The Standard UFO Letter

So, here’s something I didn’t know, back in the day you could write to the MOD (Ministry of Defence) about a “unidentified flying object” and receive back a ‘Standard UFO Letter’.

Screen Shot 2018-09-11 at 12.56.53

Unless there is evidence of a potential threat to the United Kingdom from an external source, and to date no ‘UFO’ report has revealed such evidence, we do not attempt to identify the precise nature of each sighting reported to us.

An extract from the Standard Letter

The 1970s Letter

The MOD started recording UFO sightings in the 1950s and by the 1970s hundreds of letters were sent. In reply you would receive a ‘Standard UFO Letter’ (their words, not mine!).

The Standard UFO Letter covers all the basics, here’s an example (in my words) from 29 April 1970, sent by L W Akhurst :

  1. Thank you for your letter on (date here).
  2. The attitude of the MOD is that they investigate “UFO” sightings because of their possible air defence implications.
  3. Open minded, experienced MOD staff examine UFO reports. They sometimes may call in experts.
  4. The vast majority of sightings have mundane explanations. There has never been any evidence of a threat. The most common explanation is an aircraft, but also balloons and weather explanations are common.
  5. A relatively small number remain unexplained but usually because of insufficient information.

And, if someone asked about records:

  1. Regarding MOD records, they will become available after 30 years.
  2. We cannot justify the time and effort it would take to extract detailed information from our records.
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The Letter Evolves in the 2000s

Another letter from 19 January 2000, the letter follows a very similar format:

  1. Thank you for your letter on (date here).
  2. The attitude of the MOD is that they investigate “UFO” sightings because of their possible air defence implications.
  3. The vast majority of sightings have mundane explanations. There has never been any evidence of a threat. The most common explanation is aircraft lights or natural phenomena.
  4. We have recevived no other reports from the time you reported and there is no evidence to suggested that British airspace is under threat.

Here, there is a slight difference, in that they emphasise the military aspect, and assure the person that no other sightings have happened on that day. And how to they know that? Because they have now introduced a form that the MOD fill in with every UFO report. It looks something like this:

Report from the National Archives DEFE-24-2008-1

I Have Questions

Makes you wonder – if the MOD are brushing off all sightings as aircrafts or natural phenomena, why are they keeping such detailed reports? These forms are a page long each. Between July and December 1999 (as an example) there are 177 pages of letters and reports.

In 2013 the MOD declassified some of the UFO reports. The reports cover 1997 – 2009 and are essentially a list of all sightings of UFOs in the UK, each year. You can view these here on gov.uk. If we go to the 1999 report and look for our Dundee sighting from above, yup, there it is.

But why release these? Because they’d had so many requests for them or so they can be seen to be taking it seriously? And why did the MOD close their UFO unit in 2009? The MOD (and the RAF) made it seem like this was full disclosure – but why are the reports pre 1997 buried in the National Archives? Simply because it would be too much work to type them all up? And these documents are one liners only, no more description than that.

These documents were declassified in 2013, but not ALL files were. The MOD do have a “policy on sightings” which is closed until 2095; as is some of the correspondence, but that’s relatively normal, considering that people will provide their names and addresses on letters. I’d be interested to see what’s in there. I certainly won’t though, unless I live to 106.

How Do I Report a UFO?

Want to report a “UFO”? Officially, there’s not really a way. But this is 2020, dammit, jump on Twitter, type in “UFO Sighting” and off you go.

Just to clarify, I don’t actually believe in UFO sightings. I would love to, but I’m a woman of reason, and thus, I do not. But boy oh boy would I love to see a sighting in the UK that made me look twice and trust me I’ve seen a lot of them.

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