Friday, May 16, 2008

Close Encounters of the Brockley Kind

The Ministry of Defence this week released formerly classified documents on UFO sightings in the UK. The files are available free of charge on the National Archives website for the next few weeks, after which you have to pay. As David Clarke notes in a very helpful overview of the material, the military have been recording unusual air activity since the early 20th century, but things really hotted up after the 1947 'flying saucer' excitement in the USA. The majority of 'Unidentified Flying Objects' actually do get idenitified 'as bright stars and planets, meteors, artificial satellites, balloons, aircraft seen from unusual angles and space junk burning up in the atmosphere. However, there are some cases on record where no common explanation can be found' sometimes known as 'unidentified aerial phenomena'. Of course the fact that they are unexplained is not evidence that they are spacecraft from other planets – that is only one of numerous conjectures.

Having trawled through some of the files (some of them are 300 page pdfs) I have found a somewhat sketchy report of a Brockley sighting: at 9:30 pm on 3 May 1986 a secretary walking outdoors in misty conditions saw a green light in the sky above the 'railway line at Brockley' described as 'In a vehicle – of sorts. A ring, brilliant’ which moved 'In an arc. Very fast'.

Other South London reports include:

- an 'orange sphere' moving rapidly above Stockwell on 10th July 1986;
- a 'shimmering silver' object 'bright and reflective' seen by an Air Traffic Controller from Waterloo Bridge on 19th July 1985, with at least 12 other witnesses (also reported by somebody on the South Bank outside the Chrysanthemum floating pub who noted its 'high speed movement in several directions');
- A 'large flashing light' spotted by a Home Office civil servant on 19th May 1985 from Hungerford Bridge apparently moving from 'over the Festival Hall at considerable height' to 'over the National Theatre gradually appearing to get smaller';
- 'One large dart shaped object, silver in colour' spotted from Streatham on 3rd May 1985 moving over Wimbledon (Heathrow airport reported that 'they had a silver aircraft on approach to land at that time').

Of course we also had the Peckham Rye 'was it a plane? was it a balloon thing?' thing last year.

Brockley and Stockwell reports are in file DEFE 24/1924, the others in DEFE 24/1923. There's really not much more detail than I've included here, but let me know if you find anything else in the other files.

Update (17th May 2008): the South London Press also covers this story. They mention a sighting in October 1984 when a “circular, saucer shaped” craft with a “dark band pulsating light” was spotted at 10.30pm over Waterloo Bridge before flying down towards St Paul’s Cathedral.

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