- What would you do if you were an alien
observer keen to establish contact at the highest level with the British
- You might attempt to reach the prime
minister - but it's so hard to get through. The same would apply to the
Foreign Office, the Defence Ministry and the intelligence services. Most
likely, they would have you thrown out or locked up.
- Janus, an interstellar emissary assigned
to the British beat, decided to go for broke: he would arrange an audience
with the Duke of Edinburgh.
- Thus it was, on a damp and misty evening,
in the winter of 1954, that Squadron Leader Peter Horsley, equerry to Prince
Philip, found himself driving out of the main gates of Buckingham Palace
on his way to the strangest, and most unearthly, encounter of his life.
- A meeting had been arranged by a General
for him to meet a Mrs. Markham in a flat in Smith Street, Chelsea. The
Squadron Leader was expecting little more than sherry and biscuits.
- What he got, he said last week, was an
introduction to man's destiny in the stars and a briefing on the supreme
being, the Great Force, who commands the universe.
- Had such a claim appeared in the National
Enquirer or the Daily Sport, it could readily have been dismissed. In fact,
it came from Air Marshal Sir Peter Horsley, former Deputy Commander-In-Chief
of Strike Command, whose memoirs, Sounds From Another Room, are published
this month. Other top military types have also claimed stellar acquaintance.
In 1988, a retired Admiral caused a stir when he claimed to have met an
alien called Alan. Peter Horsley, however, was a mere Squadron Leader,
and, according to his story, it was the Duke who was the object of Janus's
- "Prince Philip," said the stranger,
"is a man of great vision, a person of world renown and a leader in
the realm of wildlife and the environment.
- He is a man who believes strongly in
the proper relationship between man and nature, which will prove of great
importance in future galactic harmony."
- Horsley - destined to be in charge of
sending British nuclear bombers on missions deep inside the former Soviet
Union in the event of war - realised he had to tread warily. Janus, fortunately,
understood this as well.
- "Where would you like to start?"
- Many would have wished to begin by taking
a better look at this mysterious stranger from the other side of the galaxy.
- "It is difficult," he writes,
"to describe him with any accuracy; the room was poorly lit by two
standard lamps and for the most part he sat in a deep chair by the side
of a not very generous fire.
- "In fact, I never really got any
physical impression of him."
- Tall, thin, short, fat, grey, white or
green: Horsley does not recall. Instead, no doubt aware that such an opportunity
might not come again, he pressed straight in with his questions.
- "As an airman," he began, "one
of the difficulties I have with the idea that UFOs fly here from another
planet is the vast distances involved."
- Quite so. "That's a good start,"
his visitor replied, before launching into a long disquisition on the reality
of interstellar travel.
- Apparently, in the next century or so,
mankind will become bored with its exploration of the solar system and
press on into deep space, employing technology that bends the time-space
continuum and enables us to travel 1,000 light years in (relatively speaking)
just 30 Earth years.
- The future Air Marshal was understandably
intrigued - not least by his realisation that Janus was telepathic and
could read his thoughts.
- The conversation ranged far and wide,
from Genesis and the Pyramids to the prospect of a universe teeming with
life forms, allowing allegiance to the Great Force.
- Horsley remembers the encounter with
total recall and noted it down in a report to his superiors. What they
made of his tale is not known.
- But ever since, the retired Air Marshal,
author of the Journal of a Stamp Collector and holder of the Portuguese
Order of Christ, has been "at intellectual peace with the concept
of God as a universal spiritual force without shape or habitat, a cosmic
battery, if you like".
- As for Prince Philip, Horsley left the
Smith Square flat and made no attempt to pass on the extra-terrestrial
invitation to his royal master.
- When he later returned to the flat it
was empty, and he never saw Janus again.
- He thought no more about it - until now.
"I was aged 33, very busy and had to get on with my job. So that's
what I did."