On the evening of 23rd January 1974, residents of Llandrillo, as well as other villages around the Berwyn Mountains were shaken by what many described at the time as an explosion. Witnesses also claim to have seen lights in the sky at the time, falling to the ground at speed and in reports, trailing fire and fume. It was not long before the story of a UFO crash became something of a ‘cause celebre’, leading to the incident being dubbed the, ‘Welsh Roswell’. Despite plenty of scientific evidence to the contrary, the incident is still regarded as one of the most famous UFO incidents in recent British history.
A wealth of scientific evidence has been released which points to the incident being something of a spectacular co-incidence. The Institute of Geological Sciences (now the British Geological Survey) reported that a magnitude 3.5 earthquake occurred at 8.38 p.m. in the area of the notorious Bala fault, which was felt in places some 50 miles distant. Throughout Britain during the same evening, reports of a ‘fireball’ were common, ranging from as far afield as Penzance in Cornwall, Northern Ireland, Derby and elsewhere. Anglesey Coastguard confirmed the appearance of a, ‘green’ meteorite heading west, others saw it moving towards North Wales, while other coastguard establishments in the Isle of Man, Formby and Cumberland reported, ‘green flares’. However, reports of the meteorite or ‘fireball’ seem to have been received some time after the explosion was heard.
Certainly, there was a fairly quick response to the incident, after the police received a number of reports from the concerned residents of Llandrillo, many of who assumed at the time that a plane, possibly a low flying RAF jet had come down. Within the hour of the first reports, some 10 police officers were in the area having had to, ‘treat it as if a plane had crashed’. Further emergency services were alerted, and mountain rescue teams joined the search. Rather enigmatically, reports of ‘teams of experts’ were also reported in the area. Some have claimed these were the notorious, ‘men in black’ reported to attend alleged UFO incidents, but who were rather more likely, if less excitingly to have been from Keele University.
It is unlikely that the meteorite that was witnessed actually impacted in the Berwyn Mountains, or anywhere else for that matter. Had it done so, the force of the impact would have left a crater the size of which would not have allowed for any debate. In fact, it is likely, according to experts that the fireball disintegrated some 35km above Manchester.
Curious then that the debate continues. Much of it can be assigned to wishful thinking. UFO incidents are so much more exciting than minor earthquakes, of course, and many would rather believe in an alien presence than earth tremors. The witnesses to the incident range from the tantalisingly persuasive to the snort inducing. The Ministry of Defence collected numerous witness statements in the days, weeks and months after the incident, and many claim that ‘something’ came down in the Berwyn Mountains that night.
The most interesting witness is probably a district nurse, Pat Evans who having heard the explosion, believed it to be a plane crash. She immediately drove up, as close to the site as possible, believing that her help would be needed. What she saw there continues to confound researchers today. Claiming to have seen a, ‘huge ball glowing and pulsating on the mountain’, the nurse also stated that she saw scattered lights around it, which she believed at the time to be rescue workers approaching the site, even though she could not explain how they could have arrived so soon after the ‘explosion’. Her claims have a ring of truth, despite the scientific evidence to the contrary, possibly because much of what she subsequently says debunks myths that gathered about the incident, such as hordes of armed police and military on site, warning locals away from the place. Speaking many years after the incident, she claims that, ‘it had to be a UFO of some sort. I’m talking about something that could only have got there by flying and landing’.
Another witness, Geraint Edwards of Llandderfel claims that he saw a UFO in the area on 15th February 1974, some three weeks after the original incident. ‘It looked like a rugger ball, but the ends of it were more pointy. When it took off, it just went like lightning on the same line it hovered’. He claims it, ‘was definitely a flying saucer’, and goes to some effort to explain he was going to the pub at the time, rather than returning home.
A UFO researcher by the name of Russ Kellert claims to have spoken to Irish fishermen who witnessed flying saucers emerge from the Irish Sea before the Berwyn incident, and also claims to have a sworn statement from, ‘a group of men who were coming back from Bala when they found this flying saucer at the side of the road and the military came and took it away on a flat-back vehicle’. I will leave consideration of this information purely to the reader, if I may.
The Berwyn Mountain Incident continues to fascinate, and regularly makes appearances in documentaries investigating UFO phenomena.