RAF Pilot's Close Encounter Over Southend: Corrected Account
October 14, 1954
On 14 October 1954 Flight Lieutenant Salandin, of No. 604,
County of Middlesex Squadron, Royal Auxiliary Air Force, took off at
4:15 p.m. from his base at RAF North Weald in Essex, in a Meteor Mk 8.
The weather was perfect:
When I was at about 16,000 feet I saw a whole lot of contrails-possibly at 30-40,000 feet-over the North Foreland. Through the middle of the trails I saw three objects which I thought were airplanes, but they weren't trailing. They came down through the middle of that toward Southend and then headed toward me.
When they got to within a certain distance two of them went off to my port side-one gold and one silver-and the third object came straight toward me and closed to within a few hundred yards, almost filling the windscreen, then it went off toward my port side. I tried to turn round to follow, but it had gone.
It was saucer-shaped with a bun on top and a bun underneath, and was silvery and metallic. There were no portholes, flames, or anything.
The third object could not have been far away because it nearly overlapped the windscreen (the original story claimed that it actually overlapped the windscreen). A Meteor's 37-feet wingspan just fills the windscreen at 150 yards.
Salandin immediately reported the sighting by radio to North Weald. After landing he related further details to Derek Dempster, 604 Squadron's intelligence officer, who was fortuitously to become the first editor of Flying Saucer Review in 1955. The report was sent to the Air Ministry but nothing further was heard about it. Had it not been for Derek Dempster the story might never have come to light.
Derek has told me that he is absolutely convinced of Salandin's sincerity, having known him well as a fellow pilot in 604 Squadron. Prior to flying Meteors and Vampires, "Jimmy" Salandin told me that he gained experience in a number of other aircraft, including 100 hours in a Spitfire Mk XVI (this aircraft is still flying). Salandin only regrets that there was not sufficient time to trigger the gun-camera button. But his memory of the sighting remains vivid. "I haven't found a satisfactory explanation for what I saw," he told me, "but I know what I saw. "
The current editor of Flying Saucer Review is the former diplomat and intelligence officer Gordon Creighton, who relates an intriguing sequel to the affair. Following a talk that Gordon had given to the House of Lords All-Party UFO Study Group in November 1983, he happened to broach the subject with a complete stranger whom he met on the train journey home. The Salandin case was brought up in the course of conversation, and the stranger turned out to be a former member of 604 Squadron. Gordon told him that FSR had investigated and published the case in its first issue, and asked if by chance he had ever heard of the magazine. "Oh, yes!" he replied. "We knew all about Flying Saucer Review. You were the people that we were always warned that we must keep away from."Source: ABOVE TOP SECRET, Timothy Good, 36