citizens have decided to establish a branch of The Australian Flying Saucer research Society..."

"The decision was made following the news item reported in "The Herald" of January 7th, 1957, concerning the inauguration in the U.S.A. of the National Investigating Committee on Aerial Phenomena under Admiral Delmar Fahmey. This body aims at encouraging the formation of saucer clubs throughout the national to supply trained observers."

Peter then asked the following questions in this letter:

"1. Is the Department still actively engaged in the investigation of UFO reports? If so, is it interested in receiving details of any reports made to the Society by members of the public?
2. Are reports investigated by the Department classified material? If not, have members of the public access to reports and evaluations made to and by the Department?
3. Would the Department be prepared to co-operate with the Society to the extent of providing data which would assist the latter in evaluating reports received by it?

The letter was signed P E Norris, Honorary President. (Source: Digital version of file 554/1/30 Part 1 pp237-238.)

I was unable to find a reply to this letter on this file.

The AFSRS had been formed by Frederick Phillip Stone of Adelaide, in 1955. Stone carried out frequent correspondence with the RAAF, prior to 1957. This correspondence is to be found on a number of Government UFO files.

On 6 April 1957 Peter wrote to Mr F Mulrooney, Secretary of Air, Department of Air. "My father has suggested I should write you in regard to the recent inauguration in Melbourne of the Victorian Branch of The Australian Flying Saucer Research Society of which I am Honorary President." The Society was running a radio show segment on station 3KZ. "...the interest exhibited by the public is truly tremendous."

"During the last few years, officers of the Air Department have occasionally made statements to the press expressing the Department's interest in the investigation of Unidentified Flying Objects. Would it be possible for us to visit one of your officers for the purpose of recording an interview with him for broadcast on 3KZ?" (Source: Digital version of file 580/1/1 Part 1 pp87-88.)

F J Mulrooney responded on 8 May 1957 (p.86.) "I regret that it is not possible to make an officer available for this purpose." There are no internal discussion papers on the file to explain the rationale behind the decision. However, I do recall another internal discussion on Directorate of Air Force Intelligence (DAFI) papers, where the fact that it was the Defence Intelligence area of the RAAF which was investigating UFO reports, was thought might give the wrong impression, that there really was something to the UFO subject.


On 31 August 1959, Miss D Gillman, Secretary of the Victorian Flying Saucer Research Society (VFSRS) (the former Victorian Branch of the AFSRS), wrote to the Air Department asking "..if it would be possible to procure information on UFO sightings..." (Source: Digital version of file 554/1/30 Part 1 p220.)

DAFI responded on 3 September 1959 and referred in part, to their reply to Peter's letter of 4 February 1957, citing a file reference of 114/1/201 folio 22A. "This letter sets out the RAAF's attitude towards investigations of reports of Unidentified Flying Objects which has remain unchanged." (Source: Digital version of file 554/1/30 Part 1 p219.)

I looked for file 114/1/201 in the National Australia Archives, but their search engine directed me back to file 554/1/30 Part 1, on which there is no reply. So, unfortunately we are unable to read what the "RAAF's attitude towards investigations of reports of Unidentified Flying Objects" was, as set out in this letter.

The Boianai sightings:

In 1959 there were a number of UFO reports which originated in New Guinea, including a close range observation of several beings on board a UFO, which occurred at Boianai and involved a Reverend Gill, amongst the witnesses.

On 12 September 1959 Peter wrote to DAFI on VFSRS letterhead. The letter advised DAFI that VFSRS had "...been undertaking investigations into the alleged sightings of unidentified flying objects reported by the Reverend Father W B Gill of Boianai..." Peter asked if DAFI had looked into Father Gill's claims, and if so what conclusions they had reached. The third question was "If the Department has not in fact investigated the reports, is the Department satisfied that these incidents do not constitute the infringement of Australian territorial jurisdiction by air-craft emanating from an alien earth nation?" (Source: Digital version of file 554/1/30 Part 1 p216.)

DAFI's short, undated response was that "We have no official information of any sightings by Gill in New Guinea, but we are now making inquiries into the matter."
(Source: Digital version of file 554/1/30 Part 1 p215.)

On 20 October 1959 Peter again wrote to DAFI, on the Gill sightings, advising DAFI of Gill's Victorian address. (Source: Digital version of file 554/1/30 Part 1 p213.)

Later, on 16 November 1959, Peter sent DAFI a copy of "Father Gill's sightings report, with an evaluation annexed thereto." Peter asked DAFI for a response to his questions posed in the 12 September letter. (Source: Digital version of file 554/1/30 Part 1 pp197-212.) The copy of Gill's report was quite detailed, and included in the introduction "The reports described in the following pages constitute the most remarkable testimonies of intense UFO activity reported to civilian investigators in the entire history of UFO research." (Source: Digital version of file 554/1/30 Part 1 p.198.)

The VFSRS evaluation concluded that:

"4. The Boianai UFO's are advanced craft, manned by humanoid beings, capable of a fantastic range of aerodynamic performance.
5. The Boianai sightings do not PROVE ipso facto that the UFOs are non-terrestrial spaceships; they indicate a strong LIKELIHOOD that they are such." (Source: Digital version of file 554/1/30 Part 1 p.199.)

DAFI's response dated 26 November 1959 was that they were still investigating Gill's report.

Peter's group put pressure on the Department of Air by sending a letter dated 25 November 1959 to the Minister for Defence about the Papua events. (Source: Digital version of file 554/1/30 Part 1 p193.)

After interviewing Gill, DAFI responded to Peter on 22 February 1960 (Source: Digital version of file 554/1/30 part 1 p166.) DAFI confirmed that they had investigated Gill's claims. They declined to release a copy of their internal investigation report, but stated "However, although it is not possible to reach any positive conclusions, we do not believe that the phenomena observed by the Reverend Gill and his party were manned space vehicles. An analysis of bearings and angles above the horizon does suggest that at least three of the lights were planets..." (Source: Digital version of file 554/1/30 Part 1 p.166.)

(To be continued.)

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