British Encounters

A Century of UFO Sightings Above Great Britain

The UFO phenomena is often most associated with cases from North America, yet there have also been a large number of interesting and significant cases in the British Isles. The following are just a sample of these, intended to give a feel for their variety and history, but not intended to be definitive or exhaustive.

1. The Phantom Airships (1909)

Whilst we think of UFOs as a post World War Two phenomena, there are many similar unexplained reports of things seen in the sky throughout history. For example, in 1909 there were a number sightings of large cigar-shaped craft in the sky, which at the time were feared to be attacking German airships. However, the distances involved in flying from Germany to England would not have been feasible for airships at the time, particularly as they would have been sighted by thousands over France and Belgium.

2. English Channel (1944)

An RAF reconnaissance plane returning to England from mainland Europe was intercepted over the English Channel by a silent metallic object which followed the plane before flying away. Supposedly a photo was taken of the object. Winston Churchill ordered all details of the case to remain secret for 50 years.

3. Bexleyheath (1955)

Contrary to the belief that UFOs are only seen near the ground in remote, countryside locations, around 30 people, including a medical doctor, saw a 30-foot wide saucer-shaped object hovering just a few feet above a street in Bexleyheath, South London. The engines of cars nearby stalled. Apparently a similar sighting had occurred in the area 3 years before.

4. Lakenheath (1956)

At the Lakenheath air force base in Suffolk, on the evening of August 13th 1956, a series of strange blips registered on their radar. One of these appeared to be an object moving at hypersonic speeds (mach 5.5) – something that at the time had only been achieved by unmanned rockets. Unexplained moving bright lights were also seen both from the ground and air. Several aircraft were sent to intercept the UFOs, which were estimated to be of comparable size to a fighter jet. One pilot was ordered to shoot upon one of the objects but it disappeared before he could do so. The following day the pilots were warned not to talk about the incident and if they did it would be treated as a national security breach. Only decades later, after the end of the cold war, did the pilots fully tell their story.

5. The West Freugh Incident (1957)

West Freugh is a Royal Air Force base in Scotland. On April 4th 1957 the air force radar recorded a number of UFOs at a very high altitude (70,000 feet, beyond the capability of most aircraft of the time) over the Irish sea. The objects displayed movements – stopping and accelerating – inconsistent with them being natural falling space debris. In all, five objects were tracked by three separate radar stations.

6. The 'Milton Torres' Incident (1957)

On May 20th 1957, a 25 year-old US jet pilot, Milton Torres, based at RAF Manston in Kent, was ordered to intercept and shoot down a large UFO over East Anglia. The UFO had been picked up by radar, exhibiting strange flying patterns. It was estimated to be the size of a flying aircraft carrier. Before he could see or shoot at it, the object sped off at, he estimates, Mach 10. Torres remarked that the object “didn’t follow classic Newtonian mechanics. It made a right turn almost on a dime. The [radar] scope had a range of 250 miles. And after two sweeps, which took two seconds, it was gone.”

7. The Warminster Wave (mid 60s-late 70s)

Through the history of UFO sightings there have been a number of 'waves': periods, often of several years, in which UFOs are seen repeatedly within one area. One such wave occurred in Warminster. Strangely, prior to the main onset of the sightenings, there were a number of instances of strange sounds being heard in the area, beginning in 1964. In May 1965 locals began seeing cigar-shaped objects in the sky. The sightings were at their height in the mid-60s but continued into the mid-to-late 1970s.

8. Berwyn Mountains (1974)

On 23rd January 1974, on the Berwyn mountains in North Wales, there were sightings of strange lights followed by the Earth shaking. Some believed this was a UFO crashing, whilst others have said it was a meteor shower followed by a small Earthquake.

9. The Livingston Incident (1979)

On the morning of November 9th 1979, Robert Taylor was walking in a forest with his dog near Livingston in Scotland. Taylor saw a dark-coloured sphere, about six metres in diameter, hovering above the forest floor. As he approached the sphere, two smaller spheres dropped from it, rolled towards him and attached to his trousers. The smaller spheres began to drag him towards the main sphere, and were emitting a strong acrid smell that make him cough and choke. Taylor lost consciousness. When he awoke the spheres were gone, and he was unable to speak or stand up. He eventually managed to drag himself back to his vehicle. Those who knew him, vouched for his honesty and good character, and he maintained the story was true up to his death in 2007.

10. Rendlesham Forest (1980)

The incident that occurred in Rendlesham Forest in-between Christmas and New Year of 1980 became known as one of the most celebrated and debated UFO sightings in history. More than 30 years on it still continues to fascinate ufologists around the world and has been the subject of a number of TV documentaries and books.

Rendlesham Forest is located on the east coast of England, near two Royal Air Force bases (Bentwaters and Woodbridge), both of which were – at the time – under the control of the US Air Force, as part of the NATO cold war nuclear defences.

In the early hours of the morning on 26th December strange lights were seen in the forest. Several investigating servicemen followed a glowing metallic object through the trees. It was claimed to have left several indentations on the ground, and later one of the servicemen claimed he approached the object and saw a number of pictograms on its surface that he copied into a notebook. In the early hours of the 28th of December some servicemen revisited the location and made took some radiation readings that were higher than normal. They then saw a flashing light moving across a nearby field.

Some inconsistencies in the dates and details of the sightings, as well as the nearby presence of a lighthouse, have led some to be sceptical of the reports.

Of interest is the fact that there have been other incidents of UFOs near airforce nuclear weapons bases, leading some to believe that they are piloted by occupants with a particular interest or concern with our nuclear capabilities.

11. Aberystwyth (1983)

Did a UFO crash in the village of Llanilar, near Aberystwyth, in Wales one night in January 1983? In an incident reminiscent of the Roswell story, it's claimed that a craft came down on farmland, first shearing the tops off some trees, and then depositing an array of metallic debris over a wide area, which was later taken away by the Ministry of Defence.

12. Heathrow Airport Incident (1991)

On April 21st 1991, a brown, missile-shaped object almost hit a passenger aircraft as it approached Heathrow Airport. The Ministry of Defence investigated and determined that it wasn’t a missile, rocket or weather balloon. The object had also been tracked on radar.

13. The A70 Abduction (1992)

On the evening of August 18th, 1992, two men were driving on the A70 in Scotland, when they saw a dark disc-shaped object hovering about 20 or 30 feet above the road ahead. Rather than turn around they decided to accelerate and try to drive under it. As they were directly underneath, the disc dropped what looked like silvery snowflakes and the men suddenly found themselves in complete darkness, unable to see each other or even their own hands in front of them. After what seemed, to them, to be a few seconds later, they could see again and were continuing to drive along the road. However, when they arrived at their destination, they discovered that they were about 90 minutes late. The two men also found new strange scars on their bodies and on subsequent nights they began having nightmares. Under hypnotic regression the men recalled a typical 'abduction' scenario: small grey humanoid creatures taking them out of their car and submitted them to bodily examinations on board the craft.

14. The Cosford Incident (1993)

The UFO sightings on the 30th and 31st March 1993 in Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Wolverhampton were particularly significant due to the large numbers of witnesses: there were 30 separate reports, including one from a group of military police at RAF Cosford. Some witnesses reported seeing a triangular-shaped UFO, whilst a policeman reported a craft that looked like “two Concordes flying side by side and joined together”. At least some of the sightings were later attributed to a Russian space rocket burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere. Interestingly, however, the sightings occurred exactly three years after a wave of triangle-shaped UFOs had been seen in Belgium.

15. Kinawley (2001)

In February 2001 the police were called after a member of the public claimed to see an aircraft, trailing smoke, crash into a mountain near Kinawley, Northern Ireland. The Ministry of Defence said that there were no accidents in the area on that date and no unauthorised aircraft in the area.

16. The 'Dudley Dorito' Incident (2007-2011)

A black triangular-shaped UFO was sighted on numerous occasions between November 2007 and December 2011, over the West Midlands region of England, and was dubbed the 'Dudley Dorito' (after the popular triangular-shaped crisps). Some have suggested that the Eurofighter Typhoon may be the explanation. However, the triangular UFO was typically described as silent, while the Eurofighter Typhoon is anything but quiet.

17. Alderney (2007)

On April 23rd 2007, a commercial airline pilot was flying from Southampton into Alderney (one of a series of British Islands – the ‘Channel Islands’ - in the English Channel, very close to Northern France). Ray Bowyer had 18 years of flying experience, including 8 years of flying this route on a daily basis. He noticed a bright yellow light in the sky, which he at first thought could be a reflection from the ground. However, the light persisted and when he looked at it through a pair of binoculars, it had a definite shape: a flattened disc. He spoke to ground control personnel who confirmed there were no registered aircraft ahead of him, but that they were picking up a faint radar trace (possibly faint as their equipment was set to pick up moving objects). As their plane approached closer, the sighting was confirmed by a second pilot on a nearby plane (and later from witnesses on the ground), and a second disc was seen behind the first. Astonishingly Bowyer estimated the objects to be up to a mile in length. The sighting lasted for 15 minutes and ended only when their craft had to descend through the cloud haze to land.

18. The Cardiff International Airport (Police Helicopter) Incident (2008)

On June 8th 2008, a police helicopter, flying above Cardiff Airport in South Wales, spotted a disc-shaped object above them that then dove towards them. The helicopter evaded being hit and then gave chase to the disc. Strangely the crew said that whilst the disc was visible to the naked eye, it couldn’t be seen through their night-vision goggles and wasn’t captured on film. Eventually they were forced to give up the chase as their fuel ran low. Officially, the South Wales police have confirmed the object was sighted but denied the helicopter pursued it.

19. The London Olympics Opening Ceremony (2012)

A classic, flying saucer, UFO was spotted hovering near the stadium that hosted the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics. Interestingly, prior to the Olympics, British UFO journalist, Nick Pope, had predicted that UFOs might be seen around the Olympics, as their occupants may be interested in seeing or being seen at such a high profile occasion (it was estimated that at least a billion people were watching across the planet).

20. Gatwick Airport (2012)

Pilots of three passenger aircraft witnessed flying discs close up, in the air, near Gatwick Airport in Sussex on the morning of December 30th 2012. Ground radar corroborated the sightings by picking up six unexplained objects in the sky. The discs were described as white or silver and were flying approximately 1000 feet above the ground, and at one point as close as 100 feet from the passenger aircraft. Interestingly, one of the pilots described the discs as looking like "some sort of toy". The tabloid media reported the incident, albeit in a light-hearted way, drawing attention to the proximity of the sightings and the UK Church of Scientology headquarters.

Article: Darren Lloyd, Freelance UFO Writer (2013)

Illustrations: Roger Phillips, Cartoonist/Owner, Gray Zone Comics