Tuesday, August 14, 2012

UK intelligence agencies and their interest in UFO researchers

Dear readers,

Long time readers of this blog will know of my interest in the involvement of various government's intelligence agencies in the UFO phenomenon. This blog contains a number of posts on this subject (e.g. click here and here.)

I recently came across a book, which I missed reading when it first came out, but which has quite a few accounts of intelligence operatives and UK UFO researchers. I'll summarise some of it, in case you have never read the book yourself.

Saucer spies:

The book in question is titled "On the Trail of the Saucer Spies: UFOs and Government Surveillance." The author is Nick Redfern, and the book was published in 2006 by Anomalist Books, San Antonio. ISBN is 1933 66 5106.


The first thread tells the story of a UK group calling itself the "Aerial Phenomena Enquiry network" (APEN). APEN (click here) contacted a range of UK UFO researchers and groups in the period 1974-1992.

Redfern writes "When APEN surfaced the intense, official surveillance of practically the entire British UFO research community began in earnest." (p.136.) Redfern source his knowledge, in part, to a character he refers to as "the Sandman." This individual claimed to have been involved in an "...operation...designed to carefully monitor a number of low-profile individuals in the north of England, Nottingham, Cambridge, Birmingham, London, Leicester and elsewhere, who were all tied...with underground and extremely ultra-right wing fascist organisations in Britain." (p.136.)

Sandman claimed the operation involved Special Branch, Scotland Yard and MI5. The Sandman went on to say that "...six of the people being carefully watched 'for extremist actions" had a personal interest in the UFO controversy." (p.137.) The thinking of the government agencies was that perhaps the UFO interest was just a cover for something else. The Sandman told Redfern this group of individuals created APEN to attempt to destabilise UK UFO groups, and recruit people for right-wing groups. The Sandman admitted to Redfern that to counter APEN's methods "We decided at Special branch and GCHQ that there was one way we could stop this: we began creating our own APEN letters and began sending them out." (p.142.) Redfern says that confirmation of Sandman's information came from another source via Andy Roberts. (p.142.)

Matthew Bevan:

Redfern interviewed "...a self confirmed computer hacker who lives in Wales..." (p.183) Bevan got into the subject of UFOs when "One guy in Australia - had on his bulletin board all these text files about UFOs. This was about 1994." (p.185.) He later hacked into computer files at Wright Patterson USAF base, looking for UFO information. Bevan's hacking activity came under the notice of Scotland Yard and the US "Defense Information Systems Agency" and the USAF Office of Special Investigations. Bevan was arrested and charged. later, be believed he was still under surveillance. (Click here for more on Bevan.)

Mathew Williams:

Williams was a South Wales UFO researcher, who in the mid to late 1990's was "...delving into claims that a crashed UFO and alien bodies were held deep below ground at a sensitive Royal Air Force installation in the south-west of England called RAF Rudloe Manor." (p.194.) Redfern asserts that Williams was under government surveillance, and that (citing the Sandman) "...questions would be asked at an official level about Williams' intentions - including even whether or not he was utilising his UFO research as a cover for working with none other  than the Irish Republican Army. " (p.220.) Click here for other views on Williams.

"The British Roswell:"

Following a lead to a reported UFO 'crash' in the UK in early 1964, Redfern interviewed one Harold South. South told a story of seeing what appeared to be an Army, Police and RAAF operation to remove "...a large object had been lifted on to the trailer and had been a partially covered by a tarpaulin." (p.224.)

This object seemed to be a triangular shape, and South said that he was later interviewed by a police inspector, and his camera and photographs he had taken of the scene were taken by police. South told Redfern that Ministry of Defence Police had called him shortly before the interview with Redfern. Redfern wrote "There seemed only one conclusion: somebody in the intelligence or defence community wanted to let us know that by  probing into the complexity of the Pentridge crash, we had opened up a sensitive can of worms." (p.228.)


The UK's Government  Communications Headquarters, was the target of research by UK researcher Robin Cole. Redfern reports "...that GCHQ has a large and impressive library that contains a considerable number of books on UFOs; that GCHQ was implicated in the study of military originated UFO encounters as far back as the early 1950's; and that GCHQ was involved in the investigation of an intriguing UFO incident that occurred off the East coast of England in October 1996..." (p.232.)

On 1992 Cole wrote a booklet titled "GCHQ and the UFO Cover-up." Someone from GCHQ rang Cole up to ask for his source. Later, he was interviewed by a Detective Sargent from Special branch, and apparently surveilled by the Ministry of Defence. For more on Cole click here.


If you have never caught up with this book of Redfern's it is worth getting hold of a copy and studying it.

I'd be interest to hear from any blog readers who were caught up in the APEN saga and for your views on the accounts given in Redfern's book.


  1. From reading Nick's book, Jenny Randles' 'The Truth About the Men in Black' and Peter Rogerson's article I was left with the impression that APEN was a malicious exercise by someone connected to UFO research. They caused discord and suspicion within several UFO groups, but were offering something that was doomed afore-hand to rejection.

    Mid to late 1970s England was fertile with racism and neo-nazism and yet English ufology is typically apolitical. If I'm right about that, dangling the opportunity to join a purported NAZI organisation just wouldn't work. Likewise, offering faux-bureaucratese documents to some savvy characters wouldn't work either. This would suggest they wished to unsettle the English ufological community whilst ensuring they wouldn't accidentally attract any of them to join.

    Whoever they were, it'd be interesting to know what they were up to...and why. The approach described by P. Rogerson was probably the best i.e. limited attention.

  2. Hi. I've just come upon this thread whilst doing some research into APEN. There isn't much to be found anywhere online about it which in itself is interesting.

    What attracted my attention to the APEN topic in the first place was the obvious fact that they clearly took whatever they were up to very seriously. They weren't amateurs. They had time and money to spend. A hoax can be ruled out. These guys were real. It is also obvious that they weren't ordinary ufologists.

    The flaws with Nick Redfern's story are firstly that if true, then it was the fake APEN which sent all the strange tapes and the letters and only then after ufologists rejected APEN that real APEN started being threatening. That makes no sense.

    Secondly, setting up a fake ufologist organisation to recruit right wing extremists seems a very odd way to recruit right wing extremists.

    I think Nick Redfern's story is disinformation. I don't doubt he himself is sincere, I think his source is yanking his chain. The date this disinformation surfaced is interesting. Years after APEN had long been forgotten by the small number of people, mostly ufologists, who had ever even heard of them. The story seems to have been put about to make ufologists just forget about it as unrelated to ufology.

    So let's look at what we can state for certain, given the facts. They had funds. They certainly had a membership based right across the UK. They were highly secretive. They operated a cell structure. They had access to information that was hard to get on individuals with the ufology community. They may have had access to MOD sources or other intelligence sources. However we look at it, the implication would seem to be they knew something about UFOs, or believed they did, that no other ufologists did. They also believed that ufology was potentially dangerous. They just weren't going to reveal themselves, period. They would only divulge information on condition that they controlled that process and retained their own secrecy and anonymity and that ufologists accept their leadership. Their actions generally seem designed to make clear that it wasn't a game and that the truth was dangerous.

    The reasons that no one took them at their word, aside from their sinister way of acting, was the incomprehensible nature of their messages. The UFO stuff mixed in with the Nazi stuff. The seemingly irrelevant newspaper cuttings. The bizarre story of the alien having their unlisted phone number. I would suggest that a lot of that might have to do with trying to direct attention to certain things they regarded as important whilst protecting their sources. They were trying, I think, to demonstrate that they did indeed know something of importance and to give a clue as to the sort of information they possessed whilst keeping hidden how they had acquired such information.

    I would suggest this was largely because its membership was atypical of ufology. That the APEN leadership consisted of relatively respectable people in positions of responsibility, possibly in the Unites States who were well aware that the Ufology community was being drip fed rubbish about Aliens to discredit study of UFOs and that they knew very well the true nature of UFOs but had no way of gettiong the truth out without at the very least destroying their careers, or worse, being charged with revealing official secrets and/or treason.

    I think the underlying message they were attempting to convey was that UFOs are of terrestial origin and that they relied on technology developed by Nazi scientists spirited away to the US under Operation Paperclip. They may also have been attempting to convey that it was probable that the Soviets had them too. They may well have been trying to convey the dire warning that World War Three, were it ever to happen, would be even worse than our wildest dreams because the destructive power possessed by both sides was/is far greater than we dare imagine.


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