Thursday, January 5, 2012

Cold case - April 1954 - Western/South Australia

Hi all

I have been spending some time in the State Library of South Australia looking through all the issues of the "Australian Saucer Record" (ASR) a magazine formerly produced here in Adelaide, South Australia. I have extracted quite a few South Australian UFO reports from the 1950's and incorporated summaries in my South Australian reports catalogue.

One interesting report which I have always known about, but had never seen the original source material before, was detailed in ASR Volume 5 Number 3 of 1959, page 13.

A reported fantastic photographic case:

"The following story was related to us by one of the men involved in it who gave without hesitation all the facts, including the names of the other witnesses, for reasons of diplomacy all names are withheld from the publication, but we do not doubt the veracity of the witnesses.

The date Easter 1954 Place Near border of South Australia and West Australia

The story. Three young men were travelling to South Australia in an Austin A70 car. They had passed through a town 17 miles from the West Australian border, and five miles on the West Australian side a saucer began to follow the car. It continued following them for about 50 miles up to within five miles of the next town.

It was very low at times enough for them to see portholes in the object and they took various photos of it with their cameras, and becoming a little concerned they decided to inform the police at the next town. The saucer having now left them. The police upon receiving this information immediately rang the Air Control at Salisbury. The young men were detained and a helicopter soon appeared from the Edinburgh Air field (Distance approx 200 miles.)

Two Air Force officers got out of the copter, but oddly enough, although in uniform, they wore no rank badges, but they did have on service ribbons. They asked the young men innumerable questions and demanded the five cameras which had been used to take photos with which there were three 35mm cameras with one containing a colour film, and two black and white. All told they had 92 exposures of the object. As well there were two Rolleicords each with 12 exposures of black and white.

The cameras were seized by the officials and the men warned not to discuss the matter with anyone. The officers then left and the young men continued on their way a little scared. Two weeks later their cameras were returned to them through registered post with letters to each man again warning them not to tell anyone of their experiences.

Later through other means one of the party was able to secure one of the photos, but it was in his opinion the worst of the series taken. This young man in now in England where we are trying to locate him and secure the photo or a copy.

According to our witness the saucer followed about 100 yards away from the car, and mostly about fifty feet above them, until they turned the car round to face it. It was then the saucer came and hovered over them and they were able to take most excellent photos of the object, some very good close-ups being among them showing the underside with a three ball landing type gear. Out of all these photos (over 100) what has happened top the others including those very good close-ups? Why have they never been released to the public?"

My comments:

1. "They passed through a town 17 miles from the West Australian border." There is only one road they could have been on, the main highway between Perth and Adelaide. An examination of a map of the area shows there is no "town" at this location. The locality of Eucla is 13 km or 8 miles West of the border.

2. "It continued following them for about 50 miles up to within five miles of the next town." This places the "next town" at 50 miles East of the border.  Another look at a map shows there is no "town" at this location. It is an extremely desolate part of Australia. the next "town" is Penong which is some 400kms or 250 miles East of the border.

3. "They decided to inform the police at the next town." See my comments at 2 above.

4. "A helicopter soon appeared from the Edinburgh Air Field (Distance approx 200 miles.)" Even if they did stop in Penong, then the 200 miles is incorrect. Penong is some 600kms or 370 miles from Edinburgh Air Field (the old name for the current Edinburgh RAAF Base) in a straight line (not road distance which is greater.)

Just what helicopters did the RAAF have in 1954?

According to a website (click here) the RAAF had two types of helicopters in use in 1954. These were:

1. The Sikorsky S-51 Dragonfly.
2. The Bristol Sycamore.

Another website (click here) says there were only three such helicopters in RAAF service between 1947-1964. However, two had crashed before 1954 and only the remaining one, helicopter A80-374, operated with Number 22 Squadron until 21 June 1955. A further RAAF website (click here) indicates that the total range for this helicopter was 579 miles. Number 22 Squadron was however, based at Richmond, New South Wales and not at Edinburgh Air Field. It therefore appears that none of these type of copter was based at Ediburgh Air Field.

What of the Bristol Sycamore? Again the list of RAAF aircraft indicates that the RAAF had only two of these helicopters in the period 1951-1965. One of the previously mentioned websites (click here)  shows that these copters were based at the Woomera rocket range and used almost exclusively there. It had a total range of 431kms. There is no evidence on any of the websites which I consulted that these helicopters were ever based at the Edinburgh Air Field. In addition their operational range is insufficient to have travelled to the area indicated in the UFO story.

In summary, It would appear difficult to match the known RAAF helicopters of the day, with the details indicated in the ASR account.

5. "Letters to each man again warning them not to tell anyone." One would reasonably expect the ASR informant to have been able to produce such a letter to back up their testimony. The ASR is silent on this point but I think it reasonable to say that if the ASR had sighted such a letter they would have mentioned it.

6. To my knowledge, none of the alleged photographs ever saw the light of day and I have seen nothing in the UFO literature to say they did.

7. On the off chance that there may have been an account of the event in the 1954 newspapers, I checked the digital newspaper collection of the National Library of Australia. I found nothing about the account.

In conclusion:

In my opinion, the problems with details of the event, as recorded in the ASR article, leave doubts in my mind, as to the veracity of the informant, and hence the event as described.

I'd like to hear from readers who may have further information or documentation on this event.


  1. Well done. I had also seen this account somewhere and had reservations about it. Thank you for clearing it up.

    Given the careful attention to historical cases here (and i've been lurking for awhile now), i'd like to invite you to an acquaintance's relatively new site:

    Please keep doing what you do. It's much appreciated.

  2. Hi Keith,
    I devoted over 3 pages to this saga in my "UFO Sub Rosa" document on the web since 1999, and also more recently in the March-April 2009 Ufologist magazine in my column "UFO History Keys" as "The 1954 UFO Desert Dance of the Photographic Veils." You may wish to draw your readers attention to these items.

  3. I have always been intrigued by this case or, to be precise, by a quite different version I came across years ago in Basterfield's reports:

    Three young men (MC. 23, AR. 29 & PJ. 25) returned to Melbourne with what they said was the picture of an entity. PJ noted a shiny object falling to the ground about 5 km away. After searching for an hour they found jagged pieces of shining metal and saw a moving figure 50 m away. They went closer and watched the figure for about 25 minutes.

    “It was like a frog from the back and semi-human from the front. It had a green cloak hanging to just below the knees. The two curved horns on each side of its head gave it a devilish appearance. Its feet and hands were armour plated and to make it worse, it was wriggling and swaying like a fish out of water”.

    One of them moved near and took photos. All of a sudden the thing began to disintegrate before their eyes.

    The photo reproduced in the newspaper gives what appears to be an out of focus image of something vaguely "humanoid" is shape. Only the background (trees?) is in focus. The foreground and figure (?) are not. In fact one is given the impression of some sort of doll, perhaps on a dashboard, photographed with the camera focused on the background. The photo is far from impressive and certainly does not add to the credibility of a fantastic story

    The reference quoted is: Daily Telegraph 2 August 1955 (unfortunately, nobody could provide a xerox or scan of it)

    Can anybody clarify which version is the correct one?


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