This incident is one that really interests me, the area is fairly near to where I live and I have met and talked to people from the village.
The Berwyn crash site happened not far from the village of Llandrillo near Bala high up on the ridges of the mountains, as you can see from the photographs below the left the landscape is varied, a mixture of high rocky ridges and vast flat areas of grassland, deep gorges, valleys, parts almost like a lunar landscape, mostly deserted and miles between villages.
The Berwyn Mountains divide central North Wales and separate Shropshire from Snowdonia. Prehistoric man lived and worshipped here, leaving a dramatic ritual landscape to which many beliefs have become attached. Folklore records that these peaks have been haunted by a multitude of aerial phenomena over the centuries and contemporary paranormal puzzles abound, including ‘phantom bombers’, ghosts, lake monsters and ‘alien big cats’. Although popular with tourists, the Berwyn's can be dangerous, and rescue teams are frequently called out. Cader Berwyn, the highest peak, rises to 827m (2,700ft) and several aircraft, both military and civilian, have crashed on its slopes over the past 50 years. In winter, the area is remote – an ideal spot if ever there was one for UFO activity.
The area was also the site of many fatal explained air crashes including:-
11th.August, 1942, Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress.
14th.December, 1942, Spitfire P7295
10th February 1945 Beaufighter T FX RD210
in January 1957 of a T55 De Havilland Vampire.
The area has been used by the military as a training and test zone for aircraft for many years and remains in use for this purpose today. This of course may explain 'Some' of the stories and sightings, but being such a desolate area with no artificial lighting for miles, I don't think it can explain why a whole village can be of the belief that something happened on the night of January 23rd 1974.
It is against this backdrop that an incident took place on the night of 23 January 1974 which first perplexed locals and later the UFO community. The events spawned a cascade of rumours, leading many to conclude that an extraterrestrial craft had crashed on Cader Berwyn, its alien crew and craft whisked off to a secret military installation, and the whole fantastic business being hushed up by the UK government. The Berwyn Mountain Incident has been described as “the best example of a UFO retrieval in Britain”, and likened to those events at the 1947 Roswell crash and the later 1980 Rendlesham forest incident.
Below is Pat Evans who was at the time the District Nurse, and her daughter Diane Evans.
After hearing what they thought was a plane crash, District Nurse Pat Evans and her daughters who were first-aid trained quickly headed up the mountain to see if they could offer assistance. Back in the village of Llandrillo many of the residents began to ring the local Police.
Within a short period of time the village was filled with Military and what was believed to be Government officials, telling the residents to stay indoors and not to go up the mountain, it was this that started the conspiracy theories of a Government cover up.
The many online stories do vary a little, many over the years have added little bits that are not in others, and I believe the original reports are more accurate to what actually happened.
I have read many personal reports and watched many video interviews from the people involved, but none convince me more than a report from a Army Transport Driver who said that he along with a second truck were quickly dispatched to the mountain side that night.
On arrival one truck was loaded with what they were told to be plane wreckage, and his own being loaded with small bodies. The two trucks then drove south in convoy through the night, splitting up somewhere around the outskirts of Swindon.
He continued on towards Salisbury and delivered the bodies which were described as 'Child size' to the research establishment at Porton Down in Wiltshire, once the place where they claimed to be researching the 'common cold' but were actually testing humans against diseases. The driver said they loaded the bodies into the rear of the truck, but did not initially look under the covers as they found it upsetting due to their size and believing them to be young children. Later they saw the small bodies which had been placed in contamination suits, and it was plainly obvious to them that they were not of this world.
The second truck had split from the convoy and headed inland, they took the wreckage to a secret underground location, which at a guess would be the now declassified underground city at Corsham known as the Burlington Bunker.
If this is true, it would explain why no wreckage was ever seen on the mountain, and the masses of military and government personnel present over the next days would of thoroughly 'Cleansed' the area on top of the mountain to remove all trace before he area was swamped with photographers and members of the press. There was also some confusion as to the exact location, mixing up Cader Berwyn and Cader Bronwen. For years it was thought to be on one part of the mountain range, yet later with better mapping and confirming the angle of the sightings by other witnesses, it was proved to be on another ridge which is not visible from the original published location.
This is a long video, but by far the best and most thorough exploration into the incident
My appologies for the poor clarity of these two documents, released with the declassification of governmental UFO files using the Freedom of Information Act. But you can view clearer copies of them online.
My appologies for the poor clarity of this document, but you can view copies of it online.
The story of the Berwyn Mountain incident is a complex one, and I have pieced together a composite account – from witnesses, informants, ufologists and newspapers – of what allegedly happened on and around 23 January 1974. This is ‘the story’, the generally accepted account, variations on which have become enshrined in UFO lore.
Wednesday, 23 January 1974 was just another winter’s day in Bala and the nearby villages of Llandrillo and Llanderfel, and UFOs were the last thing on villagers’ minds. But as night closed in, an event took place which was to change all that. Just after 8.30pm, locals were jolted by a large explosion, followed immediately by a terrible rumbling lasting four or five seconds. Furniture moved, buildings shook and animals voiced their terror. Terrified people shot to their windows or rushed into the streets to discover the cause of the disturbance. Many recall seeing huge lights streaking across the heavens and, looking toward the mountains, fingers of light projecting into the night sky.
Hundreds of people telephoned the emergency services, believing a disaster had taken place, and one nurse drove up on the mountain road with her two daughters to see what was going on. Once on the summit of the road, she halted, astonished at what she saw. There, high on the barren mountain was a glowing sphere. It was too far from the road to be reached on foot and she could only watch as the sphere pulsated, changing from red to yellow to white, while other white lights could be seen moving round it on the hillside. As the nurse drove back to her village, she was stopped by a group of police and soldiers who forcefully ordered her off the mountain, saying the road was being cordoned off and she should not, under any circumstances, divulge what she had seen.
Official reaction was quick – suspiciously quick, some said – with police and military arriving within minutes, turning away other curious villagers from the mountain roads. In the following days, a large military presence appeared in the area. Roads remained closed and farmers complained they were forbidden from tending their stock. Clearly, something was being sought, or why else would military helicopters be criss-crossing the area and strangers combing the mountainsides? Even more suspicious was the group of dark-suited officials who arrived in the area, asking questions about the events on the mountain. The incident attracted TV and radio coverage and The Times, Guardian, and the Welsh regional and local press carried detailed reports. Speculation was rife; one newspaper was certain that the event involved a plane crash of some kind, noting: “There is a report that an Army vehicle was seen coming down the mountain near Bala Lake with a large square box on the back of it and accompanied by outriders.”
But the authorities refused to acknowledge that anything out of the ordinary had taken place. Meteorites and earth tremors were also suggested as being the cause, and indeed would have explained some of the mystery. But what could possibly explain the glowing sphere seen by the nurse, and the beams of light seen on the mountain? They were swiftly dismissed by the media as the villagers’ imaginations, shooting stars, or even as people out poaching hares. Such natural phenomena were also unlikely to lead to the area being closed off by the Army.
THE OBLONG BOXES
The media soon forgot about the incident and the locals too let the matter fade into their memories. But UFO researchers soon realised that something had occurred which had not been satisfactorily explained. Lights in the sky and mysterious explosions, coupled with unusual military activity, are avidly noted by the UFO community as indicators of a UFO crash. Yet in 1974 UFO crash retrievals were barely mentioned in the UFO literature, especially in the UK. Although various UFO journals reported the events, no investigation was undertaken and no real conclusions were offered.
But shadowy forces were at work, and within months British UFO investigators began to receive official-looking documents from a paramilitary group called Aerial Phenomena Enquiry Network (APEN). These documents claimed that an extraterrestrial craft had come down on the Berwyns and had been retrieved for study by an APEN crash retrieval team! APEN also claimed there had been a key witness to the UFO crash whom they were recommending for hypnotic regression. This was a startling revelation: in 1974 hypnotic regression was virtually unknown, and certainly not practised, in the UK UFO community. Some researchers have speculated that APEN may have been part of a UK government psychological warfare operation, spreading disinformation via UFO mythology to divert attention from secret weapons testing. It issued similar communications in conjunction with other major UFO events, notably the Rendlesham Forest case in 1980.
As with the Roswell Incident, after the initial flurry of public and press attention, the Berwyn event lay dormant throughout most of the 1970s and 80s, little more than a footnote in the UFO literature. But intriguing pieces of information began to surface, later becoming enshrined in the growing body of lore surrounding the case. One of the first people to try and make sense of the Berwyn events was ufologist Jenny Randles, who was a frequent visitor to the region in the late 1970s and recalls the locals discussing military activity on the mountains in the wake of some crash-like event. Jenny was very interested in the case and initially suggested it might have been a rare but scientifically acknowledged phenomenon known as an ‘earthlight’, a transient light form created by geophysical stresses.
By the late 1990s, the Berwyn Incident had featured heavily in UFO books, magazines, national newspapers and TV documentaries. Most significantly, it was the focus of a chapter in Nick Redfern’s best-selling 1997 book A Covert Agenda. From its humble beginnings, the Berwyn Incident had evolved into a ‘British Roswell’, and the publicity brought forward new witnesses.
In UFO Magazine, ufologist and ex-police sergeant Tony Dodd wrote of an anonymous informant who claimed to have been in a military unit put on stand-by several days before the date of the Berwyn Incident. This unit was sent to Llanderfel to collect “two large, oblong boxes”, and ordered to take them to Porton Down in Wiltshire, a UK government research establishment. There the boxes were opened, Dodd’s informant recalling: “We were shocked to see two creatures which had been placed inside contamination suits. When the suits were fully opened, it was obvious the creatures were clearly not of this world, and when examined were found to be dead. What I saw in the boxes that day changed my whole concept of life. The bodies were about five to six feet [1.5–1.8m] tall, humanoid in shape, but so thin they looked almost skeletal.”
These and other extraordinary claims made by ufologists Nick Redfern, Tony Dodd and Margaret Fry led me to a re-investigation of the Berwyn Incident. I was sure that somewhere, between the witness accounts and the claims of the ufologists, lay the key to what really happened on that January night in 1974.
Ufologists stress the importance of the ‘paper trail’, official documentation that any event, however secret, must generate. It seemed reasonable to assume that the Berwyn Incident would have left some trace in official records, especially as the event involved so many people. Ufologists who pursued the case prior to 1998 had failed to follow this line of enquiry, even to the point of claiming the documentation no longer existed or had been mysteriously covered up to prevent ‘the truth’ being revealed. But these ufologists simply hadn’t looked hard enough, because I discovered a wealth of official documentation from a variety of sources. What’s more, this information had lain untouched in filing cabinets since the weeks after the Berwyn events. Using this documentation, which I balanced against the witness statements, I began to piece together the real events of 23 January 1974. What follows are the results of that re-investigation.
The night of 23 January 1974 was strange by anyone’s standards, offering a display of son et lumiere on a scale rarely seen in the British Isles. Villagers in the area adjacent to the Berwyn Mountains reported a great deal of aerial phenomena throughout the evening. Besides the strange lights on the mountain, reports describe at least four incandescent balls of light which streaked across the skies between 7.30pm and 10pm. Ufologists have implied that there were several UFOs, one of which came down on Cader Berwyn. Farmer Williams said: “I saw this object coming along the mountain, about the size of a bus really, white in the middle, it came across the mountain and dipped. I thought it was going to crash.” A dramatic description, but one for which there is a rational explanation, just as there is for all the other aerial phenomena seen that evening.
Records held by the Astronomy Department of Leicester University show that a number of outstanding bolide meteors were seen that night over the UK, coinciding with the times given by witnesses in Wales. The first was at 7.25pm, followed by others at 8.15, 8.30 and 9.55. Bolide meteors are considerably brighter and longer lived than ordinary ‘shooting stars’ and to anyone who is not familiar with them they appear to be dramatic, low flying aerial phenomena. Bolides can also appear to be very low in the sky – an artefact of the angle at which they cross the Earth’s atmosphere – and often trail ‘sparks’ of blue and green. Bolides are responsible for many misperceptions of UFOs and my files contain many cases in which sightings have fooled the emergency services into being called out to ‘plane crashes’.
At exactly 8.38pm, the Bala area was rocked by a huge explosion, closely followed by a deep rumbling. One witness recalled it as being “like a lorry running into a house”. Crockery rattled, furniture moved and walls rippled. Some were certain it was a plane crash on the mountains; others remembered past earth tremors and assumed it was just the latest such event along the geological rift called the Bala Fault.
This is the primary series of events which has subsequently caused many UFO researchers to believe that a UFO had crashed on Cader Berwyn. Yet the crashed UFO story only came out years after the event. At the time, in 1974, confusion reigned as to what had caused the disturbances. Reports of lights in the sky that evening fuelled the idea that something had crashed on the Berwyns. Witnesses across North Wales claimed to have seen a bright object in the sky ‘trailing sparks’ immediately prior to the ‘crash’. But this was actually seen at 8.30pm, eight minutes before the explosion, astronomical records indicating that it was a bright fireball meteor. Nonetheless, in the minds of many, it has become conflated with the ‘explosion’ to create evidence of a crash.
The explosion was heard only in the Bala area, but the tremor was felt as far away as Liverpool. Within hours, seismologists had determined that the explosion and tremor were caused by an earthquake of 4–5 on the Richter scale. Its epicentre (the point on the Earth’s surface directly above the quake) was in the Bala area, the disturbance itself at a depth of 8km (5 miles). To cause a reading of that magnitude, a solid object crashing to Earth – meteorite or UFO – would have had to have weighed several hundred tons and would have left a massive crater. Therefore, unless a UFO had crashed at the exact moment and in the exact location of a tremor, it can be safely assumed that the disturbing sounds were the result of natural processes.
After hearing the explosion, Llandrillo district nurse Pat Evans ran into the street. She saw no lights, but talk among the villagers convinced her that something had crashed on the mountains. The phone lines were jammed with 999 calls, but eventually she managed to speak to Colwyn Bay police HQ. They suggested it could have been a plane crash, so she drove up the mountain road, intending to offer help until the emergency services arrived.
As Mrs Evans reached the point where the B4391 road levels out, she was puzzled by what appeared to be an illuminated ball of light on the mountainside. A light drizzle was falling but the night was otherwise clear: “There were no flames shooting or anything like that. It was very uniform; round in shape… it was a flat round…” As she watched, the light changed colour between red, yellow and white. Smaller lights – ‘fairy lights’ in her words – could be seen nearby. It was too far away to reach on foot, so she returned home.
Many who have written about the Berwyn Incident have claimed that Mrs Evans was turned back from the mountain by soldiers; this canard arose from a misunderstanding when she was first interviewed by ufologists. Pat Evans has stated unequivocally that she saw “not a living soul” on the mountain that night. More importantly, a letter from her exists, pre-dating any interview, also noting that she saw no one. This is significant because the poor investigation of her experience has become fundamental to claims that a UFO crash retrieval team was on the mountain shortly after the explosion.
Nonetheless, what Pat Evans saw on the mountain slopes was crucial to the case. To resolve the matter, I sought evidence untainted by either the passage of time or the interference of ufologists, and turned to records held by the British Geological Survey (BGS) in Edinburgh. These records, untouched since 1974, revealed that a team of investigators was dispatched to the area within days of the event. This is almost certainly the source of rumours of ‘officials’ who stayed in local hotels, questioning villagers. Six BGS interviewers conducted hundreds of detailed door-to-door enquiries working to a set questionnaire and visiting people in villages and isolated farmhouses. Country folk are often suspicious of ‘outsiders’, especially when they are asking ‘odd’ questions, such as “Were you frightened?” and “Did you hear any creaking noises?”
Over 200 people were interviewed. Nurse Pat Evans was one of them. Her BGS field notes were enlightening. Most ufologists have assumed that Pat Evans was on the mountain immediately after the explosion, arguing that the lights she saw surrounding the anomalous ‘glow’ must have been from a pre-alerted crash retrieval team, as it was believed that no one else could have got on the mountain so quickly.
But the BGS records from her 1974 interview are very specific about time, noting she “left house during Till Death.” This was a reference to the TV sit-com ’Til Death Us Do Part which the TV schedules revealed started at 9.30pm that night. Knowing that Mrs Evans left the house sometime after 9.30pm means she would have observed the anomalous ball of light sometime after 9.40pm – 10 minutes being the minimum amount of time it would have taken her to get onto the summit of the mountain road – an hour later than previously thought. And that hour’s difference is crucial.
Fourteen-year-old farmer’s son Huw Thomas was also watching TV that night, an episode of the documentary series The World at War. At about 9.20pm, he answered the door to several policemen who wanted to commandeer the farm Land Rover, because they believed an aircraft had crashed on the mountain. Huw’s parents were out, so – with a neighbour driving – they set off up the mountain track, other police following by car. As they neared the open mountainside, they had to stop to manhandle a car blocking the track, which Thomas recognised as belonging to local poachers. Once through the gate onto the open hillside, several policemen spread out on foot with torches, while the Land Rover and police car continued to drive up the narrow track. The time it took Thomas to drive up the mountain and move a car from the road places the police search team on the lower slopes of Cader Berwyn from 9.40pm onwards. The BGS also interviewed one of the poachers, whose car Thomas had moved, confirming their time and position and stating they “carried on work for 45 minutes (after the explosion) and were almost back at the car when met party (police etc) coming up”. Huw Thomas confirmed these details in a 1998 interview.
The BGS records contained a map on which all witness locations and sightings of lights were plotted. This was a major revelation, showing the ‘sphere’ seen by the nurse, the location of the poachers and the police search party to be all in the same small area of hillside. Even more remarkably, the times given to the BGS by all three parties place them there at the same time. Suddenly, witness testimony and official records gelled and a new reality, independent of the fervid imaginings of the saucer believers,was born.
The conclusion is inescapable. Neither Huw Thomas nor the police saw the glowing sphere seen by Pat Evans. Conversely, Mrs Evans did see the police, and Huw Thomas – albeit unknowingly. Her BGS interview clearly describes, and the map shows, ‘vehicles’ and ‘torch lights’. This was the search party consisting of Thomas and the police. The ‘sphere’ is drawn in the middle of the grouping of poachers and police, at the point where they met to talk. Therefore, whatever Pat Evans saw must have been visible to the search team, the farmer’s boy Huw Thomas and the poachers. Either Thomas, the poachers and the police lied to the BGS in 1974 and to me in 1998, or what they did see wasn’t considered noteworthy by them at the time. And if the ‘sphere’ was in their midst but was not noteworthy, it must have been something ordinary carried by one of those three sets of people.
There is one possibility which might account for it. The BGS notes record that the poachers used powerful lamps made from car headlights. Pat Evans recalls the weather that night was clear but drizzling. Lights seen under those conditions can appear to change colour and to ‘glow’. As for the size, which she described, and drew, as being larger than vehicle lights, this may be a misperception. Also, and perhaps most crucially, Evans was looking across miles of dark, featureless mountainside and expecting to see a plane crash or similar scene of devastation. On the evidence available, it is almost certain that she saw the poachers with their lamping lights at the point where they met and talked to the police.
Some ufologists claim that, although bolide meteors were seen throughout the evening, the lights seen on the mountain immediately after the explosion were connected to the UFO crash and several BGS notes do refer to villagers seeing beams “on the brow” of the hill. These accounts were puzzling until I examined the locations of the witnesses.
All who witnessed ‘light beams’ were in Llandrillo, from where the land rises sharply to the south. From the village, the ‘brow of the hill’ is just a few hundred metres (perhaps 1,000ft) from where the poachers with lamps were. The BGS notes the poachers “continued work for half an hour to forty-five minutes” after the 8.38pm tremor, and it was within this time frame that the beams were seen. One witness also told the BGS he had seen the poachers’ lights on previous occasions and they were exactly the same as the beams seen that night.
Claims of a military presence on the scene immediately following the explosion and in subsequent days also crumbles under close examination. As we’ve seen, Nurse Evans was not stopped by soldiers or police and saw no one on the mountain roads. Furthermore, she left for work at 7am the following day and saw no unusual military activity in her village or on the roads in the area. So how did stories of a military presence arise? To understand, we need to return to the paper trail.
Following the 8.38pm tremor, the police opened a Major Incident Log, which records that they initially thought a plane had crashed and that Fire and Ambulance services were put on automatic stand-by. At 9.09, the police contacted RAF Valley Mountain Rescue Team (VMRT) on Anglesey, and a three-man unit arrived in Llandrillo at 12.10am. Their log records the incident as ‘Unidentified lights and noise on hillside’ and comments: “VMRT requested to investigate lights and noise on hillside. Advance party covered relevant area with negative results. Incident produced much local excitement.” At 7am on 24 January, VMRT, together with local police, combed the mountains, abandoning the search at 2.15pm. Huw Thomas was also out on the Berwyns that day, acting as guide for Dr Ron Madison, a scientist working on the theory that a meteorite might have impacted. Neither Madison nor Thomas recalls seeing anyone on the mountain other than the police and VMRT.
But this low level of official activity wouldn’t account for reports of closed roads, the military presence, or the aircraft and helicopters seen overhead. Intriguingly, none of the original police, VMRT or BGS documents from 1974 mention this alleged military activity and the only contemporary record of a military presence comes from the Border Counties Advertiser, the source of equally unsubstantiated rumours of boxes being brought off the mountain. In looking for an explanation to this component of the story, there are two crucial factors.
Firstly, none of the Berwyn Mountain incident witnesses were interviewed on tape by ufologists until two decades had passed. Secondly, at least two other events had taken place in the area involving similar military elements to those claimed for the Berwyn event. On 12 February 1982, an RAF Harrier carrying Top Secret equipment crashed on Cader Berwyn. The RAF descended on the area in force, using Gazelle and Wessex helicopters, together with Harrier and Hercules planes, in the search. Llandrillo was the centre of the search and was alive with military vehicles and personnel for several days, the crash site being sealed off until the wreckage could be removed. A similar military plane crash also took place on the same mountain in the winter of 1972, two years before the alleged UFO crash, and once again the area was sealed off by a large military presence. It is likely that these incidents, at the same time of year on the same mountain, were conflated with the 1974 events in witnesses’ minds when recalled years later.
But, say the UFO crash proponents, what about the claims made by the ‘military informants’? Surely there must be something to their story? Perhaps, but the informants who contacted Nick Redfern, Tony Dodd and Margaret Fry did so only after the story had been in a 1996 issue of UFO Magazine. Redfern has since told me that his informant’s telephone number is now ‘dead’, while Dodd refused to expand on the identity of his contact (Dodd himself died in March this year). Notwithstanding this, Dodd’s informant generates more questions than answers. If the military had discovered alien cadavers ,would they really move them by truck rather than the more efficient and less obvious helicopter? Nor, surely, would Porton Down compromise security or risk contamination by opening the boxes in the presence of what were essentially the ‘delivery boys’.
Intriguingly, these claims surfaced at a time when several UK ufologists were being contacted by alleged military sources offering UFO-related information, none of which amounted to anything tangible. Researcher Kevin McClure has suggested that this was a well-organised hoax. APEN, the organisation which circulated official-looking documents following the Berwyn Incident, is also regarded by serious researchers to have been one of many hoaxes (like the MJ-12 papers) perpetrated by ufologists on ufologists.
So that’s where the Berwyn case stands in 2009, 35 years on. There are still some inconsistencies; the symmetry of any UFO case is rarely perfect, especially when abandoned to rumour for decades. But the account I have given is, I suggest, the most plausible explanation for the disparate events which coalesced into the ‘Berwyn Mountain UFO Crash’.
My conclusions are based on the ‘paper trail’ left by police, RAF, VMRT and the BGS, and the pattern which has emerged from studying those sources is largely consistent with, and clarifies, witness reports.
It’s hard to believe that a concatenation of prolific meteor activity, an earth tremor and some poachers could lead to the conclusion that a UFO had crashed – yet it did. It may be that there are deeper factors at work in the Berwyn Incident. Perhaps earth tremors and bolide meteors are in some way connected by mechanisms at present outside our understanding. Or maybe extraterrestrials have learned how to enter Earth’s atmosphere under cover of meteor showers. On the other hand, it could all be just a gigantic cosmic coincidence, a tangle of belief and wishful thinking from which ufologists have spun yet another saga in the continuing extraterrestrial mythos. You decide!