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Monday 31 December 2018

UFOs, scared Septics and Anglo-Saxon ghosts

I had intended to post about rebalancing political power this morning. No longer. It's not often that a story in which one was personally involved drops into one's lap, but today we have one. A story in the Telegraph  has just explained for the first time an old event about which I have been feeling a little guilty for many years.

First my tale. It was 1980. We were a small group of lads in our early 20s from southern Suffolk, scattered around Ipswich but meeting frequently to carouse and take fun. One Saturday we decided to make a lunchtime session at the Queen's Head in Erwarton, a cosy waterside pub in a small village looking southwards out over the mouth of the Stour into darkest Essex. A friend of a friend had just taken the lease, and we were trying our chance at discounted beer.

In the bar we quickly made friends with a young American Air Force Lieutenant, who like many from the nearby USAF cold-war squadrons was living off-base in a rented cottage and had immersed himself in English village life. The pub was now his local - and he loved it, and his status there, with his own pewter beer jug and folk that knew his name.

Of course we knew the USAF bases well. We would talk our way in usually claiming to be brothers-in-law to Airmen married to Brit women. They were like small bits of the Midwest transported by tornado into ancient East Anglia, with black and white Dodge police prowlers on the gates and cops with pistols on their hips. They had Main Street shops and outlets, and importantly a PX and American bars. The PX provided pints of vodka (bought by a compliant serviceman with ID) at a fraction of their UK price, and the bar provided a truly authentic American drinking experience. One needed dollars for everything, of course - and all of us carried them.

I was also at that age, not far from my pubescent Airfix model days, something of an expert in US aviation kit, as only the sponge-minded young are. I could not only identify an approaching low flying aircraft as a F4 rather than an A10 or rarely then as a Lightning from engine noise alone but could tell you which models of F4 were stationed at each base in Suffolk, their range, weapons payloads and more.

We were keen, as the young and foolish are, to let the young Loot know we were chums and that we knew all about his world and we thought it cool. The young Loot, for reasons I had not fully understood until this morning, felt obliged to report to his CO on the Monday following an encounter with some young Brits who knew a helluva lot about their base and aircraft. The result we heard from our mate's landlord mate a week later; the base security people had thrown him into jail and subjected him to three days of  'enhanced interrogation' by teams who had flown in from the States, extracting from his tortured mind every single word exchanged in the Queen's Head.

We weren't that worried. We hadn't done anything wrong and we believed ourselves untouchable. We put the experience down to many Septics being arseholes (let me tell you another time about being chased around the Three Tuns by an obese puce-faced Tech Master-Sergeant for tearing up a dollar bill into a bar ashtray ...). However, the Loot was a nice young man, albeit a silly one for reporting our encounter, and I've always held myself a bit responsible for his three days under torture / interrogation back in 1980.

Now of course it's clear that his action and their reaction was around the time of the SAS fooling the poor Septics with fake UFOs in Rendlesham Forest. Made believable by long local tradition of the ghosts of the ancient Anglo-Saxon court of King Raedwald haunting the plantations, the king whose 'palace' (read big hut) was located in that place. 

Thirty-eight years on, it's good to know it wasn't really my fault.

Have a very happy New Year's eve all and drink a dram for me. And one for the Loot.


Stephen J said...

How times have changed...

In those days, even our friends were aliens, whereas today, the only enemy is the British citizen...

If you are an amateur Iranian sailor, you will be welcomed with open arms.

Or am I missing something?

Stephen J said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

If the Iranian is a skilled and qualified man who is an enemy of the Khomeinist regime, I would welcome him with open arms.

What we don't need are backward peasants from tribal areas. Especially ones who practice marriage to cousins.

Don Cox

Stephen J said...

@Don Cox:

I don't really care where immigrants come from, rather I was questioning how they come.

jack ketch said...

Raed, if you (or anyone else) should happen to be back in Suffolk next month then :

Rædwald the Great, First King of England
with Dr Sam Newton (Wuffing Education)
at the School of Music, Woodbridge School, Burkitt Road, Woodbridge IP12 4JH,
on Saturday 19th January 2019.

BillyMarlene said...


Thanks for that👍

BillyMarlene said...

I hope the Loot was subsequently barred from the Queen’s Head!

I learned, a long time ago, the perils of overfamiliarisation with Septics - particularly the military. They are not REALLY on our side.

A colleague and friend of mine, a Lt Col on the Weapons Staff of the MoD at the time, had occasion to formally visit a US Army base in Texas. At the gate he was searched, then escorted throughout the entire visit by two armed PFC types. At no time were they more than three feet from him.

Stark contrast to the courtesy and privilege we afford all ranks of any nation when visiting our units.

JohnofEnfield said...

Careful: Jest not. They are typing your current location into a Drone (you know the range, speed & armaments already) as I type.

jack ketch said...

@Billy Marlene, bookings etc:

Not decided yet if I shall attend, Woodbridge is sooo far south from me its almost in England.

Billy Marlene said...

Thanks again. Wonderful website. Looked at previous topics and frustrated with what I have missed!

My problem is that it is a whole day and I will need to sort my dog. 😕

It IS a bit South for you but ask your wife/sister/cousin (same person I assume) to give you some sunscreen (or ‘duck turd’ as I think it is called up there?).

jack ketch said...

Looked at previous topics and frustrated with what I have missed!-Billy Marlene

Same here when I stumbled across it a few months back- I was annoyed I missed Steven Pollington's "Old English" study day, he authors one of the OE textbooks I use. Mind you, nothing like the annoyance I felt when I discovered a year or so ago that David Crystal had visited our town , had given a lecture in the Town Hall and I had missed it! Since then I make a point of reading the Town History Society's Notice board at least once a week, unfortunately the lectures are usually about the USAAF 'invasion' or some local historian showing off his complete collection of shaving brushes 1930-1964.

Span Ows said...

Not sure Raedwald was "the Great", I always thought that only Alfred and Canute had that 'title'.

jack ketch said...

@span ows, only Alfred strictly speaking I think.

Scrobs. said...

In the early 1980s, I spent many a happy day trawling the USAF bases after discussions with a few very naive 'managers' in Block 'D', Cambridge PSA/DOE.

All the bases had some great guys working on the estates, and to get a contract for a commissary wanted just a few phone calls, a visit, and a fag-packet price!

(Never did get the Air Museum, possibly because I yelled a very rude name at the architect, just as I was slamming the phone down after a fruitless discussion, and completely missing the telephone cradle...)

Budgie said...

Americans, or more correctly establishment Americans, still regard themselves as the plucky colonialists who have humbled the old evil empire. They have been undermining the British for over 200 years now, presumably because they still do not realise they overtook the UK more than a century ago. And that may explain their behaviour in Iraq too. They are unable to see themselves as a conquering host with a responsibility to replace the governments they destroy. Rather, Yanks must be the rebels; their propaganda edifice will collapse otherwise.

Anon 2 said...

Alfred is the only king to whom we Brits have traditionally accorded the title: "the Great" (r. circa AD 886-899).

There's much to consider when trying to identify the first "Bretwalda" (King of all England).
Probably most follow Bede in attributing the function to Aelle of Sussex and Deira (traditionally supposed dates AD 560-588/90).

Though Bede counts Aethelberht of Kent as the 3rd Overlord, later specialists call him the first (starting after about 604; he reigned c. 589-616).

Bede saw Raedwald (r. in East Anglia 599-624) as succeeding to the overlordship when Aethelberht died in 616. In that light, Raedwald would be the the 4th "Bretwalda" (See Ch. 5 EHEP*).

However, many present-day authorities cite Aethelstan (c.925-939, originally of Mercia) as first King of all the English: perhaps because he achieved unification in a way others had not.

After all that, though, one of the most interesting connections often attributed to Raedwald is the 6/7th century burial mound/ship discovered at Sutton Hoo in 1939.
*The Venerable Bede (AD 672-735). "Ecclesiastical History of the English People" (EHEP).

jack ketch said...

@anon 2 I should think, judging by your erudite comment, you know this but incase anyone else doesn't: Dr.Sam Newton is known for his slightly ...hmmm...'unconventional' theories regarding Beowulf/Raedwald and Sutton Hoo (on which he is very expert) and the titling of Raedwald (or according to Newton 'Hraedwald') as the 'Great' is no doubt somewhat tongue in might be expected after a life time on Time Team.

Getting back to the Anglian Aliens, I can actually (vaguely) remember some news reports at the time, I think there may have even been a TV documentary.

One of the joys of hitchhiking out of or into Norfolk in the mid 80s was getting picked up by a yank at Barton Mills (traditionally the border between Norfolk and Englandshire). Big comfortable cars, generous with their smokes and usually a mini 'ice box' with 'soda' or beer :). I seem to recall they were instructed NOT to pick up hitchhikers so of course they made a point of doing so.

Stephen J said...

Amongst these discussions over our leaders, I didn't see any mention of Theresa the Grate?

Span Ows said...

Thanks j-k and anon 2, very interesting.

r-w: that was a mispronunciation, she was Theresa the Grey but as people spat through their teeth after saying the name it often came out sounding like GreyT

Anonymous said...


Timbotoo said...

And here’s me thinking it was Alfred the Grate, after the unfortunate incident of the burnt scones.