Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Westall UFO

Clayton South, south east of Melbourne, is an average middle class suburb a short distance from the CBD. Established in 1929 as the city expanded south, the Clayton area today is the very picture of modest, well kept ordinariness.

There are houses and apartment buildings, and a number of schools and parks. One of Melbourne;s best universities, Monash, is a short distance away, as is one of Australia's best golf courses, in Kingston Heath.

But Clayton South has as extraordinary footnote in the history of our city; it is also the site of Australia's largest mass UFO Sighting.

The renamed Westall Secondary College, present day.

Clayton South: 'A' marks the spot of the secondary school.

April 6, 1966 seemed a typical autumn day for the teachers and students heading into the two local schools; Westall High and Westall State school, the adjacent primary. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, it was just a day like any other.

Around 11.00am, a class of students at the high school were playing a game of cricket on the sports oval. Other children milled around at the end of their morning break, watching the game or just mucking about.

All of a sudden, out of nowhere, something unusual appeared in the sky. An object, a silver-grey disk or saucer, moving slowly over the school, heading south.

The shock caused by the saucer's appearance was immediate: panic! Some of the children shrieked, while several threw themselves to the ground in fright:

The commotion drew more students and teachers, who ran outside to see what was happening. As many as 100 witnesses at Westall High have been identified as indicating they saw something in the sky that day, although their testimony varies.

Andrew Green, a science teacher, said he saw a silvery-green disk, about twice the size of a family car.

Joy Clarke, a second form student, said she saw 'three flying saucers.'

Some witnesses reported hearing engine noise coming from the object, or that they saw a light aircraft pursuing it.

Others have refuted these claims.

An artists impression of the incident.

The object's trajectory took it over the high school and then over the neighbouring primary, where its appearance again caused pandemonium. Children in both schools ran around chatoically; crying, yelling, pointing at the sky:

Next to the primary school was an open patch of vacant, overgrown land, called Grange Reserve. The object lost height once it was over the reserve and was witnessed descending behind a stand of trees. A number of excited students made to pursue the craft, some by climbing the school fence.

But after a short pause, probably no more than a couple of minutes, the object ascended from the trees again and departed the area, heading north west. It was soon lost from view, never to be seen again.

Witnesses who made it into the Grange shortly after the object's final disappearance reported seeing a flattened circle on the ground.

Artists impression of what was found in The Grange reserve.

Back at the high school, in the immediate aftermath, an attitude of secrecy was adopted. High school Principal Frank Samblebe called an assembly and told his stunned students:

Other witnesses claimed to have seen RAAF personal and government vehicles in the area around he Grange Reserve, immediately after the sighting.

The press coverage the following day was mixed. The local newspaper, The Dandenong Journal, made the 'Flying Saucer Mystery' its front page:

While The Age  ran a smaller, considerably more measured, item in it's local news section:

And this second story has probably become accepted as the official version of events.

The Government, state and federal, has always denied that they had any planes in the area at the time, and also that no military personnel attended the site to investigate. Diligent checking of the public record by private investigators has also failed to uncover any official reports or documents relating to the Westall event.

The absence of any official explanation, along with the now hazy memories of the people involved, has allowed a fine conspiracy network to spring up around the Westall incident.

It has a global profile as one of the world's most well known UFO events, and is one of the few to feature a large number of credible witnesses. In recent years, local interest in 'Australia's Roswell', has flickered from time to time as well:

In 2010, researcher Shane Ryan presented a documentary - Westall '66 - about his investigation of the incident, based on exhaustive research over a five year period. Through a public appeal, Ryan was able to uncover many previously unknown witnesses to the event and many from the surrounding area beyond the school grounds. In an interview given to the The Age in 2010, Ryan expressed his certainty that all those witnesses had seen... something:

But Ryan was unable to reach any solid conclusions about what had happened. He was frustrated, he said, by a lack of cooperation from official sources. In the interview excerpted above, Ryan states that his belief is that it was a Government aircraft of some sort, but that proof was scarce.

And in this, he mirrors the frustration of the people who witnessed this unusual event. People who, even after nearly 50 years, still aren't exactly sure what they saw that day.

To mark the anniversary of the event in 2004, The Westall UFO was given a small commemoration by the local council, when they named their new adventure playground in its honour.