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Shropshire's close encounters: Tales from one the UK's UFO hotspots

By Toby Neal | Telford | Nostalgia | Published:

Definitely, certainly, indisputably... something-or-other. Corporal Mark Proctor of the Royal Irish Regiment was on night patrol with two colleagues at Clive Barracks, Tern Hill, when he spotted 13 cube-shaped craft in the sky, zig-zagging from side to side.

Shropshire is a hotspot for UFO sightings in the UK

The sighting – which became public on June 25, 2008 – created a sensation.

And if strange goings-on in the skies really do signify the arrival of space travellers from other worlds to check out what Earth has to offer, then Shropshire has something of a history as an extra-terrestrial tourist attraction.

In that year, 2008, the county was named as a national hotspot for UFO sightings, with 22 unexplained sightings compiled from data going back to 1961, although we only have to dip into our own files to see that that number must be a considerable underestimate.

The research – we don't know the methodology so it's difficult to say how seriously it should be taken – was done by Virgin Media to mark a month-long sci-fi extravaganza on its on-demand TV service.

Shropshire came in at fourth place for the most UFO sightings. West Yorkshire came first.

Corporal Proctor, aged 38, filmed what he witnessed on night patrol using his mobile phone. The footage was handed over to the Ministry of Defence.

Two hours later two cabaret singers said they were pursued for about an hour by a large bright light as they drove down the A5.

There was a call for an official MOD inquiry.

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Former MOD UFO expert Nick Pope said: “Something quite extraordinary does seem to be going on at the moment. There has got to be an official inquiry into all this and we need a senior air force officer to take personal charge and oversee the inquiry.”

We'll come back to this sighting, but first let's take a tiny sample of numerous other UFO sightings over Shropshire down the decades.

Mystery

Going back to October 26, 1962, a mystery object with a diameter estimated at over 700 feet was spotted in the vicinity of the disused airfield at Prees Heath.

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In 1993 there was the so-called "Cosford incident" which is said to be perhaps the most famous sighting in the West Midlands when a UFO made a direct overflight of both RAF Cosford and RAF Shawbury.

On March 31 that year an RAF patrol reported seeing a UFO over the Cosford base.

They described the object moving "at great velocity and at an altitude of around 1,000 feet."

The UFO consisted of two white lights and a faint red glow at the rear, with no engine noise being heard.

What made the incident more bizarre was that dozens of triangular-shaped UFOs were reported on the night, travelling at speed across western Britain.

And here's an account of a sighting at the Shrewsbury Folk Festival at about 1.45am on August 27, 2007, from festival-goer Giles Mockford of Gloucester: "I was just returning to my tent when a group of people were looking up at the sky and shouted to me 'look UFO!'.

"There were two orange/white spheres flying from north to south flying at about roughly 1,000ft and roughly 150ft apart."

He took a picture on his mobile phone and as he ran to grab his camera from the boot of his car another two objects appeared.

We at least know who is responsible for some past UFO sightings – Sir Richard Branson. In the 1990s the Virgin boss had an advertising airship, known as the Lightship because it lit up like a spacecraft, based at Halfpenny Green, near Bridgnorth.

It only had to go on a night flight for police switchboards to be jammed with sightings of an oval-shaped spacecraft.

And back to that Tern Hill sighting, which caused some hilarity at the Tern Hill Hall Hotel where, that evening – June 7, 2008 – dozens of Chinese wedding lanterns had been released by wedding guests.

Speaking at the time, hotel manager Stuart Willatt said: “Both the hotel staff and the bridal party are very amused by it now.

“Next time we let them off we will be warning the guardroom.”

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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