In the late morning of 3rd November, 1953, Flying Officers Terry Johnson and Geoffrey Smythe took off in a Vampire jet aircraft from West Malling R.A.F. base (Kent) on a routine reconnaissance mission of south-east England.
It was a clear autumn day and they soon reached an altitude of 20,000 feet when Terry Johnson was surprised to observe a very bright shiny object which resembled a “do-nut”.
He immediately alerted Geoffrey Smythe who was flying as radar operator and was extremely busy at the time. However, on looking up, Smythe was also shocked to see the bright object and could confirm a visual sighting. The object, however, did not appear on the vampire’s radar monitor. The object then moved at speed to the left hand side of the aircraft and then flew away.
The flying officers registered the event in their pilots’ logs and reported it on returning to base.
A local army radar team claimed that the object had appeared on their screens, in the correct place and at the right time.
The incident received a lot of attention from the media – Terry Johnson and Geoffrey Smythe being interviewed by the BBC Television News.