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Pilots UFO sightings:

This page documents and assesses a case in which a UFO or supposed or alleged UFO was reported to have been observed from an aircraft in flight.

July 5, 1933, over Sussex, U-K.

The Project 1947 website ([prt1] indicates:


1933: # July 5, Sussex, England.

On July 5th 1933, during a night cross country training flight over Sussex, England a flight of four Hawker Fury I biplane fighters was broken up by a "huge" circular light that "dropped down from above their formation, into its very centre." RAF Capt. Nigel Tompkins was forced to land after his engine quit. Lt. Bruce H. Thomas suffered burns to his face and hands after passing close to the light while trying to land his aircraft after his engine quit...

A/C Code: M

(Hawker Furies) GXE codes: _ X E


History of the III Fighter Squadron, RAF
Printed by London Press, 1947.

(From: Wayne Thompson. Submitted: 12 Feb 94 to "Fido UFO" BBS Network.)

The "#" indicates the report is of doubtful reliability, Aldrich indicated.

In the skeptical British ufology bulletin MAGONIA Supplement, No. 37, 2001, ([maa1] I read:

British researchers need to get access to History of the III Fighter Squadron RAF, London Press, 1947, for the following story from 5 July 1933, when at night a flight of four Hawker Fury fighters encountered a "huge circular light" which dropped down from above into the centre of their formation. Captain Nigel Tomkinsĺs engine cut out forcing him to crash land. Another pilot, Bruce Thomas, came even closer, suffering not just an engine failure but bums to his hands and face. Clearly if the book can be traced and confirms that this account is reliable, then all efforts should be made to track down flight logs and other original documentation, check the local press for the period, and even try to track down descendants of those involved. (A preliminary check with the library at the RAF Museum, and the British Library, has failed to trace this book. JR)

The Project 1947 report appears with the same alleged source in Philip Rife's book "It Didn't Start with Roswell", 2001 [(pre1)]:

The following year (1933), a group of four British Royal Air Force fighters attracted some unusual company of their own during a training flight over the English countryside. They were flying in Sussex when all at once, a huge, circular lighted object dropped from above into the center of their formation. Two of the planes were forced to make emergency landings when their engines suddenly quit. The pilot who'd been closest to the object sustained burns to his face and hands. (217)

The "217" reference is described in the footnotes as "'History of the III Fighter Squadron, RAF' Printed by London Press (London:1947)."

In the 1970's, British ufologist Peter Rogerson published in Magonia magazine a long catalog of close encounter cases, with little details and no research into the veracity or real strangeness of these cases; in the 2010's; he republished it on the Web, sometimes with additional evaluation - he had become a "skeptic" in the meantime. He added some new cases; including this one ([prn1]):


July 5 1933. Night.


A group of four Hawker Fury biplanes were on a flight when a huge circular light descended among them. Two of the pilots Captain Nigel Tompkins and Bruce H Thomas were forced to land when their engines cut out. Thomas suffered burns on his hands and face when trying to land, as if by radiated heat.

Some website copied the Project 1947 version, generally without credit. Example:

The story also appeared in the Atlantis Rising magazine #135 of May / June 2019, on the Website Think about it, etc.


No 3 Squadron has its roots in the earliest days of aviation, in 1910, when the War Office arranged for two privately owned aircraft to be used experimentally during Army training. The Balloon School became the Air Battalion of the Royal Engineers and on 12 May 1912 this in turn was superseded by the Royal Flying Corps, when No 2 Company became No 3 Sqn Royal flying Corp; the only squadron possessing aeroplanes, making it the oldest aircraft unit.

After WWI, the No 3 squadron was disbanded and reformed several times.

In 1921, the squadron re-formed at RAF Manston as a fighter unit. It continued in this role throughout the inter war years.

Indications of hoax are numerous in my opinion:

  1. The book would not have spelled "History of the III Fighter Squadron, RAF", but "History of the No. 3 Fighter Squadron, RAF" (although the initial badge showed a Roman numeral III supposed to represents the monoliths of Stonehenge, which is close to the units early location at Larkhill on Salisbury Plain.)
  2. With either of those titles, or some resembling title, the book does not exist, as Magonia Supplement and then Peter Rogerson indicated.
  3. Like Peter Rogerson, I found no single trace of the alleged publisher, "London Press". The closest would be "The London University Press".
  4. The No 3 squadron never flew any Hawker Fury aircraft. From 1929 to 1937, they flew Bristol Bulldog IIA (February 1931 - January 1932; December 1932 - June 1937) (per After 1924 , it flew Woodcocks, Gamecocks and Bulldogs, and Gladiators until WW2 when it flea Hawker Hurricanes (per (None of the numerous sources I checked indicated it ever flew Hawker Fury aircraft).
  5. Besides, although I have a copy of the old UFO BBS texts both from the long-gone FidoNet and KeelyNet archive, including the "Fidonews" electronic bulletin for 1994 and on, I did not find any trace of this case, supposedly fed by "Wayne Thompson. Submitted: 12 Feb 94 to "Fido UFO" BBS Network.)"
  6. Even worse, "Wayne Thompson", credited as having fed the story to the "Fido UFO BBS Network" does not seem to exist in the world of ufologists.

In the 1980's, long before the World Wide Web, before email, computers could already communicate with one another when equipped with a modem and relevant software. A communication protocol called Kermit allowed one's computer to share files with other computers, connected on users demand by analog phone lines; at the cost of phone communication. The BBS (Bulletin Board Services) were born. As an IT professional; I used this at the time; though not for ufology purposes as i was not yet interested in the matter. People would share many text-only articles about UFOs. Begore the Web had started, usenet networks (a system of networked forums, set up in 1979) like Fidonet, Keelynet, collected these texts, and later in the 1990's, they started to be archived on the newborn World Wide Web.

In the UFO BBS files shared back then, one found texts of very different values, from crackpots (remember the "Commander X" saga?) and conspiracists rants to extracts of the more serious UFO literature. The information was of course much more difficult to cross-check back then.


Story probably invented in 1994.

Sources references:

* = Source is available to me.
? = Source I am told about but could not get so far. Help needed.

File history:

Version: Create/changed by: Date: Description:
1.0 Patrick Gross August 3, 2021 Creation, [prt1], [maa1], [pre1], [dwn1], [prn1].
1.0 Patrick Gross August 3, 2021 First published.

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This page was last updated on August 3, 2021.