An incident occurred during a flight in 1935 which remains a mystery to this day. Over the years many pilots have reported, as they are required to do, seeing unidentified flying objects. Pilots are not the most imaginative people or rather not the kind of people normally associated with flights of fancy so when they report something, you can believe something unusual happened. Most of these cases refer to objects in the sky. This tale is strikingly not one of those.
It involved a young RAF pilot named Victor Goddard who later rose to the rank of Air Marshall and was knighted also.
As an indication of the comparatively little advancement that had been made in aviation or flight engineering in 1935 – the time of the incident – Goddard, who was an RAF wing commander, was in the seat of a Hawker Hart biplane. It was a two-seater light bomber with a single propeller. It came into being after the first world war and designed for a crew of two who sat in tandem in individual cockpits. The pilot sat in the front under the wing trailing edge, armed with a Vickers machine gun mounted on the port side, whilst the observer sat behind armed with a single Lewis gun. It was also able to carry 520lbs of bombs under its wings. It had a top speed of up to 184mph and it was astonishingly agile for a bomber. It was the most up to date aircraft the RAF had when it entered service in 1930.
As for Goddard, he was a pillar of the establishment who read engineering at Jesus College, Cambridge. He had also been an instructor there to the university’s air squadron. In 1929, this highly accomplished man, commanded a bomber squadron in Iraq. In 1931, he was chief instructor of the officers’ engineering course and, in 1935, he became deputy director of intelligence at the air Ministry, a position he remained in until the outbreak of WWII. To add to that and underline his credentials he, later, was awarded Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath, Commander of the Order of the British Empire, Mentioned in Despatches and presented with the Distinguished Service Medal (US).
In 1935, Goddard was flying a Hawker Hart from Edinburgh, Scotland to his home base in Andover, England. It is recounted that after take-off he decided to fly over a nearby former WWI RAF training airfield long since abandoned and now derelict. Its name was Gullane Aerodrome but it was renamed RAF Drem, after the name of the local village, in 1939, when the wildly overgrown grass airstrip was resurfaced.
As he cross-crossed the airfield for a number of minutes he noted the dilapidation of the place from its former glory. The overgrown foliage, the hangers falling apart, cows grazing where planes once taxied and stood – typical of what you would expect after a place has been left abandoned for years. Having satisfied himself with what he was seeing with a few fun flyovers, he bade it a silent goodbye and continued his flight to Andover.
As he flew on a short distance, a bizarre storm blew up out of nowhere. He struggled to control the Biplane as much as he wrestled to understand its colouration. It was like nothing he had seen before with its brown-yellow clouds. The high winds were more than he or the little plane could handle and it began to spiral towards the ground as he tried to regain control of it.
His continued efforts to wrestle back control, together with his experience and luck, helped him to recover the situation and he narrowly avoided a crash. But as he did so he was surprised to find the plane was headed back toward Drem. He was still in the dust cloud and his sight of recognisable landmarks was fleetingly possible as he flew low over the Firth of Fourth and beyond that a road. Then, as he approached the old airfield again, the cloud disappeared and he was flying in brilliant sunshine.
“What the devil?” he thought to himself. “Where’s the cloud, the wind, rain and…?” he was stopped in his thought altogether when he saw below him a completely different Drem to the one he had flown over a short time before. Now, he could see a very smart looking airfield. The cows were gone, the hangers looked like new. On the ground were four airplanes, three of which were familiar to him. They were Biplanes but what was unfamiliar was their colour – an unfamiliar yellow. The fourth plane was something he had never seen before – a monoplane. The mechanics were dressed in blue overalls. This puzzled him greatly as RAF mechanics all wore brown overalls. But what really ‘took the biscuit’ was that nobody seemed to notice him flying low above them. It was as if he was invisible to them.
As he turned the aircraft to fly off, the storm reappeared and he grappled once again with the effects of the high winds on the plane, which he succeeded to do and, emerging from its grip, he flew on without further incident to his base in Andover where he reported the matter. The fact was, however, that the airfield at Drem was, in fact, derelict as he had first seen it; the RAF wouldn’t start to paint their planes yellow until 1939; and, it wouldn’t be until then that the mechanics uniforms would be changed to blue. Moreover, the monoplane he saw, was enlisted only for the first time in 1939 also.
Then a further curious incident happened in his life when, in 1946, he attended a party in Shanghai where he overheard an officer talking of a dream he had had concerning Air Marshall Goddard. He said that in the dream Goddard was killed in a plane crash after the plane had iced over. He saw in the dream that there was a woman and two men on board and they crashed onto a pebbled beach near mountains. As it happened Goddard was due to fly to Tokyo that same night and later in the evening, as luck would have it, he was persuaded to take a woman and two men along. As in the dream the plane iced over and was forced to make a crash landing on the Japanese island of Sado on a pebbled beach near mountains. But because of the dream, Goddard had taken precautions and it helped to prevent death or injury to himself or his passengers.
There is an important finale to this story. It further testifies to the seriousness of his character. In 1955, a film was made based on this incident. It was called, The Night My Number Came Up, and it starred Michael Redgrave who portrayed Goddard as becoming ‘excited’ during the crash landing. This seriously annoyed Goddard who was proud of the fact that to the contrary he had displayed an unemotional behaviour throughout the experience.
So what happened on his flight from Edinburgh to Andover? Whatever the cloud was and the experience it brought with it was real enough to convince Goddard of the reality of the spirit world and he devoted much of his time in retirement to investigating and lecturing on flying saucers.