June 21, 2024

The Westall UFO

In April 1966 the Westall UFO caused panic in the suburbs of Melbourne. Was it a weather balloon, an experimental plane, or... something else?

Westall Secondary College, present day.
Westall Secondary College, present day.

Clayton South, south east of Melbourne, is an average middle class suburb.

Established in 1929 as the city expanded, the area today is a picture of modest, well kept ordinariness. One of Melbourne's best universities, Monash, is nearby, as is one of Australia's best golf courses, in Kingston Heath; otherwise it is primarily suburban housing.

But Clayton South has as extraordinary footnote in the history of the city, one that has also brought it global attention. It is the location of Australia's largest mass UFO sighting.

The Westall UFO

April 6, 1966 started as a typical day for the teachers and students heading into Westall High and the adjacent Westall State primary school. Classes began as normal at 8.30am.

Mid-morning, the students were out on their first break for the day, milling around the schools' ovals and quadrangles. One group were playing a game of cricket on Westall High's sports oval.

Around 11.00am, something extraordinary happened. An object, a silver-grey disk or saucer, was suddenly seen in the sky; it was moving slowly over the school, heading south.

'We were out playing sport on the oval. One of the kids yelled out, "Look! Look up in the sky! It's flying saucers!" And i remember we all looked up and it really was; a flying saucer.'

    - Terry Peck, student eyewitness

The shock caused by the saucer's appearance was immediate. Children began to shriek, running around in panic, while several threw themselves to the ground in fright.

The commotion drew the attention of the teachers, who ran outside to see what was happening. All stood gobsmacked, staring at this unlikely object.

100 witnesses at Westall High would later testify that they saw something in the sky that day. Although their descriptions, and personal theories as to what it was, varies widely.

An artist's impression of the Westall UFO sighting.
An artist's impression of the UFO sighting.

Andrew Greenwood, a science teacher, said he saw a silvery-green disk, about twice the size of a family car.

Joy Clarke, a second form student, said she saw 'three flying saucers.'

Some witnesses reported hearing engine noise coming from the object, or that they saw a light aircraft pursuing it. Other witnesses have refuted these aspects.

The object's trajectory took it over the high school and then over the primary school, where its appearance again caused pandemonium. Children in both schools ran around chaotically; crying, yelling, pointing at the sky.

'All the students were just running all over the place, hysterical. My girlfriend and I just sat on the fence - climbed the fence at the school boundary - and we were crying, thinking it was the end of the world.'

- Mary Eastwood, eyewitness

Next to the primary school was an open patch of vacant, overgrown land, called Grange Reserve. The object lost height as it crossed this area and descended behind a stand of trees.

A number of excited students climbed the school fence, in pursuit.

Artist's impression of the Grange Reserve UFO landing site
Artist's impression of the Grange Reserve site

But after a short pause, probably no more than a couple of minutes, the object ascended from the trees again and departed the area, heading north west. It was soon lost from view.

Witnesses who made it into Grange Reserve shortly after the object's final disappearance reported seeing a flattened circle on the ground.

Back at the high school, in the immediate aftermath, Principal Frank Samblebe called an assembly. He told the stunned students to calm down, and warned them that the incident was not to be discussed.

'He didn't want to hear any more about this nonsense. We were not to discuss it ever again.'

 

  - Susanne Savage, Westall student

Students were shortly dismissed, and sent home for the day.

The Westall UFO sighting reported in the newspaper
The headline in the local paper.

The press coverage the following day was mixed.

The local newspaper, 'The Dandenong Journal', made the 'Flying Saucer Mystery' its front page. But 'The Age', a  citywide newspaper,  ran a smaller, more measured, item in its local news section, stating that  the UFO was actually a damaged weather balloon.

And this story would become the official, accepted version of events.

But if it was a weather balloon, it should have left a paper trail in the government archives. These have been researched thoroughly by private investigators, but no documents or other evidence of a weather balloon in the area has come to light.

State and Federal governments have both denied involvement in the incident, in any capacity.

The Westall UFO sighting reported in The Age
And the story in 'The Age'

The absence of any formal explanation has allowed a number of theories to take root. The Westall UFO has a global profile as one of the world's most well known UFO sightings, and is one of the few to feature a large number of credible witnesses.

In 2010, researcher Shane Ryan appeared in a documentary - 'Westall '66' - discussing his investigation of the incident, based on research over a five year period. Through a public appeal, Ryan was able to uncover previously unknown witnesses, and he also spoke to a number of sources within the government, and the armed services.

Ryan's investigation lead him to conclude that the cause of the incident was most likely the crash landing of a secret government aircraft, although he was never able to have this confirmed, on the record.

'It's obvious to me that all those people saw something very strange and unusual. And somebody within the government really didn't want the story to get out.'

 

- Shane Ryan

Ryan's frustration mirrors that of the witnesses to the event, who are now resigned to the fact the truth behind what occurred will probably never come out. As time passes, and memories get hazy, the 'Westall UFO' looks set to remain one of Australia's most intriguing unsolved mysteries.

A sign marks the Westall UFO sighting location
'UFO Park', at Grange Reserve, present day.

A small information board at Grange Reserve, sometimes known as 'UFO Park', marks the location of the event.

 More MUSEUM OF LOST

5 thoughts on “The Westall UFO

  1. Rosie Jones was the director of ‘Westall 66’, not Shane Ryan who appears in the documentary, narrates it, and presents much of his research material and theories.

    Andrew Greenwood was the teacher who saw the UFO from the school grounds, not ‘Andrew Green’.

    Researcher Keith Basterfield put forward the theory that the UFO was actually a misidentified high altitude or ‘HIBAL’ balloon or its low hanging payload. These were used to measure radioactivity in the atmosphere.

    1. Hi Geoff, i have some interesting info you might be delighted to hear about after all these years later from the westall ufo incident. i married a form 2 student who saw the craft in the footy ground on the day the event took place. If you are taking new information (totally new) and would like to hear about ‘my’ sighting in noble park same time, please contact me. cheers Malcolm Webster. i have no way of knowing if this portal is still operating.

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