An Airman’s Encounter

We are constantly being told that the UFO enigma began in 1947, with the Kenneth Arnold sighting in Washington state and the Roswell Incident a few months later, but any student of ufology will know that the subject has been with us for much, much longer.

The following story dates not from antiquity, but from 1943, yet it demonstrates how unsuspecting folk have been encountering UFO-related phenomena since long before the term ‘flying saucer’ was dreamed up.

John Warren was an armourer serving in the RAF during World War II. At the time of his encounter, he was stationed in Norfolk at RAF Ludham, a radar facility close to the large airfield at RAF Coltishall. What follows is from the archives of UFOData's features editor, Philip Mantle. Philip interviewed Mr Warren back in 1987 and he recounts a fascinating sighting during a late-night walk through the East Anglian countryside.

One night in May of 1943 (John could not give an exact date), Mr Warren had been to North Walsham, a town roughly nine miles from RAF Ludham, and had got a lift in a truck to Catfield, a village about three and a half miles from his camp. Being a little worse for wear, John, who was about twenty-two at the time, decided to sleep under a railway signal box. Some time later, he awoke and made the decision to walk back to the base.

A little over a mile from the camp, he noticed a light in one of the fields that bordered the narrow, country lane.  As he drew closer, he saw a figure standing in the field. Not expecting to encounter anybody that late at night, John became a little nervous and quickened his pace slightly. As he drew closer, he noticed that the figure was wearing what appeared to be a greyish-white ‘boiler suit’. Attached to the front of the suit was a box that cast a greenish glow onto the face of the figure. The face was visible beneath the helmet that John likened to an old-fashioned divers’ helmet.

The figure stared at John as he approached, with a smile on its face that terrified the young airman. He said the face was round, without any noticeable cheekbones or chin.

As he passed the figure, which was standing behind the bushes that bordered the field and about thirty to a hundred yards away from John, he saw a large, domed object in the field behind this grinning entity. A second figure was moving around, doing something with the ground, as though taking samples.

The domed object reminded John of a large bell tent. It was stony-grey in colour and gave off no light.

John passed their location and kept on going, walking quickly, terrified, but not running for his life. He glanced back and saw that both figures were now doing something in the ground around the ‘bell tent’. Then he looked forward again and kept going until he reached RAF Ludham.

He wondered if they were German agents that might have landed on the nearby coast. However, he could not imagine what they were doing in those odd suits with the green, glowing light. Also, a structure the size of the dome he saw would have been awkward to carry over the countryside from the coastline, some seven or eight miles distant.

John got back to his camp and the safety of the Nissen huts in which the men were billeted. He settled into bed, wondering about what he had just witnessed, when he was startled by something coming through the window!

Fearful that the entities from the field had come for him, John was relieved to discover that it was a friend of his returning from a late-night romantic liaison. ‘Taffy’, though, looked scared to death when John saw him. He asked his friend if anything was wrong, but Taffy declined to elaborate. He just said that he had an early start and was going to bed.

Taffy was a cook, so the next morning after breakfast, John asked him what had frightened him so much the previous night. Taffy explained that he had seen something outside of Catfield and had run all the way back to the base. John didn’t tell him that he had also seen something. Taffy didn’t go into any details beyond ‘seeing something’.

Before the night he saw the figures and their dome-shaped ‘craft’, John had used that road many times, going to a local swimming spot, but afterwards, he never went along that road alone and never went swimming there again. He confined his drinking to either the NAAFI (Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes) or went to the pub in Ludham, which took him along a different road.

Being 1943, John had never heard of flying saucers and didn’t even equate what he saw as having anything other than an earthly explanation, but as the years have passed, John now believes that what he saw was not of this world. This was reinforced when he saw a strange object that was shaped like an ice cream cornet over his home town of Batley, West Yorkshire, in about 1947. He and a friend saw this object in the sky before it simply disappeared in the blink of an eye.

If John Warren did see an extra-terrestrial craft in that East Anglian field in 1943, what were its occupants doing poking holes in the ground? Why did they simply watch him with a fixed grin as he hurried past? If they were German agents, surely they would have stopped this lone airman from divulging their location.

What had happened to Taffy? It seems that he also saw the same thing as John, but it had terrified him so much that he had ran back to the base. If the family of Taffy (John said his real name was Jennings or Jenkins and that he was Welsh) are reading this, perhaps he told them of his wartime encounter. If so, we would appreciate a call, a letter or an email to

This is a fascinating story from a time before ‘flying saucers’ were the vogue. It demonstrates that the UFO phenomenon did not begin in the United States in 1947.

Below are John's actual sketches of what he saw and a plan of the camp (click the images for full size):


© Steve Johnson - 2006


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Updated 16th August, 2012