Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Harry Turner and UFOs


Harry Turner (Photo: Bill Chalker)
Harry Turner & Bill Chalker - June 2004
Ross Coulthart and Bryce Zabel discuss Harry Turner's interest in UFOs on their excellent podcast "Need to Know" #9 The UFO Investigators 18 March 2022.

Thanks to Kenrick Leiba & Ross Coulthart for the positive endorsement on You Tube:
What Kenrick is referring to is my investigation of Vicki Klein, mentioned in a range of posts here on this "Oz Files" blog and in my book "Hair of the Alien":
I had an article on Harry Turner published recently in New Dawn magazine (January-February 2022

Ross, on the "Need to Know" podcast, attributes to me the startling point that Harry Turner may have spent some 80% of his time as head of the nuclear section of DSTI in Australia's Joint Intelligence Organisation on UFOs. Here is the background to that comment:

I recently had the following exchange with Rod Barton, author of "The Life of a Spy" and "The Weapons Detective"

Congratulations on the publication of your book “The Life of a Spy”. 

Apart from a general review of your work, I would like to discuss with you, in particular, your 5 years working in the nuclear section of JIO under Harry Turner (1977 to 1982).  

I had correspondence with Bob Mathams in 1982, and he backgrounded me on Harry Turner (O.H. (Oliver Harry) Turner), Harry’s interest in UFOs, JIO’s take on UFOs, and he helped me make contact with Harry. Harry and I first had discussions in 1982, and extensively after that. I met him in person a number of times, interviewing him at length, and he ultimately allowed me to access and copy his files on UFOs and related matters.

I have attached a recent article I wrote on Harry Turner, which addresses only a small part of his research in this area.

I’ve also included the Australian chapter I wrote for the 2012 book “UFOs and Government” to give a broad overview and context for Harry Turner’s role in the local controversy. 

While I take from your brief accounts in your 2 books mentioning Harry Turner, you were not that impressed with his UFO obsession, the matter (under the current terminology of UAPs) has now become a strong focus for military and intelligence organisations (and some science organisations, such as GEPAN in France, and Avi Loeb’s Project Galileo at Harvard university) around the world. I have also had an extensive focus on the Asian UFO experience, focusing mainly on China, and even lectured at 2 universities (in Beijing and Kunming).  

I would be grateful for the opportunity of discussing your recollections of Harry Turner in more detail.

I have written some books on the UFO subject.  I have an honours science degree in physical chemistry and Pure Mathematics from UNE (Armidale) and worked mainly in quality assurance & laboratory management.  During 1982 to 1984 I had direct access to the Australian Defence files on UFOs at the Russell offices in Canberra and published extensively on the results of this work.

Intriguingly, like you, I also had contact with the hill tribes in northern Thailand & southern China, but I was mainly focused on the Lahu, in areas closely related to the matters discussed above.

I would be grateful for the opportunity of discussing with you your recollections of Harry Turner.


20 January 2022:

Hi Bill,

Black Inc has passed your enquiry on to me. I have a few comments to make.

I got to know Harry pretty well even before I joined the nuclear group - we were a fairly close-knit family in DSTI. Harry as you no doubt know, was a very affable person and his nuclear knowledge well respected. He was however regarded as a bit of an eccentric although that was not unique within the branch. Mathams himself once said that some of the intelligence officers were eccentric. 

I was only engaged with the UFO aspects of Harry's work for a short while. I read some of the files particularly those from DAFI, and never knew what to make of some of them. However, I fairly quickly came to the conclusion that we (DSTI) were not going to resolve any of the difficult-to-explain phenomenon by standard intelligence techniques - and anything else would be outside our remit. 

The major reason for leaving Harry on his UFO quest was my awareness that Mathams was clearly not happy with this line of work. We had more than enough to do on nuclear matters and, given that I had already upset Mathams over my decline of his Harvard proposal, I thought it wise to get stuck into looking at nuclear matters. So, as I indicate in my book, I only had a fleeting engagement with UFO investigations. I did however admire Harry's persistence with this work against the odds even if I did not see eye-to-eye on most of it.

I am somewhat dismissive in the book of Harry's UFO obsession and perhaps could have presented matters in a more balanced way. To some extent this was because I did not want generally to get bogged down in details that are somewhat extraneous to my story - the book could have easily have finished up being 5 times longer!


I have read the articles you attached and have learnt a lot more about UAPs and found the history fascinating. I do not think I could possibly add anything else.

Regards, Rod 


Thank you Rod for responding to my enquiries and I am grateful for your elaborations.

I appreciate that “UFO obsessions” were outside the scope of your books, but Harry and DSTI/JIO interests are well within mine, and therefore I am grateful for your responses.

… I would be negligent in my research if I didn’t seek some further clarification, given that you provided two separate takes (and your much appreciated email response) on your fleeting intersection with Harry’s “UFO obsession” - your 2006 & 2021 books.  Your 2 books caused me to do a close analysis of the 2 accounts and I was hoping you may be able to address the points highlighted below, either via email or a quick phone conversation: 

1. In 2006, pg. 10, you describe Harry dashing off to examine “crop circles and scorch marks in a paddock near Canberra”, and in 2021, pg. you indicate that Harry had actually asked you to join him look for “the crop circles and scorch marks rumoured to exist in a paddock near Canberra.”  So, just to clear in my own mind you were indicating that you both went together to look for the “marks”, which turned out to be unsuccessful? 

2. Did Harry ask you to work with him on UFOs on just this one occasion or were there other occasions?  If there were other occasions could you elaborate? As I note you indicate to me your Harry mediated UFO flirtations were fleeting I am only trying to see if Harry’s UFO obsessions were a significant consuming activity with Harry on JIB/JIO time, or was it just a side interest.  I know what Bob Mathams wrote to me, but I’m trying to capture what the day to day realities might have been. While qualifying, if possible a perception of the degree of “UFO obsession” on Harry’s part, I note you indicate that Harry was “well respected” for “his UFO knowledge” (Note from B.C.: Here I meant to write “his nuclear knowledge”, but Rod did not take issue with that. Earlier Rod had written, “his (Harry Turner’s) nuclear knowledge (was) well respected.”).

3.  In my own examination of DAFI files at the Russell offices I came across a case dated 22 October 1978, on the Hume Highway approx. 10 km north of Goulburn, reported by a female ACT public servant, from 6.40 pm for 10 minutes, featuring 4 square lights next to each other, apparently rotating in the horizontal plane (relative width at arms length of approx. 20 mm. The intelligence officer indicated, “after the lights were sighted the instruments f the motor vehicle started to play up.  The speedo oscillated from min. to max. readings and eventually broke.  The generator light came on and there were extreme fluctuations in fuel and temperature gauges.  She stopped the car and observed the lights for 10 min. The lights disappeared and she continued her journey.  Instruments indicated normal with the exception of the speed.  This has sustained permanent damage.” The Intell officer evaluation: “(witness) has no relationship with any UFO organisations, is a person of some intelligence and not prone to exaggerate such matters.  I’m lead to believe this to be an accurate report and not a hoax of any kind.  I have no suggestion as to the cause of this report.”  I only mention this, because of its proximity to Canberra, that it was in DAFI files, which Harry was monitoring, and it was in 1978, early in your 5 year tenure in Harry’s department.  Do you recollect anything coming up like a scene out of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, just down the road from Canberra?  Its the type of case I would have thought would have attracted Harry’s attention - potential physical evidence effects on a vehicle?  I don’t recollect coming across this in Harry’s files or in my various discussions with him.  We covered a huge amount of information, so it could have easily been over looked, plus I was looking at the entirety of Harry’s exposure to UFOs and the paranormal from the 1930s to the early 2000s. 

4. Did you have any exposure with people like John Farrands, George Barlow, Arthur Wills, Dr. Michael Duggin, John Symonds (from AAEC - nuclear), and Norm Gerrard (Radar & Electronic tracking group, WRE), all of whom had at least a passing interest in UFOs, where UFOs may have come up? 

5. Correct me if I’m wrong, but did UFOs dominate Harry’s time while he was working on JIO time?  I’m assuming that Harry must have given prominence to nuclear matters in his tenure during your exposure to him?  I realise this was also an issue with Bob Mathams, but Harry didn’t seem shy about regularly bringing the matter up with JIO, DSTO, DAFI etc at a reasonably high level, albeit seemingly unsuccessfully? 

I hope you can respond to this points. 

Given your intelligence involvement with nuclear matters and weapons of mass destruction, you may be interested in the book by Robert Hastings - “UFOs and Nukes” or just google him and the subject matter. Right now there is considerable interest in UFO (or UAP - to use the Pentagon/DIA preferred nomenclature) events and nuclear facilities.  It would be wonderful to get your take on this.  Hastings book is essentially a very detailed coverage of witness events in this context - most being military witnesses. 

Thanks again  


Bill, in response to your questions:

1.          I accompanied Harry on one occasion only (in his own private car). I do not recall exactly where we went but it was somewhere towards Queanbeyan. As I recall we never got out of the car which limited our search somewhat. I cannot remember what info Harry was basing his search on but he did not seem to have a precise site in mind.

2.          I only recall going on one trip with Harry. His interest in UFOs occupied most of his time (90%?). The nuclear section was left largely to its own devices and we worked out amongst ourselves who did what. But the work got done and Mathams seemed satisfied with this.

3.          I do not recall the Goulburn event and do not know whether Harry followed up. By that time, I was engrossed in Iraq and its nuclear program, as well as other nuclear matters, so I was not entirely clear what Harry was doing with his UFO investigations.

4.          Although I had met Farrands and Barlow they were well above my grade and the subject of UFOs was not raised. I knew John Symonds because he would usually host us when we visited Lucas Heights and occasionally, he would come to Canberra for technical discussions with us. UFOs were never discussed when I was present and although Harry may have had some talks with him, I am not aware of this.

5.          See 2 above.



Hi Rod, 

Thank you again for taking the time to answer my questions.

I must say I am dismayed that Harry may have occupied his JIO time as much as 90% with UFO matters.

I suspect when Bob Mathams retired, Harry’s tenure may have reached the end of the nuclear road and tolerance for his UFO obssession faded quickly, making his continuing nuclear section head role in JIO untenable.

I suspect that because of Harry’s rather unique experience set in nuclear matters with Harwell, Maralinga etc in the 1950s, he was an obvious person for a new nuclear section with DSTI/JIO via Bob Mathams.  I also suspect that Harry may have had a hand in “head hunting” the British people that seem to make up the section when you came into Harry’s section.  Perhaps he knew these people because of his time at UK nuclear institutions.

Would any of the nuclear section people be worth following up with in terms of the knowledge and connections with Harry prior to your arrival? 

A final question? Would you have any early pictures of Harry?  The only one’s I have were for the 1940s radar school and my photos when we meet in his retirement during the early 2000s.  I would have thought given his involvement at Maralinga and in the royal commission, photos of Harry during these 2 periods would have been relatively easy to find.  To date, no luck.

Thanking you again for your time, information and patience with my enquiries.



Hi Bill,

I might have been a bit harsh on the amount of time Harry spent on UFOs. Thinking back, I recall a study that he and I made on global nuclear warfare and he was totally committed to that. Even so, if not 90% it must have been close to 70-80%.

You may be right about his decision to leave JIO but he had reached the retirement age anyway.

As far as the recruitment of the Brit nuclear scientists, as I recall only one had spent any time at Harwell and I don't think that overlapped with Harry. I am not absolutely sure how they were recruited but after they left JIO, it was my job to replace them (by this time I was at a more senior level). We did this simply by advertising in local papers near the establishment we were targeting - we always attracted several applicants.

All of the Brit recruits who knew Harry, are now deceased with the possible exception of one with whom I have lost contact. However, if he is still alive, he would be in his late 90s.

I have no photos of Harry. Of course, cameras in our environment were prohibited/discouraged even when we were out socialising.


Hi Rod,

Thank you very much for taking the time to clarify your recollections of Harry Turner. 

They certainly help me in my research on the long evolution of Harry’s activities and the merits of it all.

Best wishes ,


I will be returning to further commentary on Harry Turner.