Eyes Right: The Curious Politics of British Ufology

Peter Rogerson
Magonia 70, March 2000

One of the biggest controversies to muddy the waters of British ufology in recent years came when veteran political activist and anti-fascist campaigner Larry O'Hara exposed ufologist Tim Matthews as Tim Hepple, a man with a complex history of activity in extremist political movements. Here I try to make sense of the maze of rumour and counter-rumour.

Having to review O'Hara's booklet [1] was a sad and poignant occasion because it reminded us here in Magonia how much we miss Roger Sandell, who would have been the only person with the political knowledge who could have made sense of a lot of this for us all. In the circumstances one does ones best.

The proven facts in all of this are that ufologist Tim Matthews of Southport, was once named Tim Hepple, and said HeppIe has had a chequered to put it mildly past. By his own admission, (or claim) he was a soccer hooligan, member of the neo-Nazi British National Party, later became involved with a group called the Green Anarchists, while rejoining the BNP to spy for the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight. Also apparently fairly well established is that he edited, or helped edit a magazine called White Resistance, the house journal of a neo-Nazi group called the Church of the Creator. All this seems clear, and there are documents reproduced to back up the claims.

The authors go on to claim that in these course of most or all of these memberships HeppIe was in the habit of urging other people to more extreme action than they would have otherwise have contemplated, but when the going got really tough Hepple was nowhere to be seen. But the police were, and on several occasions other people were charged, but Hepple seemed curiously immune from prosecution. In particular, it is argued that Hepple was in the van of urging the Green Anarchists to develop a cell-like structure, and ally themselves with the Animal Liberation Front (to our American readers: think of abortion clinic bombers, but substitute animals for foetuses), which led several of those involved being convicted for conspiracy, but not Hepple, or a guy who was going to call Hepple as a hostile witness for the defence.

On this basis, and on Hepple's on-and-off claim to have been in army intelligence, the authors claim that he is an agent, of a monolithic abstract metaphysical entity called 'The British State'. There is to date, however, no independent evidence that Hepple was in the army, or if he was, he was not kicked out pretty quickly as he has claimed on one occasion, either because of his membership of the BNP, or perhaps a more or less mutual agreement that the British Army just wasn't violent enough for him.

Beyond this we enter into the murky world of far left (or self-perceived far left) politics, and the incomprehensible rivalries of its various factions. One of these is a war of words between Searchlight and a variety of left-wing groupuscules some of which O'Hara represents. The following is based on memories of conversations with Roger Sandell some years ago, so don't take it as gospel but a flavour of what the more esoteric parts of the allegations about Hepple are about.

Basically Searchlight takes or took the view, that anyone who even so much as breathed the same air as a member of the far right, fairly broadly interpreted, was thereby an errand boy of the fascists. As O'Hara had actually interviewed members of some of these groups in the course of some research, he was therefore an errand boy par excellence. At the same time Searchlight have been taking strenuous efforts to present themselves as the 'respectable' face of anti-fascism, and have been only too willing to work with the establishment, including the intelligence services to that end. Scurrilous rumour also has it (please note: I am not saying whether this is true or not, I have no way of knowing) that Searchlight, some of whose members were orthodox communists, were only too willing to help the security services to, er, shall we say inconvenience, their rivals on the far left.

Similarly, to O'Hara and company anyone who breathes the same air as a member of the intelligence services is a 'State Asset', which is a very bad thing indeed, because to him 'The British State' is almost as big an enemy as the neo-Nazis. Because Searchlight co-operates with the intelligence services, it is thus a major 'State Asset: and a very very bad thing indeed. So if Hepple gives information on Nazis to Searchlight, he is a 'State Asset', which is almost worse than being a Nazi. From now on Hepple grows in importance, he is not just a State Asset, he is an important one, so important that the Shayler affair is concocted to draw attention from Hepple 's difficulties with O'Hara.

Now why should such a powerful State Asset devote himself to the sad, murky world of gutter-roots ufology? Well some semi-coherent reasons are given, but which fail to convince. While it might make sense to use alleged low-level agents like Hepple to infiltrate semi-clandestine groups, anyone can join a UFO club. Who needs Hepple when you have Admiral Hill Norton as vice President of BUFORA? I mean if Hepple was an intelligence agent, Norton is the sort of guy to who me Hepple's handlers' bosses, bosses, boss would salute and say 'yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir'. I suppose though if you have someone you would really prefer to keep a low profile, but just refuses to, ufology is as good a place to hide them as any. After all, once the word ufology is mentioned, serious investigative journalists run a mile.

Now, no doubt, as they go round investigating unidentified flying objects, holding sky watches, etc. ufologists are bound to find out things the intelligence services would rather not have found out. So a low level surveillance is likely to be required. But would a halfway sane intelligence service employ to infiltrate a group of solid middle class burghers and a bunch of teenagers someone whose activities draw attention to himself and antagonise everyone in sight?

Of course not; you choose someone who is unfailing quiet and courteous, goes out of his way never to really offend anyone, and earns general respect; but who lets it be known on occasion in an understated way, that he knows a thing or two worth knowing. I mean to be honest you could probably join some of these clubs and announce you were from MI5, but they wouldn't chuck you out, they'd crowd round for your autograph, and pat themselves on the back that they're the ones who have 'someone really important' on board. Just feed them a scrap or two of the 'I've been out East and seen a thing or two' routine and they'll eat out of your hand.

The authors apparently believe that ufologists are a bunch of rather fey, quiet folks, whose vicarage tea party world had been rudely interrupted by 'the thug Hepple'. How wrong can you be!

In the second part of the study there is an analysis of Hepple's involvement with ufology, which at least shows his rapid changes of views and allegiances, par for the course perhaps, but it is the speed, weeks and months rather than years, which spring to mind. There are a number of allegations made, but the evidence as opposed to assertion is none too strong, and its clear than at times the authors are quite out of their depth in the world of ufology. This is manifested not only in their willingness to believe that everything that goes wrong is the result of Hepple's machinations, but they apparently believe that ufologists are a bunch of rather fey, quiet folks, whose vicarage tea party world had been rudely interrupted by 'the thug Hepple '. How wrong can you be.

Poor old Larry O'Hara clearly came to Matthews' Southport Conference i 1998 to be martyred to the cause, and Hepple obligingly responded by leaping from the platform making various threats. Kevin McClure intervened before there could be serious violence, and O'Hara was pushed out with no more force than is seen many a weekend in pubs and clubs the length and breadth of the country, and though mildly upsetting, was certainly not 'a serious brawl' (i.e. no chairs were thrown at the platform, there were no snooker cues, baseball bats or broken beer mugs involved).

Given the real injuries suffered by many anti-fascists over the years, O'Hara's attempt to portray this fracas as the second battle of Cable Street is overwrought and in rather poor taste. While some members of the audience, mainly members of the general public in attendance, were upset, others were rather disappointed that the 'serious brawl' hadn't broken out, and others were clearly waiting for Jenny Randles to come round with pencil and paper, believing that what they had witnessed was a staged demonstration to test observation and recall.

O'Hara had badly fouled up his own operation, not only by giving Hepple advance notice of his intentions, but then leaving his actual presence to the late afternoon, allowing Hepple most of the day to spin his version of events and portraying O' Hara as a demented stalker giving Hepple's poor father a heart attack, and horror of horrors, breaking into his parents' coal shed, turning even those members of the audience who might have been sympathetic to O' Hara against him. A much better O'Hara tactic would have been to give absolutely no hint of attending, and using a friend or colleague who was quite unknown to Hepple, to ask some question, which while sounding quite innocuous to the audience would have seriously rattled Hepple's cage. The audience reaction would then have been very different. As it is, with enemies like O'Hara, who needs friends?

There is also an embarrassingly naive paragraph on other radical rightists in ufology, trying to argue that Hepple is almost unique, with the only other British figures counting being Patrick Harrington who printed a couple of issues of BUFORA's UFO Times about eight year ago, and George Spurgeon, outed by yours truly back in 1996. Erm, excuse me folks haven't we forgotten something here? That as President of the organisation, BUFORA proudly raised aloft the figure of Patrick Wall, arguably the most racist and reactionary post-Suez Tory MP of them all, a far more powerful and sinister character than the Harrington. You might think that an organisation which accepts a notorious racist as its President wants watching, but I couldn't possibly comment.

Then there is the [former] editor of Flying Saucer Review Gordon Creighton, who goes round telling people that UFOs are run by card carrying communist demons, and produces editorials on his crusade against the peace movement. Previous editors have included an employee of the South African apartheid state, a right wing ex-Liberal parliamentary candidate, an hereditary peer who varied his campaigns on behalf of the space brothers with support for the Smith regime in Rhodesia, and an aviation historian who had at least a touch of the intelligence department about him. We could go on and on, and we have done so at length in the past. I could also mention how many UFO and fortean groups gave publicity to a 'conspiracy conference' a few years ago, in which one of the main speakers was the notorious anti-Semite Eustace Mullins.

It would be unfair to say that all the ufology in this booklet is bad, the piece by Stephen Booth on the Nazi saucer myth is really good. OK, Andy, he failed to detect the Sonderburo hoax, but I have to confess that one would have slipped past most of us, me included. But this guy knows his technology and his aviation. Alas this was his downfall in the animal liberation affair. If you, as an intelligence agency, have got it into your heads that a group of people are going to set up a terrorist cell, who do you target? An intelligent, obviously highly technically competent, disciplined former member of the RAF, who if he were that way inclined could construct some serious nasties, or a dropout music student? Got it in one.

Booth makes an important point: when you have a former member of the British National Party writing a book arguing that UFOs are descended from the amazing magical technology of the Germans, an argument known to be used by Nazi groups, then one must ask the question 'how ex is ex?' At the end of reading this booklet, my feeling is that, if Hepple was the 'state agent' that the authors claim, then I would be rather less unhappy about ufologists accepting him as a colleague than I actually am. Because, like it or not, it may be necessary to do some pretty unpleasant things when dealing with the wildest shores of politics, and it would imply a degree of consistency, rationality and responsibility in Hepple's conduct that I am not convinced is there.

What is really worrying is that ufologists had leapt to Heppie's defence in a knee-jerk reaction, without stopping to think or even address the questions posed in this booklet. Do you really want someone as a colleague, about whom even one of his more staunch defenders, Andy Roberts, says he wouldn't believe anything he said about his past? In which case, why believe anything he says about anything? This is a guy with a murky past, which gives rise to the suspicion that he may be a fantasist with a penchant for violence, and perhaps for negotiating his way out of trouble at the cost of colleagues. He's someone who was clearly a highly controversial figure in ufology before all this stuff hit the fan.

Ufology is in enough shit already, without importing other people's and shovelling it over our heads. I have a sense of deju vu when hearing of Hepple's adventures. We have been here before. Remember Bryan Jeffrey and his tales of infiltrating the British Movement, and the wild goose chases he sent us on implicating just about everyone in the APEN affair; which almost certainly he was running himself? Do we want to go through all that again? I have to say that seeing the brightest and best in ufology being taken in by Hepple, makes me wonder if we can really ever rely on ufologists as judges of character (Sadly Booth and 0'Hara can't take the high ground here, having been taken in the absurd Armen Victorian).

[1] Larry O'Hara and Steve Booth. At War With the Universe. Notes from the Borderland Pamphlet No.1, 1999

Following publication of this piece Magonia received two replies, from both sides of the fence, which were published in the following issue:

Tim Matthews:

I read your ill-informed review of Larry O'Hara's At War With the Universe (AWWU) with some interest. I'd have been more impressed if the reviewer, Peter Rogerson, had taken his own advice and asked me some searching questions about my supposedly colourful past but he hasn't and so I can only conclude that his overly pompous and patronising words are based upon prejudice and second-hand data.

Rogerson appears to have fallen into the trap of believing elements of O'Hara's repetitious, wholly unimpressive and turgid script in relation, for instance, to mistaken claims that I wrote, edited and published the Church of the Creator newsletter, attacked a policeman in 1988 and so on. (In terms of the allegation, soon thrown out in the lower courts, that I 'assaulted' a PC Rowlands, I should point out that independent testimony indicated that I was some 100 yards away from the scene of this twelve year old crime.

Given O'Hara's support for what he calls the "old left" by which I assume he means the clapped out and ideologically bankrupt gang of former 'comrades' who now inhabit the town halls and classrooms and who launched attack upon attack on the Police during the 1970s and 1980s his remarks about the Police are, at best, hypocritical.) I did neither of these but in any case, and given the obvious dangers posed by groups like the COTC and its UK adherents, I make no apologies for having exposed Alan Milnes, John Hill and Waiter Carr (currently a BNP organiser for Worcestershire) and their links with well-armed extremists in the USA.

For the record, and in case any of your readers are interested, I can tell you that at no time have I "encouraged" violence as the many hundreds of witnesses to my lectures at meetings and conferences can attest. I have always sought to discourage violence and have supported the development and use of a strict Code of Conduct for UFO investigators which covers things like breaking into bases and, more generally, the law. I have never worked for or been paid by the intelligence services and at no time have I found evidence to suggest that Searchlight magazine has active, current or long-standing links with elements of Special Branch, MI5 or Army Intelligence. Even if Gerry Gable had made such arrangements, I would be in full support of these because stopping terrorism and racial attacks are more important than any of Larry O'Hara's politically correct, conspiracy-minded posturing.

My supposed involvement with the ridiculous Green Anarchist magazine and its few active supporters has been deliberately exaggerated by Steve Booth and Paul Rogers for their own limited ends. At no time did I encourage them or their supporters to move in a violent direction and only came to know the unfortunate Booth through anti-Poll Tax campaigning. Booth, Rogers and, by default, O'Hara's support for animal rights terrorism both then and now (Rogers was an active and violent animal liberationist years before he met me) makes a mockery of their claims about my "role as a provocateur". They are basically seeking to blame their bad judgement, extreme beliefs, activity and its expected results prosecution on somebody other than themselves. Theirs is the familiar extremist mantra; "if you're not for us you're against us". This kind of thinking is echoed in O'Hara's many unproven claims and theories about 'MI5 agents' and 'state assets' controlling everything from Lancashire UFO Society to the National Front. As Stewart Home, other anarchists and extreme leftists have noted, Rogers and Booth's well-documented support for the Aum "Supreme Truth" cult, the Unabomber, the ALF, massive depopulation and the Oklahoma bombers shows us exactly where the violence is coming from.

Just what any of this has to do with Ufology is anyone's guess but by taking a leaf out of the darksiders book O'Hara and Booth have sought to suggest my acting as a government asset "probably since 1987". Like the bulk of their writing, this conclusion is based upon no factual information whatsoever but, instead, supposition, speculation and idle gossip.

Peter Rogerson should have taken his own advice before penning a response to O'Hara's ranting and asked me about any of the incidents or groups that I have allegedly been involved in and which he is so bothered about. At least he is right about one thing; the non-event at the January 1998 Southport Conference where O'Hara and Rogers forced their way into the hall before being ejected. The vast majority of attendees were disgusted at O'Hara's antics and have since become staunch supporters not only of my right to speak but of my considered and factual research into classified aircraft projects.

I can't help thinking that Magonia would be better served concentrating upon the facts relating to man-made UFOs and the hundreds of pages of new FOIA material I have spent the last 18 months requesting and collating. Although my research doesn't support your favoured editorial opinions about the nature of the UFO experience, hundreds of aviation enthusiasts and UFO researchers certainly do and are not at all interested in Mr. Rogerson's armchair Ufology.

Any suggestion of a 'Nazi' agenda with regard to UFOs is mistaken as I make very clear in my book UFO Revelation (Blandford 1999). The suggestion that Cassell publishers were involved in a conspiracy to promote Nazi ideology is all the evidence we need to write off anything written by O'Hara and Booth. Less than 5% of my book deals with the questionable 'Nazi UFO' material from the 1950s. It is neither integral nor political. Of course, Bill Sweetman has said (see his book Stealth Bomber, Motorbooks 1989, page 41) that: "The prototype had solid plywood wing skins, but the production version was to have been skinned with a sandwich material comprising two thin plywood sheets and a core made of sawdust, charcoal and glue. The material was expressly intended to absorb radar waves and the Hortens realised that the reflective steel engines and steel tube substructure of the aircraft would be concealed under the absorbent skins. It is questionable whether the material would have been effective ... but such question paled besides what the Horten brothers had accomplished. Their design was to achieve lower detectability by a combination of suitable external shape and integral RAM, built into the load bearing structure." He therefore supports my conclusions as does Nick Cook of Jane's.

I should also add here that At War With Society was a Searchlight magazine effort based upon a few short explanatory notes I sent to Gerry Gable in early 1993 and which, I made clear to him on several occasions, were not to be published. O'Hara neglects to mention that I engaged the services of Rex Makin, a well-known firm of Liverpool solicitors, to sue Gable for the later publication of AWWS. Since 1993 I have spoken to Gable twice and although I remain on reasonable terms with both him and his investigations staff I have had no involvement with them since that time. I did offer my services to the Anti-Terrorist Branch after the Brixton and Soho bombings and was interviewed in relation to my limited knowledge of Combat 18. I never heard from the ATB again.

I am disgusted by Rogerson's "suspicion that he may be a fantasist with a penchant for violence." This is utter nonsense and there is no evidence to support his "suspicion." Here, as elsewhere, Rogerson simply accepts O'Hara's allegations and, as a result, I am currently working on my own report, At War With Reality (published by Extremely Paranoid Productions) which will set the record straight and provide readers with remarkable new facts about man made UFOs.

Stephen Booth:
There are many points where we would disagree with Peter Rogerson's review of At War With the Universe (AWWU). To raise just two of them:

Rogerson is quite wrong to assert that O'Hara gave Hepple advanced warning that he would attend the Hepple-organised Southport UFO conference (January 1998). Hepple would have been made aware of the strong possibility of exposure by the display of posters of himself outside the opening day of the Portsmouth 'Gandalf' Trial in late August 1997, and in the publication of the fact of his new identity in Lobster magazine, December 1997. Larry O'Hara was responsible for neither of these events.

Secondly, in response to Rogerson's carping about AWWU not mentioning people like Patrick Wall and Gordon Creighton. I would like to draw Rogerson's attention to the distinction between 'Far Right' and 'Fascist'. Some (political) critics of AWWU claim that all ufologists are fundamentally fascist, because the extraterrestrial hypothesis is an allegorical form of anti-Semitism. We disagree with this, and call on people interested in this area to (1) Think hard and long about the definition of 'Fascist' (2) Only apply the 'F' -word where it is appropriate, as indiscriminate use of that term confuses the issues.