Flying saucer reports yield up their secrets

Media release: Monday, 3 March 2014

Reports of flying saucers, UFOs and mysterious sky sightings will yield up their secrets at the National Archives in Adelaide this week.

Nick Gleghorn, director of the South Australian office of the National Archives, has been delving into the archival collection and discovered more than 70 files of eye-witness reports, letters and newspaper stories that document the Australian government's attitude to UFO sightings since the 1940s.

'Public interest in UFOs was especially high from the 1950s to the 1970s and many people reported sightings to government authorities,' said Nick. 'It's fascinating to read the reports but also interesting to see the official correspondence behind the scene. For example, who would have thought the future Governor-General Lord Casey would have had such an open mind on flying saucers?'

At a time when a naval pilot was 'obviously shaken' by an encounter with UFOs and defence personnel became active members of a flying saucer research society in Woomera, newspapers and the public clammered to have the truth revealed.

In an exchange in Parliament in 1953, Alec Downer (senior) criticised the Minister for Air, William McMahon, for having answered in a facetious manner when asked about flying saucers. Mr Downer advised that airforce authorities in Canada and England were investigating 'the nature and origin of these mysterious objects' and indicated Australia should take such reports more seriously. Mr McMahon responded that he thought 'the problem is still one for psychologists than for defence authorities'.

'But the Australian defence authorities obviously took sightings seriously,' said Nick. 'Naval intelligence shared their pilot's report with RAAF intelligence and it wasn't long before the RAAF had pro-forma documents where the intricate details of eye-witness accounts could be recorded.'

Nick Gleghorn will explore the topic further in a public talk at the Adelaide City Library on Wednesday 5 March from 12 noon to 1pm. Bookings are essential on (08) 8204 8787.

Nick Gleghorn is available for interview.

Contact information

  • Nick Gleghorn (Manager, State Office South Australia)
    t (08) 8204 8814 m 0408 620 872
  • Elizabeth Masters (Media Officer)
    t (02) 6212 3957 m 0417 247 157 e
Copyright National Archives of Australia 2019