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As told to Rod McPhee
Most visitors to the small Pembrokeshire village of Broad Haven, in South West Wales, enjoy the lovely sandy beach or pass through on the Puffin Shuttle bus.
To all outward appearances it’s just a traditional Welsh seaside resort.
But delve below the surface and – just like in the classic TV sci-fi series The X Files – there’s uncertainty, confusion and many, many questions.
And this week at the village hall, locals gathered to finally try and find the answers which have eluded them for exactly 40 years.
If this was a Mulder and Scully episode, the screen would wibble and wobble, and we’d flashback those four decades to the day in 1977 when something made the children at the local school suddenly all come running, their hearts pounding with fear, into their classroom.
Outside a strange silver object like nothing they’d ever seen before, hovered over a field, just beyond their playground.
Headmaster Ralph Llewellyn dismissed the distraught pupils’ claims, without going outside to look. It was a decision he would regret forever.
For to this day, even as adults, they maintain there was only one description of what they’d seen – an Unidentified Flying Object .
Schoolboy David Davies, in the playground on that February Friday afternoon, stood looking at something that would leave him with a lifetime’s fascination and a drive to get to the truth of what that strange object was.
“It was pearlescent silvery-grey,” he says, “approximately 40ft long, torpedo, cigar-shaped, with an upper domed section that covered the central third of the vehicle and which was topped with a red pulsating light.”
Upset their claims were being ignored, David and his classmates handed in a petition to the police station.
In the end, the headmaster separated the children and asked them to draw what they had seen under exam conditions. He was amazed to find their drawings were almost identical to each other.
So last week, UFO enthusiasts made a pilgrimage to Broad Haven to mark the 40th anniversary of a phenomenon in an area known as “The Welsh Triangle”.
The incident propelled the tiny farming community into a media frenzy in what became the start of a major series of sightings.
Weeks later, Pauline Coombes and her husband Billy were watching TV in their isolated farmhouse late at night, when a seven-foot humanoid figure in a silver suit appeared at the window. Where its face should have been, there was just a black space.
The police officers called to investigate the scene later admitted the family were so frightened, they did not want to step outside. Perhaps the strangest incident of all occurred later the same year when an entire herd of cattle apparently vanished, only to reappear in a field, far away from the farm.
The interest and the number of sightings continued to grow. Rosa Granville, a hotelier living near the school, was woken late at night by a light coming from an object like an upside down saucer in the field next to her hotel, emitting flames and with two faceless humanoid creatures with pointed heads.
When Rosa reported the incident to the authorities, she was visited by a Squadron Leader from nearby RAF Brawdy. He told her there was nothing at the airfield which could account for the strange craft, but mysteriously asked her not to tell anyone what she had seen.
It has left many people asking, ‘Was there a cover-up?’. A number of high-security military bases were situated nearby, including RAF Brawdy and, it is believed, a top secret US Soviet sub-marine listening station disguised as an oceanographic research centre. This was the height of the Cold War.
At the time, the Ministry of Defence did not admit to carrying out an official inquiry into the affair. But as reports poured in, defence experts were racing to get answers.
While researching my novel The Watchers, I discovered that the RAF in West Wales was asked to carry out a “discreet” probe.
An extract of a private memorandum to the Provost and Security Service of the RAF, [effectively the military police], mentions the number of “level-headed” witnesses to the strange activity.
It reads: “I should be grateful if you would let me know whether you think some sort of discreet inquiry would be worthwhile… or even whether there is prima facie evidence for a more serious specialist inquiry.” The author of the letter adds: “I have not even told the minister I am consulting you.”
Nick Pope, who worked as UFO investigator for the MoD, said: “This bombshell document shows how the MoD’s UFO project asked the RAF Police to conduct a secret investigation into these mysterious events, while Parliament, the media and the public were being told it was of no defence significance.”
The bizarre activity in the area ceased in 1978, with a final remarkable sighting of a large silver disc, which is said to have flown over a family and out to sea, only to circle Stack Rocks – a small island off the coast – before vanishing into a rock through sliding doors. Two silver figures were later observed on the rocks.
Forty years on and the people of Broad Haven are still seeking answers over the mysterious happenings which left experts baffled and sparked a secret military investigation.
Last week, I attended the public meeting held to address questions raised about what happened back in 1977.
Former schoolboy Mr Davies is now in his fifties and still maintains he saw what he saw. He stood up in the meeting and described exactly what he witnessed, with as much detail as he did 40 years earlier. But nobody in the village had ever doubted their version of events and at the meeting, that was still the consensus.
And, in the intervening years, the villagers have gained, on good authority, the knowledge that there had, as suspected, been a military base nearby which could have been the launching point for some kind of experimental aircraft or a prototype drone.
But there is one lingering question – do secret government investigations into UFOs continue? The MoD says not. But, of course, they have said that before.
As they would say on the X Files, the truth is still out there.
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* Neil Spring is the author of The Watchers (Quercus Books). Find him on Twitter @NeilSpring