The Passing of South Australia's - "Mr. UFO" COLIN NORRIS (1920 - 2009)
Born on 30 September 1920, Colin encountered the UFO mystery directly in 1942 at Geraldton Western Australia, where he was stationed with the Royal Australia Air Force. Colin's nephew Mark told me, "I can tell you that Uncle Colin told me many times of his first encounter of a UFO, or foo fighter as the air force called them, during the 2nd world war. Colin was the turret gunner situated at the nose of a Liberator bomber in the Aust. air force over South Pasific. He told me that they were buzzed many times by a flying disc of metallic colour . One night while he was standing on the tarmac, a flying disc hovered over him silently, and beamed a blue light onto his head, after this happened he had a scar on his head he could never explain. Colin was so intrigued by these things going on around him ,that he devoted his entire life to investigating UFO and their existence." Colin described the 1942 UFO a bit further as brown in colour with a purple "U" around its perimeter.
He started studying the subject in more detail as reports of "flying saucers" gained more prominence in Australia during 1952. By 1957 he had joined Fred Stone's Australia Flying Saucer Research Society. Following Fred Stone's departure from AFSRS in 1962 Colin became vice president. In 1963 he was quoted by the Adelaide News newspaper (April 27) saying, "I just think the world might have something to gain from these people, who might be more advanced in knowledge than we are." By the end of the 1960s he had the highest profile of any UFO researcher in the state of South Australia. He lectured at the 1965 Ballarat UFO conference on "History of UFOs" and was a speaker at the 1971 Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science (ANZAAS) symposium on UFOs, one of the few times mainstream science publically engaged with "the UFO problem."
In 1972 he even came to the attention of ASIO - Australia's domestic spy service - apparently because of his correspondence with Soviet academics and giving a lecture to the Young Socialists League in SA. He was also a focus of RAAF South Australia "counter intelligence" memos which stated,
1. Enclosed is an UFO report forwarded to this Headquarters by "The Australian Flying Saucer Research Society - (Adelaide)", together with an accompanying letter from Mr John Burford which, inter alia, outlines recent moves to amalgamate the various UFO "research" societies in South Australia...
2. As on many occassions in the past, the report arrived at this Headquarters too late to make an investigation possible without considerable embarrassment and possible adverse publicity. The various UFO societies in this State, while aware of the RAAF's responsibility to investigate UFO sightings in an official capacity, are nonetheless reluctant to pass on information on UFO sightings to the RAAF until they have "picked the bones clean". Every attempt has been made by this Headquarters to elicit the co-operation of local UFO organisations, and in particular the AFSRS, in an endeavour to gain some first-hand information on UFO sightings....
4. Also enclosed for your information is a list os alleged sightings investigated by the AFSRS alone in 1971. It is significant that of the 112 sights, not one was reported to this Headquarters in the first instance. Indeed, it was only at the personal whim of Mr. Norris that the RAAF received copies of investigations (without "findings") in the long term. It would appear that, in spite of sparse and rather patronising publicity by the mass media to the effect that the RAAF is the responsible UFO-reporting organisation, and arrangements with the police to have any individual sighting a UFO contact this Headquarters, the public at large in this State remains either ignorant of the correct procedure, or chooses to contact the more glamorous - and credulous - "flying saucer" society. Furthermore, we are not aware of any effort on a national scale by higher authority to inform the public of the RAAF position in this matter, which is very active in South Australia.
5. From the foregoing, it can be seen that, if the proposed amalgamation of UFO groups in this State comes to pass, and timely reports of UFO sightings are passed to this Headquarters as indicated by Mr. Burford's remarks, the volume of work involved in investigating and processing such sightings will increase considerably. In fact, it is doubtful whether the Officer-in-Charge UFO's at this Headquarters (a secondary appointment) would be able to cope with such an increase, without significant and non-acceptable inroads being made into his primary role.
(E.T. PICKERD) Air Commodore, Officer Commanding
Colin Norris's AFSRS changed its name to Australian International UFO Flying Saucer Research" in 1978 and continued to publish a newsletter that recorded summaries of South Australian and other UFO sightings. He continued to maintain a high public media profile through the 1980s and into the 1990s, but as health and age issues started to intrude he became less active.
I described Colin's UFO contribution to Australian ufology in my 1996 book "The OZ Files - the Australian UFO story" as "colourful and controversial." He was never very far from controversial claims and was a favourite of the local media. Although some researchers saw him as regular source of "tantalising glimpses of material but not much detail" I found that Colin was helpful and forthcoming in his own way. He would be a great source of antecdotal information. He described to me in detail his investigations of some controversial abduction cases in South Australia (including the 1979 Nildottie affair and the 1974 Clifton Bore episode which featured the distressing element of possible missing children and the strange element of topological inversion (best captured in popular culture in Dr. Who's Tardis - bigger on the inside than outside. I have come across other cases that feature this element).
When I learnt from other sources at a lecture I gave to the Sydney Space Association in 1992 of a fascinating UFO photographic case at Kangaroo Island South Australia I interviewed the witness and found that she had reported her 1983 close encounter to Colin soon after. He kindly provided me a copy of some of the investigation material. His newsletter had only reported the briefest of details, which included none of the strange elements.
In our correspondence, meetings, and lectures I always found him cordial and full of intriguing stories and claims. His stationary reminded us of his credo, "The visitations of UFOs remind us that there are other planets in the Universe similar to ours." His son Grant told me Colin's philosophy was "investigate, tabulate, correlate" and take a nuetral view, free of occult or religious views. He was indeed a remarkable source of raw data, and it is pleasing that his data and files are in good hands. His son wants to ensure Colin's UFO legacy is preserved.
Colin Norris - a long life dedicated to examining a remarkable enigma - the UFO enigma - in his own colourful and unique way.