For UNIT, 1972 was rather different from 1971. Instead of a number of apparently minor incidents, which were easy to keep quiet, UNIT were involved in several rather public incidents with several months of apparent inactivity in between. The most obvious of these incidents was the Aldbourne Incident and the intense media attention given afterwards to the Victor Magister Trial. Less spectacular, but equally in the public eye was the UNIT presence at the Auderley House peace talks.
The Aldbourne incident was very much in the public eye being, as had the Mars Probe Crisis, broadcast live on BBC3. The background to the incident begins with archaeologist Professor Horner. Professor Horner had planned to open up an ancient barrow known as Devil's Hump just outside the village of Devil's End. Professor Horner believed the hump contained the tomb of an ancient warrior chieftain and he had done extensive research on the history of the site.
This research was seized on by a group of people opposed to the dig, as the site had historically been connected to witchcraft. This started with pagan rituals as far back as 800BC, and continued when witches hid there from the famous witchfinder-general Matthew Hopkins in the 17th century. In the 18th century, the site had been connected to the Third Lord of Aldbourne's notorious black magic rituals. Since then every attempt to open the hump had led to disaster for those attempting it. The most notable attempts included that by Sir Percival Flint in 1793 and the Cambridge University Fiasco in 1939.
Against this background of witchcraft and Tutankhamun-style curses, Horner, clearly a showman, opted to open the hump on live television at midnight on April 30th. This night is also known as Beltane, a night with significant occult significance. This choice of dates was also coincided with the release of a book by Professor Horner.
What the public saw on the show was rather bizarre. As Horner was about to open the hump, a black coated figure burst onto camera shouting out to stop Horner from opening the hump. As this man tried to stop Horner, a large stone fell on top of Horner and then the whole scene went white. When the picture was resumed, both men were covered in snow and ice and appeared to be frozen solid. At that point the broadcast was cut and the programme was never resumed.
The original footage was impounded, but some of the live-to-air broadcast escaped this impounding. Rumours of all sorts abounded about things going wrong and the program being a War of the Worlds type spoof. On the night, the BBC maintained that the broadcast had been cut off at its source and then later said that there had been an incident at the dig, that Professor Horner had been killed, and that a five-mile exclusion zone had been set up around the dig. The official explanation was released slightly later, and added up to terrorist activity.
Regarding the details of the event, we know from pirated copies of the footage, that Josephine Grant was an eyewitness to the death of Horner. There is a strong possibility that the man who attacked him was the UNIT Doctor. The exclusion zone was definitely set up by UNIT operatives, and UNIT was responsible for the infamous act of blowing up the parish church. It is indisputable that Victor Magister, claimed to be a prolific terrorist, was directly involved in the incident.
Officials claimed that Magister had booby-trapped the barrow, causing an explosion of toxic gases and dry ice. Magister was also accused of blowing up the church. His accomplices were claimed to have died in a second explosion at the church, although no bodies were found. Magister, posing as the new parish priest, was also supposed to have used satanic rituals to mesmerise the congregation into obeying him.
This followed the mysterious disappearance of the previous priest, Canon Smallwood. Smallwood was never found, and was probably killed and disposed of by Magister. In fact, Magister replaced Smallwood far more quickly than proper church procedures would have allowed.
This version of events leaves out some of the local stories about the event. Many local people recall seeing the devil and a living gargoyle, who they claim were intimately involved in events. Could a curse on the barrow have been responsible for some of the events? One question that was never adequately answered was why a terrorist would want to interfere with the opening of the barrow. Magister was described as a radical anarchist, who aimed to destroy western society. So why did he bother with minor sabotage of this nature? Either there was something he could use for greater effect hidden in the barrow or elsewhere in the area, or his claimed aims were fabricated.
Whatever the case of the exact events, The Aldbourne Incident led to a number of consequences. Other than the inevitable questions in the Houses of Parliament and the near riot at the Church of England's General Synod over UNIT's involvement in the blowing up of the church, the capture of Victor Magister was a major publicity coup for the government. Although no-one had heard of this man, soon dubbed the Master, the oncoming trial led to a major opportunity to divert blame for various incidents over the last few years from politicians to this newly available scapegoat.
The media attention leading up to the Victor Magister trial was intense. Epitomised by translating his surname from the Latin, the Master trial generated a whole stream of exposes. In addition to the Aldbourne Incident. he was charged for orchestrating Black Thursday, back in 1969, and for the Wenley Moor Plague. Magister was, in effect, blamed for almost every public incident that UNIT UK had dealt with since 1970.
Naturally, no mention was made of UNIT in the press, or indeed of many of the facts of the cases as established at the time. There is a lot of evidence of media manipulation. Almost immediately after Magister was arrested, the major national newspapers and TV networks were each given unique pictures of Magister. This was a ridiculously short time period in which to take those photos. The sheer number of revelations about Magister's activities also smack of collusion. Looking back on what was published and broadcast, there is very little, if any, available evidence connecting most of these incidents with Magister.
The trial itself was a media free zone, ostensibly due to matters of national security and the prejudicial press coverage. What information has been made available tells us that UNIT were present in force and that the UNIT Doctor pleaded for clemency. Magister was sent to Fortress Island, a small island] prison in the English Channel to serve a life imprisonment with no hope of any remission of sentence. From anonymous eyewitnesses and leaked documents, we know that evidence at the trial did connect Magister with several incidents other than just Aldbourne.
One interesting rumour surrounding the trial is the suggestion that Magister briefly escaped custody before the trial.
By September 1972, the international scene had got progressively worse. Despite the World Peace Conference in October 1971, Russia and China were almost at war with each other, and world war seemed as imminent as it had during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The world put its hope of putting off the war in the hands of Sir Reginald Styles, a distinguished diplomat of considerable expertise. Styles was given responsibility for organising another world peace conference, but had particular trouble getting the Chinese involved.
Styles managed to arrange for preliminary meetings between the great powers at his personal mansion. Needless to say, UNIT were to provide security for this meeting, as they had for the previous one. UNIT's role also included protecting Styles beforehand. Unknown to the general public, there were two assassination attempts on Styles in the days leading up to the meeting. There was also the terrorist attack on the meeting itself.
The attack on the conference was broadcast on live television. To summarise, someone had planted a bomb in the old coal cellar in the mansion, timed to go off when the delegates arrived. UNIT only discovered the bomb's existence minutes before it went off, and promptly evacuated both the delegates and the media. The explosion completely destroyed the house. From what we know about the scale of the damage, it is estimated that the explosion had the force of a small atomic bomb, but no radioactive fallout. The grounds were subsequently cleared up by C-19 agents and no-one was allowed onto the site until after the clear-up.
There are several questions which need to be asked about this incident. Obviously the details of the explosive used have never been cleared up. Also, why did UNIT only detect a bomb of that magnitude that late in proceedings? As they had been gearing up security on the building for several weeks beforehand, they should have eliminated any such items at a considerably earlier point in proceedings. But, given this lapse, their response to the bomb and the reported firefight beforehand was near perfect.
The question of who was responsible for the attack always remained unanswered, and none of the politicians and diplomats concerned offered any comment, especially as D-notices and the international equivalents were handed out liberally. However, there are a large number of terrorist groups who would have an interest in disrupting such a conference.
Whoever they were, attempting such an atrocity would have brought the attention of the entire planet on any group who could be shown to be responsible. Presumably, the same group who planted the bomb were responsible for the assassination attempts on Styles. As no individual or group ever got the blame for this attempted derailing of the peace conference and no-one ever even suggested a culprit, the whole affair remains a mystery.
In November 1972, UNIT became involved with an investigation by the Metropolitan Police's Flying Squad. Both groups investigated events surrounding the Right Honourable Frederick Jackson, a Junior Armed Forces Minister, who was murdered - though no-one was ever convicted. Both groups also investigated a helicopter attack on the Birnham Hotel in Central London. We cannot be sure what happened in this case. However, it may be connected to UNIT's presence at the Faslane Naval Base in Scotland.
As noted above, Victor Magister was incarcerated on Fortress Island in the English Channel. During a visit by the UNIT Doctor, Magister escaped from the island. Classified reports connect this escape to the disappearance of a number of ships in the area. The reports also cross-reference other documents concerning the Wenley Moor Plague and the UNIT investigation in Smallmarshes at the time of the Cheviot Hills Shutdown.
These documents suggest that the sinkings had nothing to do with Magister, but that he made use of their occurrence to aid his escape. Apparently Magister stole a hovercraft and then hijacked a Ford Cortina. This was found abandoned at Devils End, the very place Magister had been arrested in following the Aldbourne Incident. Although UNIT wasn't directly involved in letting Magister escape, and played little practical role in the search for him, the UNIT Doctor's presence may have been significant in the escape.
The UNIT Doctor pleaded for clemency at Magister's Trial, did he have a hidden motive for doing so? Was he responsible for Magister's escape? If so, why? One theory that has been suggested is that the Doctor had been working in conjunction with a faction within C-19 who were connected to Magister. This faction were said to have arranged the ship sinkings as a distraction to help free the terrorist.
More probably, some of the events were just coincidence. Whatever happened, a highly dangerous terrorist managed to escape from a very high security personal prison. Questions as to what happened are unlikely to be adequately answered. At the time, there was a huge scandal and an official investigation. However, the investigation's report was never published, and there is no known record of it doing any investigating.