On October 14, 1954, Flight-Lieutenant James R. Salandin, flying a Meteor twin-jet fighter plane, narrowly avoided collision with an unidentified flying object over Southend-on-Sea, Essex.
What happened was told to Derek Dempster, the then editor of Flying Saucer Review, and the story appeared in the very first issue of the magazine. (Derek Dempster was himself an ex-RAF pilot and knew how pilots value their professional reputation. Sensation seeking is not their style.)
Jimmy Salandin was one of the 'weekend' pilots of No. 604 County of Middlesex Squadron, Royal Auxiliary Air Force. He had reported for duty at North Weald, Essex, on the afternoon of 4 October, and at 4.15 p.m. took off in his Meteor Mark 8 jet. Climbing southwards into a blue and cloudless sky he soon observed two other Meteors flying in formation high above him and leaving long vapor trails. Flight-Lieutenant Salandin watched the passage of the two aircraft while occasionally checking his instruments.
He had reached 16,000 feet (4880 meters) over the outlying districts of Southend, when to his surprise he saw two circular objects, traveling in the opposite direction to the Meteors, hurtle between them. One of the objects was silvery in color, the other gold. Salandin watched them until they disappeared, at the '9 o'clock high' position-to his port, or left, side.
After checking his own instruments he turned his gaze to the air in front of him. His surprise turned to horror - for he saw a silvery object streaking straight towards him. For a few split seconds he saw a thing that "had a bun-shaped top, a flange like two saucers in the middle, and a bun underneath... it could not have been far off because it overlapped the windscreen." (Derek Dempster noted that Meteor's 37 foot [11 meters] wing span just fills the windscreen at 150 yards [140 meters].) The flying saucer, which was traveling at tremendous speed, avoided a head-on collision at the very last second by suddenly swerving off past the jet on its port side.
Badly shaken, the Flight-Lieutenant flew around quietly for 10 minutes or so to regain his composure, and reported his experience to ground control. He was annoyed, too, when he realized later that his camera - standard equipment on combat aircraft - had been loaded all the time. With everything happening so quickly he didn't have time to press the button. A valuable opportunity to gather evidence for ufology had been missed.
Source for the above information: London Illustrated News, December 2, 1954, and RAF Flying Review, July 1957, and Richard Hall, NICAP.
The TRUE Report On Flying Saucers, 1967, published a paragraph about the sighting among many other:
|An RAF pilot encountered a UFO October 14, 1954. Flight Lt. J. R. Salandin of the 604th Fighter Squadron, flying a Meteor jet out of North Weald, Essex, nearly collided head-on with a huge, metallic-appearing object. The UFO was shaped like two saucers pressed together, one inverted on top of the other. At the last second, it flipped to one side and streaked past a tremendous speed. Two round UFO's had been sighted speeding between two other Meteor jets in the vicinity just before Lt. Salandin's sighting.|
Note: there was an error about the date in the original Flying Saucer Review article, which was corrected in the next articles, except in the TRUE Magazine article which still had the wrong date in its 1967 paragraph about the case. The wrong date is October 4, the correct date is October 14.
Timothy Good interviewed Flight Lieutenant James R. Salandin in 1985 and check the details with him.
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:
Flight Lieutenant Salandin told him:
"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 Tim Good that he is absolutely convinced of Salandin's sincerity, having known him well as a fellow pilot in 604 Squadron. Salandin explained that prior to flying Meteors and Vampires, he gained experience in a number of other aircraft, including 100 hours in a Spitfire Mk XVI (an aircraft that flew long after WWII). Salandin only regretted 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, "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."