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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Launch of Flying Saucer Review part 2

Gordon Creighton, a foreign diplomat from the Ministry of Defence, recalls seeing proposals to publish a journal about Flying Saucers reported in London newspapers.
I was back in England [by] then, and I made contact at once and received the subscription form from Brinsley le Poer Trench, later Lord Clancarty. My knowledge of a number of languages gave me the opportunity to begin contributing straight away, and my first [translated] piece appearing in the second issue of FSR (May/June 1955).
Creighton would play a most important part in the Flying Saucer Review story and deserves a closer look.

He was born Gordon William Creighton in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, on 26 April 1908, the son of William Creighton Jr., a Scottish-born travelling salesman who lived with his father, a farmer, at Piper's Farm, Rickmansworth, and his wife Mabel (nee Maloney). William and Mabel's marriage was brief and they divorced in January 1913 (William was later married again, in 1933, to Doris Storey).

Paul Whitehead, in an obituary for Creighton in 2003, said:
He ran around barefoot for a few years, on the farm – with his grandfather standing in for his parents. He used to drink milk straight from cows – which is how he contracted tuberculosis.  His friend died from the disease, but Gordon survived after an operation.
    When he did eventually go to school (age 11?), it was discovered that he had a bent for being multilingual and academic. This combination led him to a career in the diplomatic service, with elements of the secret service thrown in.
Creighton's late start did not prevent what The Times (16 August 2003) called "a conventional education" at Bishop's Stortford College, Cambridge University and the École Libre des Sciences Politiques in Paris.

His first posting was as an attaché to the British Embassy in Beijing. He subsequently served as H.M. Vice-Consul at Tientsin and H.M. Vice-Consul at Chungking before becoming First Secretary at Beijing. Further posts included periods in the Far Eastern Department of the Foreign Office in London, then as H.M. Consul at Nanking and at Shanghai. In Shanghai he survived the shelling by the Japanese at the outset of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937. Creighton, like many embassy staff, moved to Chungking, the Chinese provisional capital, and was stationed there during the early 1940s.

When he eventually returned to the UK, he had two very fortunate escapes, as recalled by Paul Whitehead:
He had to leave China, and went to Sydney. A ship that he was due to leave on for England (but didn't) san en route – sunk by the Germans . . . He instead caught a boat that sailed east from Sydney to South America. This sailed up the east coast of South America; Gordon had to disembark (in Brazil, I think) and was airlifted to the US because he was very ill. In a storm, the ship that he had been on broke up, with large or total loss of life.
After World War II, in 1947, Creighton married Joan Karthlyn Felice Dudley (1922-1997) before taking up a post as H.M. Consul at Recife, Brazil, where his wife gave birth to twins, Philip Gordon William and Rosamund Lilian Margaret, in December 1948. The family returned to the UK when the twins were 15 months old.

After spells as Consul-General at Antwerp, Belgium, and New Orleans, USA, Creighton researched maps in oriental and other languages with the Permanent Committee on Geographical Names. His work was aided by his talent for languages; he studied twenty, including Chinese, Sanskrit, Tibetian, Mongolian, Burmese, Arabic and Russian.

He then spent eight years as an intelligence officer on Russian and Chinese affairs at the Ministry of Defence. He reputedly worked directly below the top secret department at Whitehall where the Air Ministry and RAF studied UFOs. This was a subject Creighton had become interested in during the summer of 1941 when he saw what he described as "a white disc with a piercingly bright bluish light on top racing through the sky in the far west of China near the eastern marches of Tibet".

Not that he liked the phrase "UFO", which he thought a monstrous term, deliberately introduced by American authorities, that was meekly accepted by American civilian researchers, followed by "all the others, like a flock of sheep".

"Flying Saucers" as a term also had its own problems and Creighton recorded (FSR v.39 no.2, 1994):
[I]t was not long before we began to find that quite a lot of our readers – particularly the native Brits, who are well known for their traditional nervousness about "what the neighbours might think" – showed distinct squeamishness about signing cheques made out to "FLYING SAUCER REVIEW". Evidently they were pretty concerned about what their bank-manager might think of such politically incorrect behaviour! So, in the summer of 1971, I persuaded the other Directors that we should apply to the Registrar of Companies for our name to be switched from the ridiculous "FLYING SAUCER SERVICE LTD.", to "FSR PUBLICATIONS LTD." The bank-managers wouldn't have a clue as to what that meant, and would-be readers of FSR need no longer hang their heads in shame.
Creighton had no shame about what his neighbours thought. The Times noted:
For 30 years, commuting daily from Hertfordshire to London, he "made a special point of carrying and reading FSR in the train up to Baker Street and then on the Underground". He was pleased to recall that "it must have happened on at least a dozen occasions that complete strangers would step across the gangway to me and say: "Flying Saucer Review! Where can I get that?"
(* Photograph of Gordon Creighton in Shanghai, 1938, is from Flying Saucer Review (v.46 no.4, 2001).)

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