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This year sees 50 years since the case still described as one of Australia’s truly unexplained UFO cases. The Westall UFO encounter took place on the 6th April 1966 in Melbourne, Australia and involved over 200 students and teachers. Fifty years on, no explanation can adequately explain what they saw.
At 11am on that day, a class of students and their teacher from Westall High School were taking part in sports activities in the main oval when they saw what was described as a grey saucer-shaped craft that has a purplish hue to it. They said it was around twice the size of a family car. Descriptions were slightly varied with Andrew Greenwood, a science teacher, saying that he saw a silvery-green disc rather than a purple one. But the witnesses all said that the object descended and crossed above the school south-west corner, heading south-east at which point it vanished behind some trees.
Some statements said that the craft landed in the paddock beyond the school and there were clear indentations in the ground. Despite denials, some sources say that the government collected samples from these spots.
Around 20 minutes later, the witnesses now numbered 200 and the craft reappeared. It climbed at speed before vanishing to the north-west but this time it was being pursued by five unidentified aircraft who were circling the object.
Perhaps the sightings would have been news for a few days then died off if not for the strange events in the aftermath of the sightings. A number of local newspapers ran with coverage of the story, as did the Nine News in their 6pm bulletin. Later, the film canister containing the footage of the incident that they used turned up empty.
Another report said that one of the girls from the school was near where the UFO landed and had to be taken away in an ambulance after passing out. Curiously enough, the girl was said to have not ever returned to the school after the day.
Then things became ever stranger. The police came to the school in the days after the incident and at an unscheduled assembly told the students that they had not seen a UFO but a manmade craft – a weather balloon or something similar. The kids were also told that they weren’t to talk to anyone about what they had seen.
While the assembly took place, other teachers were approached by two men wearing dark blue suits. They too were told not to talk about what they had seen, particularly not to the press. One teacher who had taken a number of photos of the object had her camera confiscated by the men. They told the teachers they were from the ASIO, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.
Andrew Greenwood also received a visit from these men at his home. He was told that he was not to say anything under the Official Secrets Act and that if he did, he would be fired and discredited with rumours of him being an alcoholic.
To this day, many of the witnesses tell the same story they did in 1966 and researcher Shane Ryan has interviewed many of them. Joy Clark was twelve and vividly remembered the day. She was in class and other students rushed in, telling what they had seen. She went outside and saw three of the saucers which she firmly believes were not of this world.
Terry Peck was playing cricket at the time and took after it when it flew over her. She was within six metres from it and said it was larger than a car and circular. She also thought there were lights under it. She was with the girl who passed out and was taken to the hospital.
Jacqueline Argent was another to see the craft up close, one of the first of the kids to scale the fence beside where the craft had landed. She assumed it was some kind of new aircraft at the time but nothing like it has ever come into use. She recalled being summoned to the headmaster’s office where three men interrogated her.
One explanation was that a secret radiation testing project called HIBAL was being conducted at the time between Australia and the US, monitoring atmospheric radiation. Each balloon had a 180kg payload and was tailed by light aircraft. While a sighting of the balloon may explain part of the events that day, it doesn’t cover all the aspects of the story. And there can be no confirmation that a launch took place that day one way or another – all the paperwork has vanished too.
Witnesses remain hopeful that someone official will one day admit that something unexplained happened that day but there looks no chance of that currently. The landing site is a now a park, commemorating the day that so many people saw a truly unidentified flying object.