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The Royals and UFOs – Some tantalizing facts behind the hype (Pt. I)

Newlyweds, William and Kate
Newlyweds, William and Kate

A few weeks ago, an AolNews story about Major George Filer’s prediction that UFOs were expected to be seen at the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton received huge publicity worldwide. As far as I know, no UFO sightings or footage has emerged so far as the British people and a global audience enjoyed the pageantry of the royal wedding earlier today. The AolNews story, which spread like wildfire through the British press and elsewhere, also quoted famous crop circle researcher Colin Andrews about the Queen’s interest in his first book Circular Evidence, Dan Willis, an expert on royal genealogy, and New York ufologist Mike Luckman, who was the first to feed the information on the Royals’ alleged interest in UFOs to AOL writer David Moye.

I’ve known retired USAF Major and MUFON Eastern Region Director George Filer for many years—he was one of the speakers at our recent International UFO Congress and his weekly electronic Filer’s Files is a great resource for global UFO sightings. However, his prediction of possible sightings at the royal wedding was not based on any solid data. A more interesting revelation in the AOL article which had not been published before was that Filer himself once met Prince Philip, the Queen’s husband and Duke of Edinburgh who by all accounts is the one member in the royal family most interested in UFOs.

According to Major Filer, “it was around 1961 or ’62, when I was a navigator in a tanker. He [Prince Philip] met with a group of us after dinner because he wanted to talk about UFOs. He told us that the RAF had stopped sending fighters after UFOs because some of them didn’t come back. They decided to send tankers, which were nearly as fast as the fighters but could hold 15 hours of fuel, compared to two for the fighters.” That is quite a statement—that some RAF fighters didn’t come back or crashed after a UFO chase—if Filer is quoting the Prince correctly. While there are several well known cases of UFO-aircraft scrambles in the declassified British military documents, I am not aware of any that backs the allegation that planes didn’t return to their bases or crashed following a UFO incident in the UK. Similar incidents did occur in the USA and in the old USSR but did not involve British pilots.

Lord Mountbatten, royal ufologist

Lord Mountbatten (image credit: Allan Warren)
Lord Mountbatten (image credit: Allan Warren)

Filer went on to say in the AOL interview that, “I asked him [Prince Philip] why he was so interested in UFOs and he explained that his uncle, the Earl Mountbatten, had seen them up close.” Later on in the article, Luckman was quoted saying also that “Lord Mountbatten not only had a sighting, but one of his former employees reportedly claimed they saw a craft on [Mountbatten’s] estate.” Prince Philip’s uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten (1900-1979), 1st  Earl Mountbatten of Burma, was a famous British Admiral of the Fleet who served as Supreme Allied Commander in South East Asia during World War II, and was also the last Viceroy of India up to the independence and partition of India and Pakistan in 1948. His wife, Lady Edwina Ashley, was also a well known socialite. The Earl was murdered by the IRA in a notorious terrorist act in 1979.

Lord Mountbatten’s interest in UFOs is well documented and beyond dispute, although none of the sources we’ve consulted mention a personal UFO sighting, as claimed by Filer and Luckman. The subject is discussed in some detail in Mountbatten, an authoritative biography by Philip Ziegler (Alfred A. Knopf, 1985), which shows that in the early 1950s the Earl was indeed fascinated with the subject of flying saucers and had some odd theories about them. What triggered this interest is unclear—perhaps it was motivated by foo fighter accounts that he saw or heard as Supreme Allied Commander in Asia, but that is just an educated guess. In any case, Ziegler writes that “his interest in the subject was so keen that he tried to persuade the editor of the Sunday Dispatch to put a team on to sifting the reported cases and pursuing the more promising.”

Lord Mountbatten’s theory about the origin of UFOs was, in his own words, “a far-fetched explanation,” yet he had somehow arrived at it by 1950, as shown in the papers of Lady Mountbatten. While discussing flying saucers with his daughter Patricia and his close friend Peter Murphy, Ziegler quotes that they were “both convinced that they come from another planet but we mutually and independently came to the conclusion that they were not ‘aeroplanes’ with silly little almost human pilots but are themselves the actual inhabitants: Martians, Venusians, Jupiterians or what have you. Why should life in another planet with entirely different conditions in any way resemble life on our planet? Their inhabitants might be ‘gaseous’ or circular or very large. They certainly don’t breathe, they may not have to eat and I doubt if they have babies—bits of their great discs may break away and grow into a new creature. The fact that they can hover and accelerate away from the earth’s gravity again and even revolve round a V2 in America (as reported by their head scientist) shows that they are far ahead of us. If they really come over in a big way that may settle the capitalist-communist war. If the human race wishes to survive they may have to band together.”

While the theory that UFOs are not traveling machines carrying alien occupants but living entities themselves has been proposed by some researchers (the best known is author John Trevor Constable), Mountbatten seems to be perhaps the first to have linked it to UFO sightings. (Actually, famous author Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, wrote a short story entitled “Terror in the Sky” about early aviation and huge living creatures in the upper atmosphere.) The Earl was perfectly aware that his theory seemed weird and in his correspondence with the editor of the Sunday Dispatch, Charles Eade, he wrote, “I know this sounds ridiculous, and I am relying on you…not to make any capital out of the fact that I have put forward such a far-fetched explanation.”

The 1955 Landing and CE-III at the Broadlands Estate

The Broadlans Estate
The Broadlands Estate (image credit:

While some UFOs could be living entities, most are not, as Lord Mountbatten himself was able to ascertain when he personally investigated a landing and Close Encounter of the Third Kind (CE-III) right on the grounds of his own estate at Broadlands in Romsey, Hampshire, on the morning of February 23, 1955. The actual Broadlands Archives documents of his investigation—the Earl’s summary of the case, a drawing of the craft and being and a signed statement by the witness, Frederick Briggs, a retired British Army Sergeant who was working as a bricklayer in Broadlands—were obtained and published in full in Timothy Good’s famous 1987 book, Above Top Secret – The Worldwide UFO Cover-up.

Files on Broadlans UFO Encounter. (image credit: Broadlans Archives) Click image see entire file.
Files on Broadlands UFO Encounter. (image credit: Broadlands Archives) Click image to see entire file.

You can read the full report in the original documents above, but for now suffice to say that Frederick Briggs was riding his bike at Broadlands at 8:30 in the morning of February 23, 1955 when, “I suddenly saw an object hovering stationary over the field… The object was shaped like a child’s huge humming-top and half way between 20ft. or 30ft. in diameter. Its colour was like dull aluminium, rather like a kitchen saucerpan. It was shaped like the sketch which I have endeavoured to make, and had portholes all round the middle, rather like a steamer has…While I was watching a column, about the thickness of a man, descended from the centre of the Saucer and I suddenly noticed on it, what appeared to be a man, presumably standing on a small platform on the end. He did not appear to be holding on to anything. He seemed to be dressed in a dark suit of overalls, and was wearing a close fitting hat or helmet.”

So there you have it! A classic CE-III with a helmeted alien right on the estate of one Britain’s most famous military men and member of the royal family, an uncle of the Duke of Edinburgh. The UFO experience was not over either. Briggs then noticed “a curious light come on in one of the portholes…a bluish light, rather like a mercury vapour light.” Although the light was not directly aimed at him, Briggs fell on the snow with the bike on top. “While lying on the ground I could see the tube withdrawn quickly into the Saucer, which then rose vertically, quite as fast as the fastest Jet aircraft I have seen, or faster.”

Sgt. Briggs was dizzy for a little while but eventually got back on his bike towards the mansion, where he saw the electrician Heath, told him the story and both went together right away to the spot where the event occurred. The trail is picked up now by Lord Mountbatten himself, who in his own signed statement writes: “My own electrician, Heath, reported his conversation and I subsequently interviewed Mr. Briggs, with my wife and younger daughter, and as a result of his account, Heath and I accompanied him to the place from which he saw the Flying Saucer.” You can read the rest of the Mountbatten summary and Brigg’s deposition here. The Broadlands’ dossier also includes Brigg’s own sketch of the craft and its occupant.

Brigg's sketch of the UFO and occupant.
Briggs’ sketch of the UFO and occupant.

The Desmond Leslie account

Sir Desmond Leslie
Sir Desmond Leslie

The Broadlands UFO incident was at one point ready to appear on the front page of the Sunday Graphic, but the story was quashed to protect the privacy of Lord Mountbatten and his family. So it was only in 1981, long after the Earl’s tragic murder by the IRA in August 1979, that the UFO story finally appeared in print in England’s Flying Saucer Review (Vol. 26, No. 5, Jan. 1981) in an article written by Desmond Leslie titled, “DID FLYING SAUCERS LAND AT BROADLANDS? Alleged encounters on the Estate of Earl Mountbatten of Burma.” Desmond Leslie himself was a colorful, eccentric aristocratic author and musician, whose father was first cousin to Winston Churchill. In ufology Leslie is best known for writing most of Flying Saucers Have Landed, the famous book of Adamski about his contact with a Venusian in Desert Center, California, in 1952—most of the book deals with other material, much of it historical, written by Leslie.

Leslie interviewed Briggs years later and there is no need to repeat the details already contained in the statements written right after the incident. The interview must have been many years later because the date was no longer clear, he puts it in the mid or late 50s. But there are some interesting details, for instance, this description of Lord Mountbatten’s interview with Sgt. Briggs:

“Now we come to the bit that just could not be published until now, for it was stated that Lord Mountbatten produced a number of UFO photographs and asked Briggs to study them closely and try to identify the one he’d just seen. To encourage him he told him not to be ashamed, nor to feel foolish, because “we know about these things and are very interested in them.” Those are the words Briggs related to me as spoken by Lord Mountbatten.”

The final part of Leslie’s article is far more controversial, reporting that Briggs claimed he had a second encounter on the following day, which quickly became a typical contactee story where Briggs is invited by the friendly ET to go aboard the saucer and chose a place to visit. He thought of the Pyramids of Egypt and after a short flight of no more than ten minutes, “I was able to see them from above and from the side at the same time,” Briggs told Leslie, including a final word from the aliens that, “If Lord Mountbatten met us he could change the world.”

There are problems with this second addition to the Broadlands 1955 UFO incident. Harry Challenger, who inherited the venerable Flying Saucer Review after the passing of its long-time published and editor Gordon Creighton, told me that he had seen evidence at the FSR archives that the second Briggs story was bogus, as he himself had apparently later admitted. We know that Lord Mountbatten didn’t believe in it either, as Leslie tells how he used his friendship with General Sir Frederick Browning, who was at the time the Queen’s Private Secretary, to send a letter to the Earl via Browning. “I did get a reply. And it was direct,” wrote Leslie. “Of the second close encounter—he [Mountbatten] didn’t believe a word of it! That’s what the General told me, and he laughed.”

The grounds of the Broadlands Estate (image credit:
The grounds of the Broadlands Estate (image credit:

Mountbatten’s biographer Ziegler says that by 1957 the Earl’s interest in the subject had waned a bit. “I must be honest and confess that I no longer take the same interest,” he wrote a correspondent in April 1957. “He never rejected the possibility that the objects existed, however, merely insisted that if they did they must be susceptible of rational explanation. Few senior naval officers would have been ready to confront the paranormal with such equanimity,” wrote Ziegler. He obviously also passed his passion and interest in the saucers to his nephew Philip and was in a way the first royal ufologist, at least for a while during the 1950-57 period more or less.

More amazing UFO stories and alleged meeting with aliens involving generals linked to the royal family in the second part next week.

Read Part II Here


Antonio Huneeus

Open Minds Investigative Reporter J. Antonio Huneeus has covered the UFO field from an international perspective for over 30 years. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications in the U.S., Latin America, Europe and Japan. He was also the co-author of the Laurance Rockefeller-funded “UFO Briefing Document – The Best Available Evidence” and edited the book “A Study Guide to UFOs, Psychic & Paranormal Phenomena in the USSR.” Huneeus studied French at the Sorbonne University in Paris and Journalism at the University of Chile in Santiago in the 1970s. He has lectured at dozens of UFO Conferences all over the world and been interviewed by many media outlets including The Washington Post, the Sy-Fy and History Channels, Nippon-TV, etc. He received the “Ufologist of the Year” award at the National UFO Conference in Miami Beach in 1990 and the “Courage in Journalism” award at the X-Conference in Gaithersburg, Maryland, in 2007.

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