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Sunday, November 03, 2013

Flying Saucer Review part 6

Gordon Creighton and Charles Bowen

By the March/April 1965 issue of Flying Saucer Review, Charles Bowen’s name was appearing under the title ‘Editor’, Dan Lloyd was shown as assistant editor and Gordon Creighton was a ‘Consultant’. In that issue's editorial, Bowen apologised for the fact that subscribers had had to wait so long for the Nov/Dec 1964 issue. A postal strike was one of the reasons offered. Bowen continued:
Soon afterwards there was the illness and subsequent death of our Editor, Waveney Girvan.
    Most of you must have read Mr. Girvan’s last article Ten Years Old, which appeared in the November/December issue, so you will realize that the Review is managed solely by the Editor, with valuable and essential help from his production assistant, and from the lady who handles distribution. All this work is voluntary, or semi-voluntary, and is done in our spare time.
And so it was that Charles Arthur Bowen took over the editorship of Flying Saucer Review – which he presided over for the following eighteen years, editing 103 issues between 1964 to 1982. In the history of the Flying Saucer Review, Bowen is regarded by Gordon Creighton (who would later succeed him to the post) as "assuredly our hardest-working and most severely harassed editor, for he managed all this while still performing his full-time ten-to-five job in the Finance Dept, of the South African Embassy in London."

It was not long after Bowen had taken control of FSR that the strange events began to occur in and around the Wiltshire town of Warminster. Naturally Flying Saucer Review had become more than just a little interested and had covered in detail accounts of poltergeist-type noises, fleeting lights in the night . . . and all this combined with the remarkable report from the Reverend Phillips' family (The Warminster Phenomenon: FSR, v.11 no.4 July/August 1965). In no time at all, a photograph, of what was claimed to be a flying saucer seen over Warminster, was published in the Daily Mirror.

The combination of Charles Bowen as editor and Gordon Creighton as consultant had proved invaluable. Creighton proved time and time again his prowess of being a linguistic genius and had served as the translator for dozens and dozens of important non-English language case-reports in the decades that followed. His co-working companion, Charles Bowen – the complementary editorial genius (and the “far less likely to leap-to-conclusions” member of the pair) – was not yet in evidence . . . at least, not publicly.

Mrs Jo Hugill had replaced Madge Harman. Because Bowen held a full-time job, Mrs Hugill was obliged to travel daily from her home in Beckenham, Kent, so that she might assist Bowen with the large flow of correspondence. There came a time towards the end of 1968 when she fell ill, and needed to be hospitalized, leaving Charles with a problem. During a hospital visit, Mrs Hugill asked her friend Eileen Buckle if she could temporarily help out while she was off sick. Buckle readily agreed and every weekday – just as Hugill had done – Ms Buckle met with Bowen during his lunch hour to discuss the latest batch of FSR correspondence awaiting reply, which she would then take back home to work on. Before lunchtime ended, the two had to carry out a second task and collect the next pile of mail.

The Flying Saucer Review’s postal address was 21 Cecil Court, the address of Watkins Bookshop, tucked away in a small alley just off Charing Cross Road. It was extremely convenient as it was just a few minutes walk away from Bowen’s place of work. A second address in Peckham regularly published in the magazine was that of a Mrs Spencer, who efficiently handled the to-ing and fro-ing of subscriptions.

Following her eventual discharge from hospital, Jo Hugill decided to retire permanently thus leaving Eileen Buckle “holding the baby”. Her daily trips to the heart of London continued. Meanwhile, FSR’s assistant editor, Dan Lloyd, was shortly to lose his job on the famous Eagle comic, which was to merge with Lion in 1969. Dan met up with Bowen at South Africa House on occasions and it was there that he first met Eileen Buckle.

The Flying Saucer Review was almost certainly assembled on the dining-room table of Charles Bowen’s West Byfleet home. It seems unlikely that his bosses would have approved the sight of Bowen at his desk at South Africa House, Trafalgar Square, surrounded by manuscripts, newspaper clippings, blurry photographs and yard-long lengths of typeset galleys. Working at home also meant that Bowen could rope in his daughter, Pauline – a trained artist – to create many of the illustrations.

Meanwhile, Eileen Buckle moved from Beckenham and was now settled in an apartment in Church Street, Chelsea, one floor up from where Dan Lloyd lived. She was now becoming far more deeply involved; her role of typing letters had progressed to proofreading galleys, then to general editing and, finally, to the pasting up of pages. According to Buckle, there had been a fairly lengthy period when Pauline Bowen dropped out of the scene and a replacement artist by the name of Terry Collins took over for a while; when he also moved on, Eileen Buckle did her best to produce illustrations, too.

On 20 February 1971, an entirely new boys' comic was launched. Its editor, Dennis Hooper, had, several years earlier been art editor for TV21, a paper centred on Gerry Anderson's 'Supermariation' puppet shows, Fireball XL5, Stingray, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and Joe 90.

Countdown was intended to have a more scientific appeal to boys inspired by the space race and the ongoing Apollo moon landings. But Hooper also knew the appeal of the Gerry Anderson shows and, with the last of the Anderson material disappearing from TV21 in 1970, was able to pick up the rights for his new title. The centrepiece of the paper was actually a new story, entitled 'Countdown', drawn by John M. Burns. Countdown also featured another popular TV SF show, Doctor Who, at the time starring Jon Pertwee as The Doctor.

With Roger Perry as art editor, Dan Lloyd was encouraged to become the magazine’s science correspondent and it was through him that Charles Bowen was invited to supply a weekly series of single-page articles using material from the endless supply of UFO sightings he had on file.

The magazine (in it’s original form) ran for 58 issues, during which time Bowen supplied his articles competently, efficiently and on time. With issue, 59, the magazine was re-named TV Action and the focus shifted from space to then-current action tv shows – Hawaii Five-O, Cannon, The Persuaders and The Protectors.

Meanwhile, at Flying Saucer Review, assistant editor Dan Lloyd gradually faded from the pages of the paper during the 1970s due to his work as a sub-editor with Purnell and, later, on TV Times. With editor Bowen continuing his employment at South Africa House, the bulk of the work now fell to Eileen Buckle, who became increasingly involved to the point where she was almost running the magazine single-handed. Although she was meeting with Bowen each day, she was taking on more of the workload and responsibility. On top of this, she also had to help with mailing out printed copies when required following the retirement of Mrs Spencer. On 28 March 1980, Dan Lloyd married Eileen Buckle. It was his 49th birthday.

Soon after, there was a change in the arrangements at Flying Saucer Review. “Charles was Editor of FSR until the Jan/Feb 1982 issue," says Eileen Lloyd. “The masthead of the March/April 1982 issue had changed, with Gordon’s name as Editor, and Charles Bowen as the ‘Consultant’; no reason for this switch-round was mentioned in either of those two issues.

“I know Charles’s health was deteriorating in the early eighties. I happened to bump into him on Waterloo Station once, where he told me that amongst other things he had developed problems with his eyesight (tunnel vision, I think he said). On one occasion Gordon rang me up to ask if I would take on the editorship, but I was living in a very small flat and had no room there for running such an operation, and very little spare time (I was a freelance editor). I had to say ‘no’. Gordon subsequently – perhaps a little reluctantly – took the job on himself and was editor right up to the time of his death on 16 July 2003, aged 95.”

Bowen himself recalled his time as editor thus (FSR v.20 no.5, 1974):
When writing a few words at the end of my first five years stint as Editor, I believe I made a remark to the effect that the first five years are always the worst. And, of course, I was completely wrong about that, for what I can remember of them they weren't a patch on the second five years! Even so those five years were well worthwhile in terms of results achieved, and the volume of work published, which far exceeded that of the first five years.
    With another anniversary in the offing – the completion of twenty years of FSR – it will be better to leave any observations about achievements until then.
Bowen had seen the paper through postal strikes, power crises, paper shortages, the 3-day weeks, losing their Cecil Court address and other problems, even rumours of his own resignation.

With Bowen retiring due to ill-health in 1982, he was succeeded by the more out-spoken and boisterous Gordon Creighton. Creighton, influenced by various conspiracy theories, alienated many in the UFO establishment who no longer considered the Flying Saucer Review as being the unbiased serious UFO organ that it once was. John Rimmer, writing in Magnolia in 1983 (available online here) said:
Most of the articles in this latest issue [v.28 no/3] seem to be promoting a conspiracy theory of ufology. One asks Are UFO Reports Subject in Britain to the D-Notice System and the Official Secrets Act? This tries to suggest that the Government is taking great pains to suppress the dissemination and collation of UFO reports. A nameless informant is quoted at length, only to come to the conclusion that he cannot actually remember whether or not a D-Notice was ever issued over a UFO report! In fact it would be most remarkable if some UFO reports were not subject to the Official Secrets Act, such is the scope of this Act, especially reports made by military personnel or near military installations. Being covered by the Official Secrets Act does not mean that a topic is particularly important, as FSR (and many other ufologists) seem to think (in fact the present writer had to sign the Official Secrets Act when he worked in a menial capacity in a firm which printed Government forms).
Its pages, concluded Rimmer, were becoming riddled with bizarre claims and allegations; serious conclusions were being replaced by baseless innuendo.

“Charles [Bowen] was in my opinion somewhat timid, just as Dr. J. Allen Hynek was, and often seemed afraid to defend his corner vigorously against the sceptics and the critics," Gordon Creighton had said . "Had he stood his ground more firmly, on several accounts, I feel sure that we might have had a much greater readership today.”
Editor Bowen's decision three years earlier (1968) to remove the bold name FLYING SAUCER REVIEW from our cover and to replace it by a meaningless logo was a disastrously foolish step, as I shall show. (I wonder what demon induced him to do that.)
    For almost thirty years, after my long spell of duty in foreign parts, I always worked in London and I commuted daily from my home in Hertfordshire. For the first decade or so, to a certain special department in Whitehall and then, after that, to an office inside the building of the Royal Geographical Society in Kensington, where—while still employed by the Ministry of Defence—I was concerned with maps in various East European, Middle Eastern, and Far Eastern languages.
    And during all those years that I travelled daily to London, I always made a special point of carrying and reading FSR in the train up to Baker Street and then on the Underground Line to Westminster or, later, to Kensington. And 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?".
    On one particularly amusing occasion, just before I got out of the train in the Whitehall area, I noticed opposite me a high-ranking officer in Royal Air Force uniform, sitting beside, and talking with, a man in civilian clothes whom I knew to have a big job in the Ministry of Defence. Ten minutes later, as I was going up the steps of my Ministry, I found that they were both just in front of me, and I heard one of them say to the other: "Fantastic! Did you see that chap on the train who was reading a Russian astronomical journal and Flying Saucer Review?"
In 1983, the former diplomat and intelligence officer related an intriguing sequel to a talk that he had given to the House of Lords All-Party UFO Study Group in the November. He happened to broach the subject with a complete stranger whom he met on the train journey home. According to Timothy Good (full quote here):
The Salandin case was brought up in the course of conversation, and the stranger turned out to be a former member of 604 Squadron. Gordon told him that FSR had investigated and published the case in its first issue, and asked if by chance he had ever heard of the magazine. "Oh, yes!" he replied. "We knew all about Flying Saucer Review. You were the people that we were always warned that we must keep away from."
Charles Arthur Bowen, author, editor and accountant died on 14 October 1987 aged 69. William Gordon Creighton, diplomat, civil servant and editor died on 16 July 2003, aged 95. The Flying Saucer Review continues today and can be subscribed to at the Flying Saucer Review website.

(* Photograph of Gordon Creighton & Charles Bowen from the Flying Saucer Review website.)

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