In 1966, Australia saw its largest mass UFO sighting in history. For over 20 minutes, more than 300 students, teachers, and others watched as a silver disc-shaped object flew above the school, landed behind it, then took off and sped away. Fifty years later, witnesses to the event still have no explanation for what they saw.
April 6, 1966 – the Westall High School UFO
On April 6, 1966 at 11:00 AM in a Melbourne, Victoria, Australia suburb known as Clayton South, a class of students and a teacher at Westall High School (now Westall Secondary College) had just completed an outdoor physical education class. It was a sunny, breezy autumn day. As the students filed toward the building, a student noticed an object in the sky. It was gray, saucer-shaped with a slight purple hue. It was about the size of a school bus.
At the same time, science teacher Andrew Greenwood also spotted the object. He note that it was about 400 yards away, disc-shaped, with no obvious markings. The object hovered over a set of power lines and moving in a south-easterly direction, crossed the southwest corner of the school’s property where it dipped behind a grove of pine trees and disappeared into a clearing known as The Grange.
As word of the UFO spread, more students went outside to watch. Minutes after disappearing into the clearing, the object reappeared in front of the school where it remained visible for about 20 minutes. During this time, about 200 students and teachers stood outside and observed the craft. Soon other members of the public joined the group and the crowd of witnesses swelled to an estimated 350 people.
Those present that day say the object was soundlessly hovering in the sky when an airplane arrived and began circling the object. Soon, four more airplanes arrived and surrounded the object. Each plane took turns cautiously approaching the object. When they drew near, the object would dart away. The “chase” continued for nearly a half hour when the object suddenly climbed and departed in a north-west direction. Witnesses recall it vanished in mere seconds.
After the object disappeared, students ran to the fence near the clearing (where the object had disappeared from view). In the clearing, they saw a clear circular depression of swirled, discolored grass.
3:00 PM – Military personnel arrive on the scene
Hours after the sighting, but before school let out for the day, military personnel and emergency services arrived at the school. They questioned the students and teachers, trying to make sense of what the group had seen.
April 8, 1966 – UFO investigators open an official investigation
On April 8, the Victorian Flying Saucer Research Society arrived at the school and spoke to the students. Investigators recorded a “ground mark” in the clearing behind the school. Reports say the ground mark was a large, round patch of yellow flattened grass with a swirly pattern. The edges of the depression were discolored and well defined.
April 9, 1966 – Phenomena Research Australia arrives to investigate
Three days later, the Phenomena Research Australia group sent Brian Boyle to investigate. Four Army investigators accompanied him. Boyle recorded interviews with witnesses over a number of days and took soil samples from the ground mark. The soil sample however, was lost before it could be tested. Researchers were unable to take additional soil samples. The ground mark area was burned days after the event, reportedly by the farmer that owned the land.
April 14, 1966 – Dandenong Journal publishes a report about the sighting
Despite the enormity of the event, detailed reports did not appear in local newspapers until more than a week later. The first mention of the event was in the Dandenong Journal. The article appeared on the front page. That same night, Nine News ran a detailed investigative story about the sighting on local TV. Archival footage of the broadcast has since been lost.
April 21, 1966 – Authorities offer an explanation
On April 21, 1966, the event was again mentioned on the front page of the local newspaper. This time, officials offered an explanation, one that sounded eerily similar to the account provided a decade earlier for a sighting in Roswell, New Mexico. The object was said to be a weather balloon. However, the five airplanes seen chasing the object remained unexplained. Records showed no aircraft were in the area and no area pilots reported participating in the pursuit.
Dr. James E. McDonald investigates the Westall sighting
Dr. James E. McDonald, an American physicist, joined the investigation and created a fascinating collection of interview recordings and notes gathered from witnesses. He interviewed science teacher Andrew Greenwood.
“Greenwood told me the UFO was first brought to his attention by a hysterical child who ran into his classroom and told him there’s a flying saucer outside. He thought this child had become deranged or something, so he didn’t take any notice, but when the child insisted that this object was in the sky he decided to go out and have a look for himself. When he went outside he noticed a group of children looking towards the northeast area of the school grounds and as he approached them he claims he saw a UFO hovering close to the powerline. Mr. Greenwood described it as a round, silver object about the size of a car with a metal rod sticking up in the air.”
McDonald says Greenwood also mentioned seeing the five airplanes pursuing the UFO. “He called it the most amazing flying he had ever seen in his life.”
“The planes were doing everything possible to approach the object and he said how they all avoided collision he will never know. Every time they got too close to the object it would slowly accelerate, then rapidly accelerate and then move away from them and stop. Then they would take off after it again and the same thing would happen.”
Greenwood confirmed that after about 30 minutes, the school’s headmaster, Frank Samblebe, came outside and ordered everyone back into class. The headmaster then called an assembly and ordered everyone to stop talking about the sighting. Greenwood remembered the headmaster’s demands quite well.
“He gave the school a lecture and told the children they would be severely punished if they talked about this matter and told the staff they could lose their jobs if they mentioned it at all.”
McDonald says several witnesses at the school recalled seeing “sharply dressed men wearing black suits” arrive at the school immediately after the sighting. Word circulated throughout the school that the men were telling teachers and students to keep their mouths shut about the sighting.
McDonald believes the “men in black” threatened witnesses. One student gave him a detailed description of the sighting but half an hour later, refused to speak to him about it. He did not attribute the student’s refusal to talk to the headmaster’s instructions. He knew for certain that the student did not attend the school assembly where the headmaster told students not talk about the sighting. He felt someone had threatened the student.
The threats against faculty and students impacted media coverage too. In short, it suppressed all coverage of the story.
“The media kept meeting an official wall of silence, so it just stopped being a story and only remained as a memory for those involved.”
Years after the event, witnesses come forward
Joy Clarke was just 12-years-old the day the UFO buzzed Westall High School. She remembers the day vividly.
“I was in class when students rushed in and told us the story. We rushed down to the oval and I saw the flying saucers. My personal belief is they weren’t of this world. They were definitely from somewhere else because I have never seen anything like it all.”
Joy confirms that military personnel and “men in black” arrived and demanded students keep quiet.
“The army had arrived, and the police were there. We were told we were hysterical and it didn’t happen, while men in black interviewed some of the other kids.”
Stephen Cairns and his mother also witnessed the UAP. Unlike the other students, Cairns had the opportunity to witness the event from a different vantage point. Stephen was walking back to school after a dentist appointment when he saw something unusual in the sky.
“In the distance I saw a silvery disc-like object. However, at first, it was so far away I was not quite sure what it was. The silvery disc-like object moved with amazing speed until it was directly above us … it hovered for a few moments then, as quickly as it came, it flew away.”
Terry Peck was playing cricket when she saw the saucer hovering in the sky.
“I was only about seven yards away from it. It was bigger than a car and circular. I think I saw some lights underneath it. Two girls were there before me. One was terribly upset, and they were pale, really white, ghostly white. They just said they had passed out, fainted. One was taken to hospital in an ambulance.”
Terry also agrees that the incident was covered up.
“We all got called to an assembly … and they told us all to keep quiet. I’d absolutely just like someone to come forward from the services just to say ‘yes, it did happen, and it landed and there was a cover-up.’”
Jacqueline Argent was one of the first students to see the landing site. After the saucer-shaped object flew away, she peeked over a fence and saw the depressed circular impressions in the grass.
“Originally I thought it must have been an experimental-type aircraft, but nothing has emerged like that after all these years.”
Jacqueline admits she was interrogated after the event and says the men interrogating her tried to embarrass her for her testimony.
“They had good-quality suits and were well-spoken. They said, ‘I suppose you saw little green men’”
Was the object merely a balloon?
In 2014, researcher Keith Basterfield claimed to find evidence in the National Archives that hinted the object was nothing more than a balloon. More accurately, a top-secret balloon that was conducting radiation testing. He says such balloons were flown in the area during the 1960’s. However, he admits he cannot be certain.
“What is strikingly missing is a memo reporting on the four launches for April 1966, one of which was scheduled for April 5, 1966, the day before Westall.”
Witnesses today discount Basterfield’s theory reminding him that the object they saw was close enough they could clearly see it was a solid disc. And they note that it sped away at a frightening rate of speed.
A historical event in Melbourne
Today, the Westall High School sighting remains forefront in the minds of citizens. The children, who are in their late fifties at the time of this writing, still wish an explanation could be found. Meanwhile, the landing site has been turned into a memorial park to reflect the impact Australia’s largest mass UFO sighting had on the local citizens.